The new prescription contraceptive Seasonale slated for release later this month has touched off a series of debates over women’s options in birth control and menstrual suppression. Manufactured by Barr Laboratories, Seasonale differs from conventional pills in that contains 84 pills instead of 21, with a cycle of seven placebo pills taken every three months, according to Newsweek. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month, the drug is part of a growing trend of menstrual suppression.
In fact, women have been using traditional birth control pills to suppress menstruation for years. The 21-pill regimen, developed by the pill’s inventor Dr. John Rock in the 1950s was “arbitrary,” chosen only to mimic the natural cycle and make the drug potentially more acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church, the New Yorker reported, according to the New York Times. Nonetheless, the Catholic Church has continued to oppose artificial birth control methods.
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 Washington Post. Critics caution that little is known about the risks of long-term menstrual suppression.