Reproductive Writes: Do We Need To Bleed?

Holly Grigg-Spall
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Flicking through the pages of this month's Company magazine - diets, fashion, celebrities, diets, fashion - what's this? The word 'period' in a women's magazine? A feature entitled 'It's 2010 - so why are we still having periods?' Good question, according to the rest of the articles we're meant to have stopped eating by this point, so why not give up on another, far less enjoyable, natural bodily function? Next, blinking - such a hindrance to the whole seeing thing!

Beneath the headline is a picture of boxes of tampons and packets of sanitary towels covered in cobwebs. 'Periods are passé in the modern age' claims the feature. Long-acting reversible hormonal contraceptives are the new tampons - rather than just putting the blood out of sight, they get rid of the bleeding all together. The injection, the implant, the hormonal IUD are the new, 'period-banishing' must-have accessories for every woman's body.

Preventing our periods is now a 'biological lifestyle choice.' Periods, we are told, are an 'inconvenience' - 'the bleeding for a week, the unpredictability, the cramps, the mood swings, the cost of tampons… what a bore!' Company exclaims. We can't blame them, according to an online survey 80% of their readers said they would like to 'get rid of periods forever.' The magazine takes this opportunity to discuss how these readers can get the 'period-free lifestyle' right now, with LARCS and the birth control pill Seasonique. Until very recently I would have clicked the 'Hell, yeah!' box to stopping my periods. The last time I'd had them, before going on the Pill at sixteen, they were very heavy and so painful I'd faint. Now, ten years later and off the Pill, they are lighter, without pain and, in a funny way, actually rather exciting.

Think back to your first period, how did you feel? I don't think it's a stretch to say many of us might remember being upset, angry, scared, at least uneasy. Karen Houppert is the author of a brilliant book The Curse: Confronting The Last Unmentionable Taboo: Menstruation' which charts how early education for young women about periods was driven by the growing feminine hygiene industry - their message was that periods are unsightly, smelly and unattractive. The blood must not leak onto clothes, must not show, and must not be spoken of. Periods have always been socially linked with sexual maturity. So, the messages are as much about female sexuality as they are about menstruation. The more disgusted women could be persuaded to be about their periods, the more hygiene products they would buy, until as Houppert points out, the industry had many women convinced they should be using pads even on days around their period, just in case, and days far from their period - for all those other unsightly leakages. Menstruation is also linked socially with weakness and frailty of the body, and the mind - a long-held, entrenched justification for women's inferiority to men. Not to mention the perils of PMS which was said in 1978 by Dr Katharina Dalton, author of Once A Month: The Original PMS Handbook to 'threaten the very foundations of society.'

Considering the history, it's not surprising 80% of Company readers want to be rid of periods - 'what a bore' is right! Why would anyone want to deal with all the social and cultural negative baggage that surrounds our biology? It does seem a whole lot easier just to do without. Then we can get on with the business of being just as capable as men, without all the incessant nagging and condescension. We have come to think of ourselves as horribly hindered by this monthly event, held back by it even, and so when presented with such a choice it looks like liberation.

Company rounds up some experts to support their enthusiasm. They argue that it is a 'myth' that women actually 'need' periods, and that stopping menstruation has 'no detrimental effect on health.' As Dr Susan Rako says in her book No More Periods? The Risks Of Menstrual Suppression there is no good medical reason for actual menstruation, but what about the cycle that brings menstruation about? If we choose to prevent ourselves having periods, we are choosing to prevent ourselves having the monthly cycle of hormonal changes that brings about ovulation and menstruation. This cycle is intrinsically associated with many bodily systems including those that regulate body temperature, blood glucose levels, energy levels, memory and concentration abilities, brain wave patterns, fine motor coordination, metabolism, adrenalin levels, visual, auditory and olfactory acuity, the concentration of vitamins and thyroid and adrenal hormone production.

Menstruation within the cycle is controlled by the endocrine system, which in producing the rise and fall in the flow of hormones acts on every organ in the human body. Not menstruating is more than a matter of not bleeding, it means not ovulating, not experiencing any of the hormonal fluctuations that balance the workings of your entire body. Menstruating was once thought of as one of the vital signs of good health. Contraceptives that suppress the ovulation menstruation cycle do not 'cure' painful or heavy periods and can mask over health issues, allowing them to go untreated. By focusing on periods as separate from the cycle, LARCs and the Pill look like much more attractive options, but this presentation is very misleading.

The conclusion of the Company feature states 'Periods are no longer taboo. We are as likely to talk about them as we are our latest TopShop purchase.' We might be talking about them more - menstruation activism is definitely gaining ground - but what are the majority of us saying? It's nothing positive.

