A new concept of birth control could be a dream come true for women sick of tampons and cramps. Developed at Eastern Virginia Medical Center, Seasonale, an oral contraceptive, reduces the number of menstrual cycles from 13 to four a year.
Normal oral contraceptives follow a 21-day cycle while Seasonale runs on an 84-day cycle before allowing a week for menstruation.
“Women have been stuck, with a 21-day cycle of birth control since the 50’s,” Patrice Malena, Seasonale studies coordinator and family nurse practitioner said. “It’s time for a change.”
Seasonale is being reviewed for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and could be on the market by the end of the year.
Combining lower doses of two hormones commonly used in oral contraceptives, Seasonale works similarly to birth control pills. But instead of keeping the lining of the uterus thin, Seasonale suppresses its growth entirely.
“Women are always really concerned to know where the blood goes,” Malena said. “But the fact is, there’s no blood being made.”
Studies showed that Seasonale does not cause heavier periods and helps reduce the risk of pregnancy by limiting the number of days before and after menstruation when the body is most likely to release an egg, Malena said.
Women who are traveling or who suffer from diseases that flare up during their period have been using birth control to delay menstruation for years.
If approved by the FDA, Seasonale will be available to the public as the first packaged drug designed specifically to delay menstruation.
“Side effects are similar to those of regular birth control, Malena said.
“The biggest problem reported by women using Seasonale was unscheduled bleeding or spotting.”
No long-term studies on the effects of Seasonale have currently been conducted, Malena added.
Despite medical advancement, University Health Services Director Robert Winfield said menstruation is necessary for maintaining a woman’s health.
“Periods shed the lining of the uterus and prevent increased thickening of the uteral lining which can lead to buildup which can cause problems,” Winfield said.
“Women either love the idea or they feel uncomfortable with not having a monthly period,” Malena said. “We’re just offering them another choice.”
While many female students said that it would be great only having four periods a year, they were concerned about drawbacks.
“It makes me a little nervous, messing around with the body’s cycle,” said LSA sophomore Melanie Skemer.
Some students said there would be concern among women who use their monthly periods as an indication of pregnancy.
“If you don’t know you’re pregnant, you have to wait longer to find out,” LSA sophomore Jessica Welt said.