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A monthly period is simply a natural part of being a woman, right? Apparently not. Hard though it may be to believe, it is not medically necessary to menstruate monthly if you're on the Pill -- and it might even be healthier not to.
For years, women have known that they could avoid their period for one cycle, when menses fell on a special occasion like a honeymoon, by skipping the seven placebo pills that are part of the 28-day pill regimen, and taking only hormone pills through two cycles.
Now experts say there's no reason that a woman can't extend her cycle in this way even longer, so that she has a period only every three months or so.
Of course, there are the obvious perks: No bleeding, no cramps, no PMS. But there are other health benefits associated with skipping periods. Endometriosis sufferers have found relief by taking continuous doses of estrogen and progestin, present in the Pill, and doctors often recommend that anemic patients who use oral contraceptives take hormone pills consecutively to miss periods (and reduce overall bleeding). Further, research shows that having fewer periods may lower the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers. According to experts, both diseases are more common than they once were because women today have more lifetime periods (since we don't spend as much time pregnant or breastfeeding as women used to.)
Because breakthrough bleeding will eventually occur in most women, some doctors recommend taking the active pills until that happens, then taking a week off. Clinical trials may commence this year for a new regimen in which you take hormone pills for 84 consecutive days and then skip a week. Meanwhile, you must "consult your doctor first," stresses Patricia Sulak, M.D., an OB-GYN at Scott and White Clinic, in Temple, Texas, "before you deviate from your regular Pill schedule."--Nicci Micco