Editor-At-Large: If I could change one thing... I would never have had a period

Women should welcome the idea of a contraceptive pill that can be taken continuously, ending the horror of menstruation
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The Independent Online

Can I tell you the only thing I would change about my life if I could live it again? Periods. The mess. The anxiety. Moods swings – euphoria, then depression. Ruined clothes. The wasted days spent clutching a hot-water bottle, taking painkillers to try to numb the awful cramps. The embarrassment. I've scoffed at stress, sneered at the notion of toxins, but I will never believe that pre-menstrual tension (PMT) isn't a very real problem that blights millions of women's lives.

Arriving with a clockwork regularity, PMT makes us function under par, weakens our ability to work, to make rational judgements. It's something men can use against us, it's the weak link in our armour. In short, it's thoroughly evil. Don't try to tell me that menstruating is an opportunity to celebrate our womanhood – as far as I'm concerned if periods could be eliminated for ever I would be first in the queue.

Don't you think it's suspicious that it's taken the medical profession until well into this century to come up with a contraceptive pill that is licensed for continuous use? The new 365-day pill is Lybrel, manufactured by the drug company Wyeth, which has been on sale in the United States since last year, and last week it was announced that there are plans to bring it here in 2008.

Given that the contraceptive pill has been widely available for more than 40 years, and this pill is chemically very similar, it seems shocking that we've had to wait so long. And did you know that the only reason we were told to take the original contraceptive pill for three weeks, then have a week off so we could have a "phantom" period, was because one of the scientists who invented the Pill in the 1950s was a devout Catholic? By replicating the rhythm method of natural birth control with the 21-day course of oral contraceptives he could square his conscience by allowing our bodies to bleed. There never was a medical reason for having a period if you took the original pill.

It all came down to making the original contraceptive pill more socially acceptable in the early 1960s. Salesmen and doctors could claim that it didn't interfere with the so-called natural cycle of our bodies. But from the moment that grateful women seized on this new empowering device, we were doing that anyway. Read any social history of the 1950s and women went through hell. Unwanted pregnancies and abortions caused immense distress to women.

But there was an unexpected downside to this new freedom. Centuries ago, women had breaks from menstruating when they were nursing or pregnant – now, thanks to the Pill, the average woman will have 450 periods in her lifetime, compared to about 160 when life expectancy was shorter and each woman had more children. What do more periods bring? More pain, more anaemia. Millions of women have taken the Pill for decades with no ill effects, and Lybrel is no different. It won't turn you into a freak, you are not denying your femininity. We already manipulate genetics to create children who will be resistant to life-threatening diseases. We clone animals and grow human organs on pigs. Why has there been such an outcry over the 365-day pill?

Lybrel offers a tantalising choice. And I suspect a lot of women will take it.

Hold tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride

The choice for Mayor of London is proof that politics in 2007 isn't about policies, but personalities. It could be a choice between a gay ex-cop, a newt lover or a panto clown – according to the tabloids.

Boris Johnson illustrates that some species never die out, they just mutate. This election isn't about class, in spite of what commentators say. It's easy to put Boris in a pigeonhole marked old Etonian, upper-class twit (as Hazel Blears stupidly did) – does that make Ken Livingstone in touch with workers, or Brian Paddick the favourite for the pink vote?

London is a city of two halves – those who live in million-pound homes, have private health care, employ staff to clean and mop up baby sick – and the rest of the population, some of whom have one of the lowest life expectancies in Britain.

Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York hosted a party in London last night – that's the kind of candidate we need: focused and spin-free.

For male Billie fans, it was over all too quickly

'Secret Diary of a Call Girl', the much-hyped new drama series starring Billie Piper and a load of expensive underwear, started on ITV2 on Thursday, and for a while I thought that my television had gone on the blink. Nothing seemed to be in focus. I checked I wasn't wearing my reading glasses and dusted the screen, but nothing would remove the oil slick that followed Ms Piper around London as she bounced in and out of flats, cafes, bars and hotel rooms.

I wish I could have that effect, especially after one of my late nights – everything looked especially warm and seductive. Did you know that hookers don't have pimps or madams, they have "agents". My television agent (a high powered female) would be furious to be classified in the same bracket as the bitch in 'Secret Diary' whose main job is to get men to pay a lot of money for a quickie with "Belle".

My main beef about this programme was not the ludicrous notion that Billie could be believable as a jolly Bridget Jones-style prostitute, but the fact that this opening episode (of seven – surely it will get a teensy bit repetitive) was so very short – barely 25 minutes, with two long commercial breaks. At that rate, any bloke watching, hoping to achieve satisfaction by tuning in for erotic shots of Billie simulating sex, doing a bit of self-lubricating and bouncing up and down on a dildo, would have been sorely disappointed.

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