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34 Comments Have Been Posted

Funny, I was totally

Funny, I was totally enthusiastic about getting my period as a little girl. It was mainly other people's perceptions of a monthly period and the types of products available to me that made me horrified of having a monthly cycle. The cramps, terrible headaches, and mood swings haven't made me hate my period more, but it hasn't helped neither.

God, I can still remember the super bulky pads my mom would buy me--it still makes me shiver! You have no idea how happy I was when I went into a store and found thin pads, I thought god had come down and put them on the shelf for me. :))

Having your period CAN be bad for your health.

When your menstrual cycle puts you in danger of frozen pelvis, because the estrogen of your natural cycle inflames endometrial implants throughout the pelvic region so much that they can actually <i>fuse all those organs together</i> -- well, honestly, at that point having someone try to tell me "but! good for you! natural womanly things!!" is a bit frustrating and dismissive.

Between the pain processing disorder and the endometriosis I went from never getting any grade lower an an A to almost failing out my senior year in a handful of years' time. I've been through the Russian Roulette of treatments for this condition, and the common denominator? Suppressing my periods is the only way this disease is controlled.

This is why I never find these appeals credible -- telling me that anything that would change my body's natural behavior must be unhealthy. Well, that's fine and good, if you happen to have a perfect body. Most of us don't -- our bodies all have differences ranging from simple quirks to outright disabling dysfunction. And it doesn't help when someone deigns to inform us that our bodies have certain functions for a reason. Of course they do! And we choose to modify or suppress them for a reason, too.

I appreciate these articles insofar as they recognize that not all bodies function ideally without intervention. When the assumption is physical perfection, though, I just can't trust the advice. It's yet another case of assuming a physical norm when the reality is a great breadth of human diversity and variation. Don't assume that all bodies function the way the idealized medical model posits. You erase a lot of people when you do -- and contribute to a culture that tells them that they must not know how their own bodies work, they just need to be helpfully informed by someone with better qualifications, they're just too stupid or uninformed to understand these things, or they are misguided or duped by corporations and pharmaceutical companies. Which is awfully patronizing.


You're right - and actually the book I refer to - Dr Rako's No More Periods? does admit that women suffering from endometriosis, migraines and certain types of epilepsy will find suppressing their cycle has many more benefits than disadvantages. That said, this Company article was not speaking to women suffering from endometriosis or any other severe problem - and we can assume not 80% of women have such difficulties with their periods - it was speaking to the majority of women for whom periods bring, at their worst, some PMS and inconvenience.

I think the idea of 'the perfect body' is interesting - as I see the Company piece as arguing that the perfect body is one without periods. Wellness is based on outward appearances. The angle of the piece stressed that all women would be better off without periods, and not just that, that choosing to stop periods was more reasonable and sensible than actually wanting to have your period. The piece also said outright that there were no health problems associated with suppressing periods - according to their experts - which is simply false.

I know a number of women who have recently come off the Pill to find they have endometriosis, and that this was not discovered previously because they were taking hormonal contraceptives. I also know a woman who only found out she has PCOS once stopping the Pill after ten years.

When medically intervention is necessary, it is necessary - I only argue it should not be a 'lifestyle' choice to suppress your periods, as is suggested in this piece. There's a huge difference between a lifestyle choice and a health choice.

I would understand someone suffering from your health issues would know a lot more about their body's workings than someone who has unproblematic periods - it is often these people that don't know, as I didn't, how menstruation and ovulation link in the cycle and the possible knock on effects of suppression. LARCs and Seasonique are marketed to everyone.

Women coming off the pill

<i>Women coming off the pill discover they have endometriosis</i>

Endo is actually most commonly treated with hormonal birth control. It's not curable; one of the other options is surgical menopause. That sentence sounds like you're blaming endo on HBC, and that couldn't be further from the truth. HBC is the only thing that makes endo managable (and still leaves them reproductively viable) for a LOT of women.

While I'm sure it would be best to discover the disease as it develops, I don't think you can lay its very development at the feet of the fact that its treatment happens to be birth control.


Nope, I wasn't saying the birth control pill caused endometriosis. I said what I said, they had come off the Pill to realize they have endometriosis, which was being <i>masked</i> by a decade or more's Pill use. They would have liked to have known they had this problem earlier on, before they decided to try for a baby. But they'd been prescribed the Pill in their teens.

It's interesting how there seems to be a tendency on these comment boards to immediately jump to the most extreme conclusions, and to come from an immediately defensive standpoint. Shame really, as it really cuts down on free flowing debate. I can only imagine just how intimidated some women who might like to join the conversation would be by the aggressiveness of the most vocal commenters.

