Cover image for Is menstruation obsolete?
Is menstruation obsolete?
Coutinho, Elsimar M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 190 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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RG161 .C67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Is Menstruation Obsolete? argues that regular monthly bleeding is not the "natural" state of women, and that it actually places them at risk of several medical conditions of varying severity. The authors maintain that while menstruation may be culturally significant, it is not medicallymeaningful. Moreover, they propose that suppressing menstruation has remarkable health advantages. Because of cultural changes, shorter durations of breast feeding, and birth control, the reproductive patterns of modern women no longer resemble that of their Stone age ancestors. Women have moved from the age of incessant reproduction to the age of incessant menstruation. Consequently, theyoften suffer from clinical disorders related to menstruation: anemia, endometriosis, and PMS, just to name a few. The authors encourage readers to recognize what has gone previously unnoticed that this monthly discomfort is simply not obligatory. They present compelling evidence that thesuppression of menstruation is a viable option for women today, and that it can be easily attained through the use of birth control pills. In fact, they reveal that contraceptive manufacturers, knowing that many women equate menstruation with femininity and that without monthly bleeding would fearthat they were pregnant, engineered pill dosage regimens to ensure the continuation of their cycles. Indeed, throughout history societies have assigned menstruation powerful meaning, and Is Menstruation Obsolete? presents a fascinating history of how menstruation inspired doctors to trytherapeutic bleeding for a variety of ailments, and how this therapy remained dominant in Western medicine until the early 20th century. Is Menstruation Obsolete? offers women a fresh view of menstruation, providing them with the information they need to make progressive choices about their health. This is a message whose time has come.

Author Notes

Dr. Elsimar M. Coutinho is a full Professor of Gynecology, Obstetrics and Human Reproduction at Federal University of Bahia School of Medicine, Brazil.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

If your first reaction to the title is to wonder what idiocy the next offbeat author will write about, pinch yourself hard and read carefully. Coutinho, a recognized authority on fallopian tube physiology and pharmacology, is absolutely serious. He approaches his subject historically and scientifically (Segal prepared this English-language edition of the originally Brazilian Portuguese work). Down through the centuries, he points out, most women did not menstruate regularly. Either they were pregnant most of the time or they succumbed early to the many dangers and diseases that preyed on them. Menstruation has become regular and long-term for the typical woman only quite recently. Coutinho explores the purposes of this physiological function, its potential dangers, and its safe suppression (he has done pioneering work with Depo^-Provera). His arguments are scientifically based, and his conclusions are thoroughly worked out in a definitely provocative but eminently worthwhile book that well may spend most of its prospective library shelf-life off the shelf. --William Beatty

Library Journal Review

Only a man could have written this book! Coutinho, a Brazilian gynecologist and family planning expert, argues that menstruation is not natural and is, in fact, not healthy. He supports this theory with a strange interpretation of historical and clinical evidence. Because women in primitive times had shorter life spans and spent most of their lives pregnant and breast-feeding, he notes, they had few or no periods. Now women live longer and start families later in life, so they have lots of periodsÄwhich, according to the author, causes anemia, endometriosis, and PMS. As a result, and in order to safeguard their health, Coutinho suggests that women should prevent their ovulation by using contraceptive pills continuously. This alternative and controversial view not only ignores the cultural significance of menstruation, it also lacks scientific foundation and is potentially harmful to women. It is however, an unusual interpretation of medical and historical data, distinct from classic works such as Janice Delaney's The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (1976), which consider the social and cultural issues of menstruation but not its clinical aspects. This book is sure to get a lot of publicity because of its radical thesis, so, despite its circular and flawed logic it is recommended for academic and large public libraries.ÄBarbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 Menstruation in Western Civilizationp. 15
2 Menstruation: The Basis of Therapeutic Bloodlettingp. 35
3 Why Women Menstruatep. 55
4 Premenstrual Syndromep. 67
5 Menstrual Cycle-Related Disordersp. 81
6 Natural Suppression of Menstruationp. 107
7 Medical Suppression of Menstruationp. 117
8 In Support of Menstruationp. 137
9 Absence of Menstruation and Diseasep. 147
10 Conclusionp. 159
Glossaryp. 165
Bibliographic Essayp. 169
Indexp. 183