Do We Need Periods?
Written by Lara Briden, naturopathic doctor and author.
Blog originally published via larabriden.com and repurposed for The Hello Cup.
The news that women don’t need pill-bleeds tends to generate headlines that “women don’t need periods,” which is completely wrong.
It’s true that women don’t need pill-bleeds because pill-bleeds are not periods. But women do need real menstrual cycles, and here’s why.
Natural ovulatory menstrual cycles are how women make estrogen and progesterone which are important for general health, not just for making a baby. According to Professor Jerilynn Prior, “regular menstrual cycles with consistently normal ovulation during the premenopausal years will prevent osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease.”
Tip: 👉 The contraceptive drugs of birth control are not hormones and do not have the same benefits.
Just as testosterone is beneficial for men’s general health, so estrogen and progesterone are beneficial for women’s general health.
To say that women don’t need ovulation except to make a baby would be like saying that men don’t need testosterone except to make a baby!
It’s the cycle that’s beneficial, not the bleed. The bleed is only an inevitable outcome, because, in general, it’s not possible to ovulate but then not have a bleed. (Except in the case of pregnancy, hysterectomy, or the hormonal IUD.
You can have natural cycles on the hormonal IUD. The hormonal IUD (Mirena) is unique in that, unlike all other types of hormonal birth control, it does not suppress ovulation.
With most types of birth control, you bleed but don’t ovulate. With the hormonal IUD, you can ovulate but not bleed.
So, if menstrual suppression is the goal, then the hormonal IUD is the better way to go.
On the downside, the hormonal IUD delivers the drug levonorgestrel, which is androgenic (testosterone-like) and so can cause acne, hair loss, weight gain, and depression. Read The pros and cons of the hormonal IUD (Mirena).
Conclusion: Do women need periods?
In summary, women don’t need periods if a period is defined as a bleed. And women certainly don’t need pill-bleeds because they’re not menstrual cycles. Women do need periods if a period is defined as a menstrual cycle because regular ovulatory menstrual cycles are how women make hormones.