A Rant

Some people look for a reason, any reason, to be offended. They project their fears and issues in places where they just do not exist. And in the process they derail meaningful conversation while the ones they have attacked,for example You, swear they are not saying the things they are accused of having said. Which one would think would be easy enough to prove as there is a written record. I would feel sorry for those people simply for their insecurities and also their massive failure at reading comprehension. But then I have been irriated by these people for far too long. I think they should be ignored as the sad sorry little trolls they are.

End Rant

It's lovely that you think

It's lovely that you think certain women's concerns are "derailing" or "trolling" when they have been marginalized by the feminist movement that claims to be working for all women.

I don't think it's a derail to point out that certain experiences are being completely glossed over and that this can have serious impact on our lives.

If that's a "derail," then feminism itself is a derail to human history.

Irritating self righteousness alert

Ooh. Climbing on your high horse. Speaking of others marginalizing women's concerns. Cause we all know that's bad and since you're standing against it you're such a brave little soldier. Aren't you SO righteous. Mind you that's not remotely what I was talking about. (But you get your points for trying) You can cry about marginalization, discrimination or whatever till you're blue in the face but misquoting and injecting words that were never said has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with derailing and assholery. Some one please shoot the horse you rode in on.

"being masked by a decade or

"being masked by a decade or more's Pill use"

... or being controlled for a decade or more by use of the pill, which the user was unaware was happening.

"Masking" implies that the pill is neutral or negative in effect, when in most cases it is precisely the opposite.

"It's interesting how there seems to be a tendency on these comment boards to immediately jump to the most extreme conclusions, and to come from an immediately defensive standpoint. Shame really, as it really cuts down on free flowing debate."

Um, no, I was pointing out that the way the piece is written completely erases disabled women from the picture, posits a physical norm which does not exist in reality, and contributes to a culture where women's experience is not trusted.

I wasn't jumping to conclusions. I was identifying something that has a long history, which you are not the only person to ever do, but which you are *still doing*. What conclusion is there to jump to? I said nothing about your intentions, your character, your assumptions. It's not about you -- it's about the actual effect that words can have when they leave out a group of people who are considered expendable by society as a whole and by feminism as a movement.

"I can only imagine just how intimidated some women who might like to join the conversation would be by the aggressiveness of the most vocal commenters."

I can only imagine how intimidated some women who might like to joing the conversation would be by the fact that the people holding that conversation are hostile to even acknowledging their existence.

Please can you quote for me

Please can you quote for me where I express the idea of a 'physical norm' in my post?

I think the 'physical norm' I am analyzing is the norm perpetuated by the Company piece - which is that of a period-free body, PMS-free, unpredictability-free (as they see it) body. Menstruation is depicted here, and frequently elsewhere as an 'abnormal' event - with all such connotations - in women's lives, which needs to be corrected.

I have read my piece over many times and still can't see where I am suggesting the superiority of some women over others, or the normal-ness of some women over others. Please also explain what you mean by 'disabled'? Do you mean women suffering from endometriosis? I have already admitted hormonal contraceptives are often beneficial in this case, but can hide signs of endometriosis for years and prevent earlier treatment.

If you are arguing that there is no norm for a woman's body - I agree, and I think the Company article and the promotion of hormonal contraceptives works from the point of view that all women's bodies are the same and can be treated the same with no ill effects. Different women react differently to these drugs - and there's only very recently been any research into why this is (which showed it could do with exposure to testosterone in the womb). It would be great if women could know beforehand how they might react to this medication, based on their particular hormonal make-up.

But, I could argue that if you are saying there is no norm then we are all disabled, right? As a commenter has said here, we all have problems with our health - be they cramps with our periods or migraines. If we are all disabled then all I am saying here is that we should weigh our options with full knowledge. If we find the benefits of suppressing our cycle outweigh the drawbacks, then we act accordingly.

But, I could also argue that menstruation, and the hormone cycle, has long, historically and socially, been presented as disabling women mentally and physically. This reasoning has been used as justification for the oppression of women and for the believed 'natural' state of their inferiority. Menstruation across the board that is, for all women. Regardless of their experience. It is this idea of how disabling menstruation is to women that has promoted suspicion of women's bodies. Women have long battled with being told that menstruation effects their mental or physical abilities.

'Implies that the pill is neutral or negative in effect when in most cases it is precisely the opposite.'

