Contraceptive Pill Cuts Periods

ByABC News
September 9, 2003, 3:00 PM

Sept. 19 -- One thing hasn't changed for women since the dawn of time the monthly period. For some women, like 23-year-old Kelly, it's seven days of suffering every month.

Watch the full report, Friday, on 20/20 at 10 p.m.

"I thought it was, you know, what women go through. It's something that you just deal with and it's part of the physiology of a woman. So I really just kind of accepted it," said Kelly, who asked that her last name not be reported.

Nonetheless, a recent survey shows that two thirds of women would gladly reduce their number of monthly periods if they could.

Now the fantasy of suppressing menstrual periods for months at a time has actually become a reality. Recently, the FDA approved Seasonale the first oral contraceptive specifically packaged to cut the number of periods from once a month to just four times a year.

But Dr. Andrew Kaunitz who led a clinical trial on the drug admits that many patients are still skeptical. Dr. Kaunitz said, "The first reaction I get is: That sounds really good. But the second reaction is: Is that really healthy?"

Gynecologist Dr. Shari Brasner says she believes Seasonale is a modern option for the modern women.

"I am sort of your model busy woman, juggling the career and family and just really in the course of the normal workday, I don't have time to deal with the inconveniences of the menstrual period," Brasner said.

Seasonale, manufactured by Barr Laboratories, contains the same hormones found in traditional birth control pills estrogen and progesterone. The difference with Seasonale is not what's in the pills but how you take them. With monthly packages a woman takes hormone pills for 21 days in a row followed by seven days of placebo pills to cause bleeding a schedule the original pill designers came up with to make taking the pill feel like normal monthly cycles.

But the Seasonale package has a woman taking the hormone pills for 84 days before taking the seven-day break to induce bleeding. This means that over the course of a year, a woman will get nine more weeks of hormones versus a monthly plan.