Full-Stop on Periods

(A little joke for the Brit savvy readers.)

There’s been some discussion around the blogosphere the past few days about this AP article which reports on the use of birth control pills to essentially render periods obsolete—unless and until women want to have them again. Broadsheet’s Sarah Elizabeth Richards thinks it’s an awesome option; Jessica at Feministing is more dubious.

I’ve been hearing about this option for some time now, and I have to say I find it rather disconcerting for a few reasons, not the least of which, as Jessica points out, “We don’t know what the long-term effects are of not menstruating.” I know this is physiologically illogical, but I can’t help being reminded of stories of women in cultures who are forced to submit to having their vaginal openings stitched shut to protect their chastity; if enough of an opening isn’t provided to allow menses to flow, they can die of sepsis. Obviously, periods aren’t getting “backed up” in women’s bodies who opt out of periods through the pill, but I can’t shake off the image anyway, in spite of recognizing the relationship between the two resides in some distant recess of my mind that indulges abstract connections without much regard for practical distinctions.

Laying that aside for the moment, it seems I would be the perfect candidate for this option. I’m not planning on getting pregnant anytime soon, and I have horrid periods that usually last at least a week and are fraught with debilitating cramps—so it seems as though I ought to welcome the prospect of not having them anymore. But I couldn’t be less enthusiastic. What’s my glitch?

I don’t know. Maybe my reluctance (beyond hesitation over lack of long-term effects) is due to my having a terrible experience with the pill; I felt absolutely dreadful on it, and so I’ve always been a condom girl. (But I know in the last decade the pill’s come a long way, baby.) Maybe I’m just some sort of strange traditionalist, who can’t escape her associations between having a period and being a woman. (But I certainly don’t consider post-menopausal women not women anymore.) Maybe it’s about my general hesitancy with medication; I don’t even like taking aspirin. (But I take medication when I need it.) Maybe there’s a part of me who wonders how much women are getting rid of their periods for their own convenience as opposed to the convenience of male sex partners. (But my own period informs an understanding of why women would want to do this for themselves, and I know there are plenty of men who don’t balk at having sex during “that time of the month.”)

Seriously, I don’t know what it is. Shutting off my period just doesn’t strike me as something I’d want to do, because the prospect seems bizarre and unavoidably tinged with a sense of peril to me—and I’m not sure why. Especially since I don’t feel the same about the pill preventing pregnancy. That I find a great option. So why not preventing periods? All I’ve discerned from thinking about this is that I still have the capacity to flummox myself.

So, what do you think? Anyone currently on a contraceptive regimen that stops periods? Anyone considering it? Random thoughts?

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