So, here you yourself are sidelining a large group of women and suggesting their experience is meaningless. I was on the Pill for a decade, during the last few years I started the brand Yaz and within months I experienced panic attacks, paranoia, constant anxiety, depression, brain fog, extreme decrease in energy and motivation and endless sense of dread. Have a look around on internet forums and you will find many, many women who have had similar experiences. Hell, we even have law suits going against the pharmaceutical company. Taking this Pill was for me, and many other women, totally disabling. After this experience, I retrospectively assessed that over time my general health and well being had been deteriorating as a result of suppressing my ovulation cycle. I even tried another brand after Yaz, and found my suspicions compounded - I was tired, listless, down - not to mention suffering from bleeding gums, hair loss, constant UTIs. So when you say 'most cases' what exactly are you implying?


Second this.

IBS & Menstruation?

<i>You're right - and actually the book I refer to - Dr Rako's No More Periods? does admit that women suffering from endometriosis, migraines and certain types of epilepsy will find suppressing their cycle has many more benefits than disadvantages.</i>

I don't suppose you've read anything about the impact of suppressing menstruation on IBS, either in <i>No More Periods</i> or elsewhere? I started on Seasonique a few months ago in the hopes that it'll help to control my IBS symptoms (bloating); so far I've had limited success.

Just curious!

Hello, and thank you for the

Hello, and thank you for the question.

Actually, very interesting, as I have come across various connections between the Pill and IBS.

The Pill is prescribed sometimes for IBS I believe when the IBS appears to be connected to hormonal changes - so say it gets worse before your period. If so, then the Pill does 'flatten' out hormone fluctuations and as such could help IBS symptoms.

However, the Pill does have an impact on the metabolism. Hormone fluctuations relate to the GI tract workings. Obviously, I guess, as that's why some types of IBS worsen with hormone changes. But, this can mean that suppressing the hormone cycle negatively impacts on these balances and worsens the IBS.

I know Yaz was promoted as a cure for bloating. Some women have bloating due on water retention in the second phase of the cycle. Yaz contains a potassium-sparing diuretic - as such it makes you urinate more, and as such not retain so much water, and so not bloat so much. But it heightens levels of potassium in your body which can cause problems with your heart, as well as having a whole myriad of other negative impacts. Basically you can become dehydrated on a cellular level.

There is also a connection made between the Pill and the development of or worsening of allergies - to, possibly, wheat or lactose amongst others - as suppressing the hormone cycle has a knock on effect on the immune system as well as the metabolism.

Reply to comment | Bitch Media

Amanda, who was present. Haven't you worked that out reverse grey hair raw food yetI blink at him, and I keep squirming in the large seat. Well I appreciated that and now on my reverse grey hair raw food way, even though he had met during almost half a century ago, before gentrification. Right I do have to go to work. In bigger amount this can be devastating, especially to those who have ideological objections to the iPad.

This, exactly. I was so

This, exactly.

I was so excited to have my period. I was one of the very first girls in my school to have her period. Gave my mom quite a shock at age 10, I did. It was awesome and I was grown up. I somehow became the period guru among my groups of friends. And since I had stolen my mom's "what's happening to body" when I was younger, I was prepared and knew my facts. I'm still not clear when she intended to give it me.

I also had an extremely regular and and extremely heavy period. In then in the first few months I started to get wicked pain. Excrutiating pain that would radiate through my back, down my legs and into my shins. I would get physically nauseous and occasionally miss school. The pain would make me angry and cranky. So I quickly learned to hate my period.

The pain was managable though (granted, taking more than the advised amount of advil/alieve/tylonol), and while I occasionally missed school, and my mom would occasionally mention something mysterious about maybe I should be 'checked', we never did anything about it. I later discovered that the women on my mom's side have a history of endomitritis, and I've got the symptoms, and I should probably get checked. Except that with my seasonale, it's gone. I've now got mild to normal pms symptoms. And that only occasionally.

Am I concerned about what it does to my body? Yes. Vaguely. Except that the western kind of continuous periods isn't really normal, especially in the depth of human history. People did/do have birth control methods, but women still spent/spend a significantly longer time pregnant or not having their period than we do now. So what does having continuous ovulation do to my body?

I've never read any kind of research into this kind of thing that is really convincing that people know what happening in our bodies, what the true extent of the effects are, and what is "good" for us.

'Western kind of continuous

'Western kind of continuous periods isn't normal'

Do take a look at this post on the Society For Menstrual Cycle Research blog:

Here's an extract from that:

<i>'Timothy Rowe, Head of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, University of British Columbia, claims that “the pill keeps a woman’s reproductive organs quiet and healthy”

As a philosopher of science, I find the concept of a “quiescent” bodily organ fascinating, troubling and great fodder: there is nothing so tempting to a philosopher of science as a vague, unscientific and value-laden concept.

