Imagine a birth control pill that allows you to have only four periods a year or none at all. They already exist. In fact, many women are taking these types of oral conception.
But is it safe to reduce or eliminate menstrual periods? First let’s review menstruation. Every month, the body prepares for pregnancy. If that doesn’t happen, the uterus sheds its lining. Menstrual blood that passes out of the body is part blood and part tissue from inside the uterus.
Some doctors say taking oral contraception doesn’t cause a “true” period. These women have "withdrawal bleeding". In a WebMD article, Steve Goldstein, a professor at NYU Medical Center said, "The pill shuts down your normal hormone production and replaces it with a very tiny amount, so there is no buildup of the uterine lining. Without a lining, there is no shedding, so the bleeding that occurs when you stop the pill is a ‘withdrawal bleed caused by a drop in hormones.’"
In an About.com Contraception article, Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC wrote, “Some women falsely believe that without a period, blood or other toxins may begin to build up. Although some claim that it's unnatural or harmful to manipulate a woman’s monthly cycle by completely stopping her period, in reality, women are already controlling their menstrual cycles just by using birth control pills. Given that few women naturally have a 28-day menstrual cycle, pill use automatically directs a woman’s cycle to be 28 days.”
Mitchell Creinin, director of family planning in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh's Magee-Women's Hospital agreed. WebMD quoted him as saying, "The idea that a woman 'needs' to have a period is folklore. The blood doesn't build up inside, and it has nothing to do with cleaning out your system or proving that you're normal. There's no biological plausibility that a one-week break confers any protection against anything."
But other doctors urge caution. They worry these pills may have unforeseen health consequences and it’s too soon to tell if they are safe.