Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Is it safe to take a pill that eliminates periods?

Q. Some of my friends are excited about the new oral contraceptive that eliminates periods. But it worries me. Does anyone know what happens when you stop menstruating for a long time? It just seems unnatural.

A. Oral contraceptives (OCs) have been available since the early 1960s and are the most common form of birth control in the United States. "The pill" suppresses ovulation, thickens the cervical mucus (which blocks passage of the sperm), and alters the lining of the uterus, preventing implantation of a fertilized egg. Most OCs come in packets of 21 pills containing the hormones estrogen and progestin, along with seven placebo pills that contain no medication. Women seeking to prevent pregnancy take a hormone-containing pill daily for three weeks, then a week's worth of placebo pills (or no pills). A menstrual period occurs during the seven-day placebo phase in response to the drop in hormone levels.

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