Short and Rowe use the concept of “quiescence” to describe a presumably defined state of the uterus, but the concept is vague. It’s also unscientific—it calls to mind the promises made for “stimulated” immune systems and “cleansed” livers at my local health food store. And, the quiescent uterus raises old value-laden associations between women and passivity. If the dormant, quiet, and weak uterus is healthy, is the active, energetic, and strong uterus unhealthy?

The quiescent concept also connects temptingly with another problematic concept: “incessant ovulation.”

Roger V Short refers to regular ovulation as “incessant ovulation” and an “incessant ovulation theory” has emerged in the last decade or so. Strictly speaking, “incessant” just means “uninterrupted.” But it has negative connotations that the terms “uninterrupted” and “regular” do not. We would not say “incessant ovulation is important for bone health,” but we would say that “regular ovulation is important for bone health.” Ovulation has been described as hard work and as causing wear and tear on the ovaries. Interestingly, we do not talk of spermatogenesis in terms of incessant activity, hard work, or wear and tear: the more prolific the testicular activity, the more energetic, virile and healthy the testicle.'</i>

I have already stated what continuous ovulation can do for your body - it's linked to breast, bone and heart health as well as life longevity.

I will quote some links here from a previous post:

Scientific evidence explained in a series of articles posted on, (Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research):

First article in series on ovulation and health:

Ovulation and overall health:

Ovulation and bone health:

Ovulation and breast health

Alternative Treatments for Endometriosis

Please know that there is an effective alternative to the continual use of hormonal birth control to treat and manage endometriosis. Women can find much information about menstrual cycle disorders on the site of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.

Here is endocrinologist Dr. Jerilynn Prior's response to a question about severe endometriosis.
Ask Jerilynn | Endometriosis and Natural Progesterone

Q: My daughter has endometriosis about as badly as you can get. She just had surgery, it was removed, and now they want to stop the periods with synthetic drugs. She wants to use natural progesterone; can natural progesterone be used and, if so, how much and how?

A: Yes, natural progesterone can be used to suppress endometriosis. Estrogen stimulates endometriosis and progesterone inhibits it. Approximately 20 years ago it was common to treat severe endometriosis with medroxyprogesterone, a cousin of natural progesterone.

Using progesterone for suppression requires high doses—such as oral micronized progesterone, Prometrium®, 300 mg by mouth at bedtime and 300 mg vaginally (held in with a tampon) daily in the mornings. Because anything suppressing estrogen levels will cause bone loss, high doses of calcium and vitamin D, healthy exercise and stable weight are needed to prevent bone loss (See The ABCs of Osteoporosis Prevention for Premenopausal Women). Suppression should continue for six months before gradually decreasing to once a day and then changing to cyclic progesterone therapy.

A high dose of progesterone is needed for ovarian and endometriomal suppression. It must suppress hypothalamic gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) production and therefore cause the ovaries to make less estrogen. Progesterone treatment also decreases the activity of estrogen receptors (and therefore slows estrogen action in tissues such as the endometrium).

I recommend a daily dose of 300 mg of Prometrium® at bedtime and 300 mg vaginally in the morning. (Progesterone by mouth causes too much drowsiness to be taken during the day.) If this dose is not sufficient to stop flow, control cramps and endometriosis-related abdominal pain, the dose must be increased. The idea is to suppress flow for about six months. Keeping a record using the daily Menstrual Cycle Diary® is a good idea.

After six months without flow and pain, I would recommend decreasing the Prometrium dose to 300 mg at bedtime daily and see if she continues without symptoms. If she remains pain free, she could then stop the treatment for two weeks and begin again in two weeks, always taking Prometrium® 300 mg at bedtime for two weeks at a time. Once flow starts, progesterone should be taken cyclically days 14 through 27 of her own cycle for at least a further six months.

If Prometrium® is too expensive to afford for both morning and night, its cousin, medroxyprogesterone 10 mg/d could be taken in the morning instead. Medroxyprogesterone is less costly than Prometrium®. If medroxyprogesterone were taken instead of Prometrium® the dose is 10 mg in the morning and evening. As with progesterone, this suppressive dose should be continued for six months, then once a day for another month or two and finally cyclically for a further six months.

Note that any medicine that suppresses periods and estrogen levels will cause bone loss (much like DepoProvera® does). For this reason it is very important to do the following things to prevent bone loss.

