The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considered likely to approve a birth control pill that reduces a woman’s menstrual cycles from 13 to four a year, according to the Washington Post. The difference between normal birth control pills and the new pill Seasonale, manufactured by Barr Laboratories, is that pills come in packets of 84 instead of 21, with a cycle of seven placebo pills every three months, according to Newsweek. The Post reports that women have been using traditional birth control pills to suppress menstruation for years. In fact, the 21-pill regimen developed in the 1950s was “arbitrary,” according to the Post, chosen to make the Pill more acceptable to women and to the Catholic Church.
Using birth control pills to skip periods has potential health benefits, especially for women who suffer from endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and severe cramps. In a study involving 1,400 women, the only side effect most women reported was “breakthrough” or irregular bleeding, which diminished over time, according to the Post.
Critics caution that little is known about the risks of long-term menstrual suppression. The FDA is expected to decide on Seasonale by the end of the year, possibly in the next few months.