There's a point of some contention that's been around since the first birth control pills came on the market. At that time, some women realized that they could simply skip the inactive week of their pill packs to skip their period. This led many people to wonder: Do women actually need to have periods?
The Case for Periods
Despite the fact that menstruation was not an appropriate topic for conversation for… well, ever, once the clinical possibility to stop or reduce a woman's period came up, many different ideas were suddenly being put forth as to why women needed to menstruate.
Some said that women who used products like oral contraceptives (and years later, IUDs) wouldn't be able to become pregnant once they stopped, we now know that this isn't the case. In fact, births of multiples have increased significantly since the introduction of the birth control pill, and it's assumed that the release of multiple eggs is directly due to use of the pill.
Other responses to the once-a-year or four-times-per-year pills were that women need to have periods for proper vaginal health. Some biologists have hypothesized that menstruation occurs as a method of cleansing the vagina from foreign and potentially harmful microbes, however this has largely been debunked. Still others believe that there must be a reason, or why would we have evolved this way?
A Saturday Night Live sketch explored some of the imaginary possible side effects such a pill could have with their spoof commercial for Annuale. Side effects for this made up product included 12 month’s worth of PMS all being released at once, causing women to basically go insane. While this was obviously made for laughs (being SNL and all), it does tap into an underlying assumption that women need to have regular periods to be healthy and normal.
The Case Against Periods
Whenever we look at why periods may be wholly unnecessary, we often start with the fact that humans are among the very small number of mammals who menstruate, as well as the fact that there seems to be no obvious cause for it in any animal. While there may be an evolutionary advantage in having a period, biologists have yet to uncover it.
Now that products like Seasonique have been available for years, we've seen that no unusual side effects have resulted from either the drug itself or from the absence of menstrual cycles. It's also interesting to note that the inactive week in traditional birth control pills was only included for “cultural” reasons, not because there was any health-based cause for it. In fact, the “period” that women get while using oral contraceptives isn't a real period, since the pill represses the body's ability to release an egg at all. That's right, if you use the pill, you've been having a false period (complete with cramps) every month just because it would seem odd not to have one.
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While there are many different viewpoints to take into account when talking about whether or not women “should” have periods, from a purely biological and scientific standpoint, there's no evidence so far that women actually “need” to have a period.