FDA approval of a pill specifically designed for such a cycle may not be far off. Within about three years, doctors may be able to prescribe a pill that will limit a woman's menstrual periods to four a year.
Early next year, Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va., working with Barr Laboratories in Pomona, N.Y., will begin a 1,350-woman, 12-month clinical trial for a new birth control pill called Seasonale.
Seasonale contains a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, that already are available in oral contraceptives. To reduce her periods from 13 (birth control pills usually create 28-day cycles) to four a year, a woman would take the pill for 84 consecutive days and then skip a week.
Although it won't apply to great numbers of women, perhaps one of the best reasons to eliminate--or reduce--the number of periods could be to avoid more-drastic surgical options, such as hysterectomy, for women with excessive monthly blood loss or problems such as fibroids, Shoupe says. "The more options we have, the better," she adds.