Take elemental calcium in a total daily dose of 2000 mg/d. Calcium is not stored so it is best absorbed when spread across the day with meals and at bedtime. Calcium can be obtained from foods (a glass of milk [250 ml] of milk or a fortified beverage provides 300 mg of calcium) and supplements taking a maximum dose of 500 mg at a time.
I would recommend 800-1200 IU of vitamin D a day to assist in the absorption of calcium. It can be taken all at once.
Continue to be physically active with at least a half an hour a day of walking. Don’t lose weight.

I think that using natural progesterone to suppress endometrial growth is safer than other therapies. Why? First, natural progesterone stimulates new bone formation. If bone loss can be controlled by higher doses of calcium and vitamin D, progesterone will be less negative for bones than other suppressive therapies. Second, natural progesterone suppresses the ovaries without causing hot flushes like GnRH agonist therapy does. Third, progesterone has no side effects such as hair growth or acne like danazol does. Fourth, this treatment is flexible and can be adjusted based on a women’s experiences. It is under her control and is not an injection that is temporarily irreversible.


On natural as equal to good

I feel a little bit like you're making blame by association argument here - because some hormonal birth controls are potentially bad for you, and because they stop your period, any wish to not have a period is in itself harmful, or at least blameworthy. I'm sorry, but that's crap. I know the whole "if men menstruated argument" is that it would be considered great and all, but do you know what my theory is? Bull. If men menstruated, we'd be rid of it long ago. Or, rather, we'd have found a way to get around the bad parts - the bleeding, the pain, the nausea, the mood swings, the upset stomach, the fragile mucus membranes... I really appreciates the struggle against the medical industry's attitude to women's bodies, but PLEASE STOP EQUATING EVERYTHING NATURAL WITH GOOD. Like amandaw mentions above, our bodies don't always work perfectly. Even when they do, they aren't shining examples of smooth processes - I don't have endo, I don't have any menstrual dysfunctional, I don't have as much pain as most women I know (I've never passed out from pain, I've only thrown up from pain once, I've never had to spend a day curled up on the floor crying), I have a reasonably regular cycle (27-31 days on average), I don't mind the mood swings, I am not in the military, I am not a dancer or a sportswoman.

And yet I strongly dislike my period.

It's IN THE WAY. It is sticky and stains my sheets and shower towels. It prevents me from having sex (membranes get too fragile, it hurts. sometimes to ride an exercise bike too.) It hurts, even if it is not disabling pain, it's still really annoying. You bet if there was a safe way of getting rid of it, I would take it. And please, please stop laying guilt on those of of who would rather not having that nuisance every month.

I am not equating natural

I am not equating natural with good, I am equating good health with good. The ovulation menstruation cycle promotes a strong immune system, strong bone growth, healthier heart, healthier breasts and life longevity. Ms magazine did a piece a while back on this natural vs unnatural argument and frankly I don't buy it. It's a bloody-minded way of looking at this issue, if you excuse the pun.

Taken long-term these contraceptives, in shutting down the ovulation cycle, impact on all the bodily systems mentioned - and in so doing cause vitamin deficiency and lowered hormone levels - producing decreased energy levels, impaired concentration abilities, changes in mood and libido. This impact can dramatically decrease a woman's quality of life and sense of well being.

As my friend Laura Wershler said in her response letter to Ms, 'Ask not what those cycle-stopping contraceptives will do to you, but what healthy ovulatory menstruation can do for you.'

That said, if you don't like your period and you already know all this - then please do go ahead and do what you feel is needed. I'm only informing, and if you are making an informed choice, good for you. I'm just not sure everyone is as well educated on this matter. I certainly wasn't.

Look - -I am not arguing

Look - -I am not arguing that you're wrong about outside hormonal interruptions of the menstrual cycle. I don't think you are, which is exactly who I am not messing with my system right now. But I am still sensing an attitude not just against the actual medications and their effects, but against negative feelings towards ones out menstruation at all. I don't think it's strange at all if women would prefer not to bleed (and be in pain, and moody, and..) and I wish you wouldn't look down on a very justified reaction to the fact that even healthy women can have difficult periods.

In short:
messing with healthy system = not very good, I agree
being sick and tired of pesky aspects of healthy system = neutral (where you seem to be saying that this is a problem in itself)

How about

It would be so refreshing to see, Do you still want your period? Here are your options - kind of article. Just giving the information pros and cons, things to think about, why it may work for some but not others, the risks, the benefits etc , and let each make up her mind if it is a good or bad choice for herself. It would be so liberating for women not to receive judgement over what they do with their own bodies - so hard to imagine such a world. Women's bodies are such contentious political platforms for everyone including other women.
I appreciate the warning call for body awareness but you may just find 80% of women don't want to be told what a natural woman is or what's "good for us as women." We're kind of more than a little tired of that.

