As a female young adult, this week’s reading is very interesting as well as useful to me. I have been conditioned not to question menstruation as, which I’m sure many others can agree with, it is generally assumed and taught to be one of the body’s natural processes. However, Chapter 9 persuades me otherwise.
Sievert explores two options: menstruation as adaptation and repeated menstruation as mismatch theory (sedentary lifestyle and greater food security = more menstrual cycles, p. 182) and does so by studying menstrual-suppressing oral contraceptives (MSOCs).
“Ancestral females had fewer periods due to more frequent pregnancies and lactation” and MSOCs cannot mimic the fewer periods experienced by women in the past, nor can it imitate the benefits of “Stone Age life histories” (195) but it seems that modern women are not attempting to do so. Rather, taking MSOCs is a way to increase daily convenience and deter potential negative health effects associated with menstruation.
At first, the argument of inconvenience made me respond in a “deal with it” attitude, although I realized this inconvenience often translates into unnecessary stress that can last half a lifetime until menopause. Additionally, it can cause pain enough to impair daily functioning without the use of medication. But Sievert states that “menstruation is physiologically costly” (185), including risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer and anemia, more extreme cases. Personally, the experience has always been concerning as I have thalassemia, a blood disease with ties to anemia; I have female friends who are anemic that take oral contraceptives because of it. In this case, MSOCs make the best sense.
Based on this evidence (along with the fact that MSOCs don’t interfere with adaptive aspects of menstruation), I am more keen to the idea that women should not menstruate. Although menstruation is one of the primary modes, there are other methods to detecting pregnancy and fertility, especially with the kind of technology available today (which, granted, is not available to all women). Given that MSOCs are not offered to women in their beginning years of menstruation, they should be offered as a solution – but, agreeing with Sievert, this is not to say they should be universally enforced.