The first pill that officially allows women to menstruate once every three months, Seasonale is being positioned as a medical breakthrough – “a whole new way” for women.

But similar combinations of estrogen and progesterone have long been marketed under other brand names. Women have been avoiding bleeding by staying on traditional birth control pills for months or even years, skipping each month’s placebo doses. Even Seasonale’s makers say having a period at the end of the product’s three-month cycle serves no health purpose, but bleeding remains part of the package. It’s as if too big an advance might overwhelm women used to a narrow range of birth control options.

Nevertheless, women are grateful for the baby step forward—if not for bringing down their breakup rates, then because Seasonale is reassuring proof that the pharmaceutical industry is finally coming up with new options. After more than 40 years of traditional pills, condoms, diaphragms, and sterilization dominating the stagnant landscape of pregnancy prevention, several recently approved methods have hit the market—a chewable, spearmint-flavored birth control pill, a range of new hormonal devices, and improvements on the IUD and cervical cap. Meanwhile, the backup pills known as emergency contraception are becoming more widely available. You might even call it a revolution, if it weren’t a decade or two late in coming.

Women are embracing the advances, delayed and inadequate though they may be. “Our patients are happy with the new methods, but there’s a long way to go,” says Susan Sosa, director of clinical/surgical services at Planned Parenthood of New York City. “People are interested in easier, more convenient methods. They’d be happier if they fit their lifestyles better.”

While the pill remains the most common reversible method, especially for women in their twenties, Sosa says her young patients are still excited about a wearable patch, approved last year, which releases hormones into the blood through the skin. Once a week for three weeks, women stick a fresh square, slightly bigger than a postage stamp, on their skin (butt or stomach placement would make it least visible, though Sosa says most of her patients put it on their shoulders). While it’s more convenient than the pill, which has to be taken daily, Sosa says some complain that the patch slips around on their skin. And it comes in only one skin tone so far—a pale, peachy color that stands out on darker skin.

More here.