Yes, you're right it is hard

Yes, you're right it is hard to imagine 'such a world.' You could go and read up on scientific research and compare and contrast for yourself - I did. Rather than sitting back and waiting for someone to hand it all over to you on an easy-to-read, bullet pointed plate.

This here is feminist response to pop culture, a piece of social commentary. I am not being prescriptive. I believe in choice, informed choice. Pharmaceutical companies ensure you hear all the good stuff about their options, so I am just wanting to make sure we all get to hear the bad side. I'm not giving them free publicity.

'Do you still want your period?' is not a simple question and there's not a simple answer - it's actually pretty loaded. If you want cold hard facts - go get 'em. I'm pretty certain if I only ever posted a list of facts and statistics with none of the 'commentary' I was hired to provide, all I would get is criticism of the sources of my facts. Because even facts have to come from somewhere, and are not devoid of bias or intention.

You know what I'm tired of? Being told that I am being prescriptive, limiting women's choices, or telling women what is 'natural' - when what I am actually doing is, as you do admit, presenting 'a warning call for body awareness' - a call which is based in my experience of the last decade on the Pill, the last couple of years of which was pretty horrific.

My aim is to raise awareness of what hormonal contraceptives can do to your general health and well being, so that women can make a real, informed choice. I have spent the last year or more working for this aim:


Thank you for sharing my EXACT thoughts when reading this entry. "It would be so liberating for women not to receive judgement over what they do with their own bodies - so hard to imagine such a world." Yeah, exactly. I might hate period but it might not be due to the period-shaming culture we live in - it might be due to the fact that I get a bitching migraine headache every month that leaves me unable to move without puking.

“I am not equating natural

“I am not equating natural with good, I am equating good health with good.”

And you’re equating good health with natural, which frankly is nonsense. Naturally, most of us would suffer from debilitating conditions for most of our lives and die and early death.

“This impact can dramatically decrease a woman's quality of life and sense of well being.”

Spending two days a month curled up in bed with a hot water bottle pressed against me crying from the pain wasn’t too good for my quality of life either. And I didn’t have any specific condition such as endometriosis either – I was just suffering from good old menstruation, while my gynaecologist refused to put me on the pill and simply informed my sixteen year old self that real women learn to endure the inconveniences that accompany the glory of childbearing and that as soon as I got pregnant it would all go away. Great.

“I'm only informing, and if you are making an informed choice, good for you.”

Really? Coz it sounds like you’re preaching.

There really is no

There really is no biological reason to have a period or be menstruating if you're not looking to become pregnant- Hunter/Gatherer society women spend so much of their life either pregnant or lactating, that they skip their period alltogether for months or years at a time. So even the idea of "28 days" is a total medical construction since the introduction of the pill (the only reason it's 28 days is because of the religious right attempting to maintain 'normality' and control of a woman's so-called 'natural' cycle). It is ultimately up to the individual woman whether or not to have a monthly period.

Periods? Meh.

I would never stop my period unnaturally, because frankly, I am paranoid that it will mess me up...however...

I totally would if I could. I am childfree, so why the heck do I need it? It does stink, if you make mistakes. It ruins clothes, it is completely uncomfortable, I get cramps, and I never know if it will last three days or a week. I cant wear tampons, and as such my period takes over my life every time it comes. My choices are influenced on whether I can do this or that while on my period. it's kinda like being held hostage by my own body.

What a discussion

I'm a little stunned by the hostility toward Holly Grigg-Spall in some of these comments. I've read her article a couple of times now, and I can't find anything where she instructs readers to love their periods, or to feel guilty if they don't, or that 'natural' is always healthy, or that HBC causes endometriosis. Ms. Grigg-Spall's essay - which is clearly labeled "Social Commentary", by the way - seems to me to be questioning the promotion of hormonal contraceptives as a lifestyle choice to avoid menstruation, not telling YOU how to feel about YOUR period. She acknowledges that periods can be painful and that there are good medical reasons to suppress them, even admitting that she would have cheerfully signed up for menstrual suppression herself several years ago.

Nor did she say birth control causes endometriosis; she indicated that it *masks* symptoms of endometriosis, which is completely consistent with the fact that endometriosis is often treated with hormonal birth control. It makes sense that if a woman began taking the pill at an early age, she might not know she had endometriosis until she stopped taking the pill. (<a href=" average time between experiencing menstrual pain and diagnosis of endometriosis, by the way, is eleven years in the U.S.</a>).

