In No More Periods? The Blessings of the Curse, Dr. Susan Rako, an internationally recognized authority in the field of women's hormonal health, says, "Encouraging healthy menstruating women and teenage girls to do away with their normal menstrual cycles by dosing themselves more or less nonstop with hormones (a multi-billion-dollar-per-year-industry) is, in a word, reckless."
And I couldn't agree more. I'm thrilled by the reprinting of Dr. Rako's book and am hopeful that it will make a little noise and help bring about a thoughtful discussion about women's bodies, the unstoppable greed of the pharmaceutical industry, and what Rako calls, "the largest uncontrolled experiment in medical science" on healthy, fertile-age girls and women.
Two years ago, I wrote an impassioned essay about the release of Seasonale (a birth control pill that promised only 4 menstrual periods a year), asking for women and feminists to take a hard look at the way pharmaceutical companies were trying to shove "anti-menstruation" down our throats for pure profit. I sent the essay out to several feminist websites, but none of them bit. If truth be told, I suspect that feminist organizations don't like it when anyone attacks birth control. The pill, afterall, has been touted for so many years as the HOLY GRAIL OF FEMINISM -- it's the thing that set an entire generation of women free.
I'm proud to call myself a feminist. And glad women have these choices. But there are no magic pills. Birth control have side-effects -- often serious side-effects.
Selling birth control to supposedly informed grown women who want to control their fertility is one thing. Pushing birth control as a menstrual suppression aide in glitzy TV ads so that young girls don't want the inconvenience of menstrual bleeding is another. In fact, it's abhorrent.
Now that I'm older and wiser, and read Dr. Rako's book, I'm not so sure I would readily sign-up to be part of the pharmaceutical companies' uncontrolled experiments. I now look forward to my monthly periods, as they can be a time of great creativity and calm for me. I feel more in tune with myself now that I listen to the monthly rhythms of my body, rather than ignore them, or worse, destroy them. PMS and migraine headaches around my cycle can still be intrusive, but I'm learning to deal with these in natural homeopathic ways. Besides, birth control pills didn't eradicate PMS symptoms or migraines in me, so there's no advantage there.
Dr. Rako also speaks about the natural benefits of a normal menstrual cycle, including: lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, and healthy bones. Meanwhile, the risks of menstrual suppression include: heart attack, stroke, cervical cancer, osteoporosis, and depressed libido. There are some women who suffer greatly during their menstrual cycles, and for extreme cases, menstrual suppression may be the only cure. But for those of us with regular cycles, who just don't want to be inconvenienced -- we need to know what we're risking and what we are giving up.
The essay that I wrote about Seasonale eventually found a home at The Mother's Movement Online (and I thank Judith Stadtman Tucker for recognizing that I wasn't some crazy extremist, but someone trying to start a discussion about something I was actually conflicted about). It was there, that Dr. Rako happened upon it. When she asked if she could include that essay in the updated edition of No More Periods?, I couldn't have been happier. The little essay that nobody wanted, now has a permanent printed home.
I hope someday I can share this book with my own daughter, and help her get the facts she needs to make her own informed decisions about her body, her fertility, and her life.