All of this makes sense to me, but it also makes me even more confused about how the pill works. If the cycle length is not important, why is it important not to miss pills before finishing the whole pack?? And why don't pill manufacturers offer longer cycles?-- it would be a huge bestseller. If you can take 6 weeks worth of pills (2 packs), can you take 5 weeks, or 8 weeks? Why is it sometimes ok to stop taking the pills and have a period, and why does it sometimes allow you to get pregnant?
Also, why do our bodies bleed at all? From what I understand, barely any animals have periods, even among primates. Most mammals go into heat where they are fertile and may bleed a little. Not the same as the human cycle.
That same Why We Get Sick book mentions a theory that periods are a defense against infection in the uterus, particularly against sperm-carried pathogens. However, so far there doesn't seem to be any evidence of a reduced pathogen load after a woman's period as compared to before. (Furthermore, wouldn't it be a weird strategy to stop bleeding the only time you knew for sure that something foreign has gotten into the uterus-- when you are pregnant?)
In high school biology, the infection theory was taught to me as well as a theory that periods were meant to prevent strain on the uterine ligaments and supportive muscles. The idea here would be that as the endometrial lining builds up each month in preparation for fertilization, it gets heavy, and the body would get strained by carrying it all the time. Menstruation lightens the load. This seems a little unlikely to me, given that the body can carry a fetus, placenta and big bag of fluid (in addition to the lining) for 9 months. As well, it doesn't seem like bleeding and rebuilding would be the most efficient solution to the situation. Couldn't you just build stronger ligaments once, instead of a new lining over and over again? :) I've also read somewhere that periods might be exercise for uterine muscles, to keep them in shape, which would be rather useful during childbirth (why then not bleed during the whole lead up to birth itself? And why don't other animals bleed?).
So I remain curious. I would like to how I'm changing my body's system of operation before I mess with it even more than I am already. If it's a matter of infection prevention, perhaps the body's pregnancy defenses (cervical mucus plug etc), invoked by the pill, would compensate. If it's a matter of weighty endometrium, there wouldn't be a real problem since the pill greatly reduces the size of the endometrium anyway. If it's something else, I'd like to know :)
Still, despite these concerns and hating taking pills every day, I am curious about the idea of stopping my periods altogether, or for a few months at a time. My quest for a doctor who can explain pills with any detail or clarity continues.
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