Her stated wish for women to be more informed about the physiology of menstruation is justified. <em>Bitch</em> readers are probably more well-informed and better read than the national (U.S.) average. As a professor and a researcher, I can assure you that many young women are surprisingly lacking in knowledge of basic anatomy. The last time I made a classroom presentation about my research on media representation of menstrual suppression, I had to answer numerous questions from college students about the physiology and anatomy of menstruation and reproduction. (For example, questions included whether one can still get pregnant after a hysterectomy, and utter shock at learning that the pill stops ovulation.)

I'm finding some of the commentary here indicative of the strength of taboo surrounding menstruation and the prohibitions of talking about it. Commenter Clarity_J notes that it is unusual to see an article that presents advantages and disadvantages without judgment; in a cultural environment where women's bodies are under constant surveillance and scrutiny for the slightest perceived "flaw", even attempts to open a discussion feel like judgment to some.

Holly's responses

Amen to everything Elizabeth K. said. While I think it's great that people are responding with questions and concerns, it seems like a lot of the more hostile commentators did not bother to read the actual post, and I'm very impressed at how informative, patient and thoughtful Holly's responses have been.

Ms. Grigg-Spall's essay -

<blockquote>Ms. Grigg-Spall's essay - which is clearly labeled "Social Commentary", by the way - seems to me to be questioning the promotion of hormonal contraceptives as a lifestyle choice to avoid menstruation, not telling YOU how to feel about YOUR period.</blockquote>

Interestingly though, the poll of readers she is questioning in the piece has nothing directly to do with the pill, it's simply asking women if they would like to be rid of their periods - presumably because they aren't fond of them. From the piece:

<blockquote>Considering the history, it's not surprising 80% of Company readers want to be rid of periods - 'what a bore' is right! Why would anyone want to deal with all the social and cultural negative baggage that surrounds our biology?</blockquote>

It's hard for me to read these two sentences and not get the impression that the reason 80% of readers don't like their period is for social and cultural - not physical - reasons. I am clearly not the only one. The implication of this is that if you are reading this and you think you don't like your period because it's uncomfortable or painful or inconvenient or whathaveyou, then you are wrong. It is because you are hoodwinked into not liking them by the tampon industry. After all, Holly Grigg-Spall <i>loves</i> her periods!

Maybe this is just being oversensitive about a few words (or a few omitted words), or maybe the way we frame public discourse has real impacts on people and that needs to be acknowledged.

Or added words...

Where and when do I say I 'love' my periods?

I actually say my periods were once so painful I would faint.

Now they aren't. But if I am not allowed to make suggestions as to why we, as women, generally, don't like our periods - then I don't see why you are allowed to put words in my mouth and make assumptions about <i>me</i> and <i>my</i> period.

I think understanding your period and its part in your body's cycles, and overall healthiness, is a good way of, shall we say, appreciating your periods. Please see the comment below, I think it's interesting.

I don't love my period, but I understand it as part of my self and my body and so I see no good coming from disliking it.


It may be a stretch to say that we all hate our periods because we've been sold the idea <b>to</b> hate our periods: periods are messy, they're painful and, if you're anything like me, they drop you into some pretty deep emotional disturbances that you need prayer just to survive every month. They're not easy to deal with. But I do feel that the way we approach our periods is <i>informed</i> by the ideas we've been sold about it, and about our bodies and our sexualities in general. It's about as enjoyable as our body's natural waste removal system, for sure, but I feel that we make it such a big deal because we've been taught to see menstruation as this awful, strange thing that turns us into inhuman monsters every month. Taught with the intention to make us buy this product or that drug, which I feel some people forget when we talk about this subject. In order to sell you things, corporations need to make you feel as if you need what they want you to buy, and the easiest way to do that is to make you feel bad about something that's happening to you, that you have, or that you don't have. I feel that this is all the article was saying and getting us to think about.

I personally don't understand why people hate their periods so much (and I've been on a psychiatric ward 4 times because of my period, have been knocked to my knees by cramps before, etc., so it has nothing to do with my cycle not being severe or whatever). I was excited when I got my first period (age 11), and I feel that most of my identity is informed by it and as much as it's put me through, I couldn't imagine getting rid of it. It's too much a part of me.

conflicting reports.

This is confusing to me- i have an endocrinologist who says that not having periods (i lack the glands and whatnot so i don't have them, never have) is extremely unhealthy and i need to remedy it or i may have fertility and other health problems later in life. So...huh?

I remember once asking my

I remember once asking my mother as a child, "why do they always use blue liquid for pee and period stuff?" and she said, "cos no one wants to see piss and blood while they're eating their dinner". Made perfect sense to me then, and still does today. I really don't see the big deal about this. I don't understand the shame thing. My parents brought us up to not have shame for anything, nudity, bodily fluids or anything else.

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