Contraceptive Pill Cuts Periods
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.