Today’s Wall Street Journal brings good news for women: birth control pills that allow you to skip your period are not bad for you. Part of the rationale:
a lifetime of monthly periods isn’t quite what nature
intended. Women today menstruate nearly three times as often as their
ancestors, who typically had more children and spent years
breast-feeding, a practice that can naturally suppress menstruation.
But with the onset of modern birth-control methods, and the fact that
girls tend to menstruate earlier than in generations past, women now
have more periods. Today, the average North American woman has about
400 periods in her lifetime. By comparison, an aboriginal woman in
Northern Australia has about 150 periods during her life.
So the implication is, if it was good enough for grandma to have fewer periods, then it can’t possibly be bad for us modern gals, who are suffering from an onset of modern birth control methods. Because having fewer periods, that’s the ancient way. The natural way. The good way.
Ah, nostalgia. It leads us astray so reliably. I’d like to point out that the old, natural way of things was for women to die before they saw their 52nd birthday. A woman born in 1900 could expect to live 51 years. Today, a woman can expect to live to 80, according to the CDC. I wasn’t really sure about the general health status of Northern Australian Aboriginals, but a quick search of PubMed at the National Library of Medicine reveals that it’s really not so good.
So why on earth should the healthier modern women want to be more like her shorter-lived ancestors –or for that matter, like a native people who are evidently and unfortunately not in as good health as people in other groups? There may be solid reasons to take a pill and go without a period, but really–this isn’t one of them.