Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Ending Periods...

American Journal of Bioethics' Editor-in-Chief Glenn McGee writes a thoughtful, fascinating. and provocative column on human nature and the end of periods in the Scientist today:

"For decades, fertility research has successfully decoupled sex from reproduction, forever altering women's position and power in the developed world. Among all methods of contraception, none is as well known or influential as 'the pill.' Now, its power has been kicked up a notch, and the pill is poised to do what some say will disrupt the very nature of the XX sex. This leaves us with one question: In the next step of the evolution of women's contraception, should we eliminate the last major physical manifestation of the reproductive cycle, menstruation?"

For the complete article, click here. And to let us know what your thoughts are on this matter, take our survey (to the right) or comment here on our blog.


Kelly Hills said...

Just FYI, per The Scientist column, that was published in June of 2007.

MomTFH said...

I wish that article had been written by a woman. I suppose it may be harder for a woman to keep her own menstrual and contraceptive history out of the narrative, but men also have a point of view and reaction to menstruation.

We have two professors in our medical school, both male ob/gyns, who treat menstruation as if it is aberrant. One describes it as a failure of the reproductive cycle. The other describes years without being on birth control pills as a "risk factor".

Helen said...

Regular menstruation is an aberation from a historical perspective.

If you consider the consequences of erratic food supply and repeated pregnancy/breastfeeding cycles, the "typical" woman probably had no more than 20-30 menstrual cycles in her entire life through the majority of her reproductive life.

What I think is interesting is how the medical profession views the control of fertility.

It has taken 2 years for me to be referred to a gynaecologist by my GP, despite being very clear I want a permanent form of contraception - because he is concerned I will change my mind.

Now I have to convince this gynaecologist that at age 37, nulparous and a committed child-free by choice that I want to be sterilised and have ablation to reduce or eliminate my periods. I will bet I have another "several months of trying other solutions" discussion with someone who actually knows little or nothing about me and my life journey.

At least I have the knowledge and skills to act as my own advocate in these situations - having a health background myself I actually can talk the jargon and give a coherant medical history...but what about the woman who is less educated and prepared - why should the medical profession ascribe such value to our continued manifestation of fertility when we have clearly voiced a preference and opinion over an extended period of time?

Kelly Hills said...

It's always interesting to remember that the Vatican insisted that the pill come with the false period - that wasn't part of the original design. (This was obviously before the Vatican decided to simply oppose the pill, period. Er, heh.)

Speaking from personal opinion and experience - I had to travel in December during the massive snowstorms that disrupted travel on both east and west coasts. Once my original (and second, and third) flight was canceled, I realized I was going to end up in air while on my period... and I opted to use my pill pack to skip having one. The last thing I wanted was to be dealing with that while coping with weather delays (let alone potentially being stuck a night or two in an airport while menstruating).

I have to admit, it's been kind of nice to not worry about it. It's been nice to not have to cart around (or pay for) supplies, which financially really add up! When you're lower income, you can receive contraceptives for free, but you can't get monthly menstruation supplies for free, and depending on your choices, they're not cheap.

I can see why, in a scenario where pregnancy is not a possibility, simply eliminating a monthly period is a nice choice - from a variety of perspectives. That said, I would personally be very wary of doing so if there was a possibility of pregnancy; that's the kind of thing I would want to know about sooner rather than later!