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‘Seasonale’ Cuts Periods to Four per Year for Women

Once advertised solely for their ability to prevent pregnancy,
some oral contraceptives are now being marketed for their
additional benefits. A new birth control pill, Seasonale, is being
heavily advertised for its ability to give women only four periods
a year, leaving members of the Mills community skeptical as to its
actual benefits.

The difference between Seasonale and its counterparts is a
3-month versus a 3-week cycle. The usual birth control pill, known
as a 28-day pill, is taken for three weeks. The user takes 21 days
of “active” pills, or pills containing hormones, followed by a week
of inactive pills, which enable a period to occur. Taken in a
3-month cycle, active pills are consumed for 84 days, followed by a
week of inactive pills thus reducing the number of periods to only
four per year.

The new drug works the same way as most oral contraceptives, yet
is taken for longer periods of time. It is comprised of estrogen
and progestin, two female hormones that prevent pregnancy by
stalling ovulation, or the release of eggs by the uterus, and by
thickening cervical mucus. Thickened cervical mucus prevents sperm
from entering the uterus and joining with the egg.

Women taking 28-day pills often reduce their number of periods
manually by merely skipping the week of inactive pills. Seasonale
is the only FDA approved drug that automatically reduces the number
of periods as long as its users stick to the 3-month plan.

The Seasonale Web site claims that many medical experts endorse
the drug because it is not essential to have a monthly period while
on birth control. A woman taking birth control is not ovulating so
she technically does not require a period. The “pill period” that
women have when taking a week of inactive pills is caused by
bleeding of the uterus wall instead of the release of an egg. The
primary side effect of Seasonale is an increased amount of
“breakthrough bleeding” or random vaginal bleeding during weeks in
which a pill period is not expected.

According to a press release posted on, the
distributing company’s chairman and CEO described Seasonale as
being “the single most significant advance in oral contraception in
the past 40 years.” The drug is not the first to be heavily
advertised for its additional benefits. Birth control pills such as
Ortho Tri-Cyclen have long been marketed for their ability to clear
up acne.

Members of the Mills community remain unimpressed by Seasonale.
Many students are concerned that reducing the number of periods per
year may have unforeseen complications.

Freshwoman Rebecca Clark wouldn’t take Seasonale because, “I
wouldn’t know if I was pregnant.” She said, “I would be nervous if
I didn’t have my periods every month because not having your
regular period is one of the best ways of knowing if you’re

Alia Paget, a freshwoman, expressed additional concerns with the
drug. “I’m worried Seasonale might affect my medical condition,”
she said. “I have Type-Four diabetes and certain birth control
pills have given me problems in the past.” Paget added she would
take the Seasonale otherwise because she “hates getting

Maria Robinson, a junior, is concerned that it may affect her
ability to have children. “I learned about it from my physician yet
I never even thought about taking it…I don’t want to take any

Cynthia Turner, the Health Program Director at Mills, said,
“birth control is such an individual choice,” she said. “You need
to find out what works for your lifestyle, your physical condition,
and what side effects you’re willing to cope with.”

Turner encouraged students to make a free Sexual Health
Education Appointment at the Tang Center to learn more.