Saturday, March 9, 2013

First Reader: Should Women Menstruate?

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.

1 comment:

  1. This is my Respondent post:

    Jazmine, first I would like to say that I really enjoyed reading your opinion on this chapter. It highlighted several different points that made me considered the benefits of MSOCs. The only thing that really caught my eye was that you didn’t discuss any of the disadvantages that might arise from taking. The part of the reading that I am thinking of is the Pros and cons of Menstrual-Suppressing Oral Contraceptives. Although there is aren’t many side effect that differ from regular oral contraceptives, I believe that they are worth considering if you are going to advocate the use of such a pill.

    One thing that the reading mentions is the increase of spotting or bleeding in between cycles. This might have an impact on someone who is anemic. My roommate suffers from this condition and a slight nosebleed makes her light headed. I could only imagine if she was caught off-guard by this. (I’d like to think that she would start carrying Guinness in her purse because it is high in iron, but that seems unlikely.)

    In addition there is the question of pregnancy. It is not unheard of for a woman to get pregnant while on birth control, and it states on page 194 that if this happens while on the MSOC, it is unlikely the woman would know for sometime depending on where they are at in the 84 week rotation.

    And as Sievert states, “Finally, women’s health advocates are concerned that if menstrual suppression is presented as the preferred contraceptive option, then menstruation will be stigmatized. ‘This is particular a concern with respect to young teens who are just beginning to learn about menstruation and are forming a new understanding about the way their bodies function’” (194). Although everyone might not see a problem with this, it is a concern that should be considered.