Alanna Allen loves her job. As manager of five hairdressing salons, the 29-year-old has worked her way up and now heads a team of ten stylists. She is one of the UK's top colourists.
Not surprisingly, Alanna takes her career very seriously. Having undergone years of training, she regularly attends industry events and brushes up her skills with new qualifications. But to remain at the very top of her game, she's also made a drastic - some might say alarming - decision. Like a growing number of women, she uses hormones, intended as contraception, to switch off her monthly periods and stop them disrupting her career.
"I've not had a period for seven years now, and I've never looked back," says Alanna, who lives with husband Daniel, 32, in Surrey.
"The best thing for me is the convenience. When you're with a client, you want to focus entirely on them.
"Stopping my periods has allowed me to 'man up' and get on with things. I'm not only in charge of my own staff but I oversee the managers of our other salons and I have very little sympathy for any of the young female apprentices who say they are suffering from period pains. There's no need for any woman to have to put up with that."
A monthly period might be uncomfortable but most of us feel it's one of the cornerstones of being a woman of child-bearing age.
But for many women, it really is the "curse". Symptoms include bloating, nausea, abdominal cramps and even fainting. And the nation's businesses are feeling the pain too. A survey last month revealed that British women take 17 million sick days every year thanks to menstrual cramps and a third of those surveyed take four or more sick days because of severe discomfort. Studies indicate that even if they do manage to show up, they exhibit decreased productivity.
But a generation of young women like Alanna are refusing to let their periods damage their prospects.
"I started taking the Pill in my early 20s, but found it irritating having to remember to take it at the same time every day. I'd still get a bleed, backaches and cramps which isn't convenient when you're a hairdresser and on your feet all day. I'd take painkillers and would sometimes need days off. Not exactly ideal when you want to get on with your career.
"Friends had mentioned the injection and I thought I'd give it a whirl. Although I put on a bit of weight and suffered a few minor headaches, my periods stopped. It makes my job so much easier. Now, if any of the women in my salon start complaining about period pains, I recommend the injection to them."
Any form of hormonal contraception can stop a woman's periods but the effects vary from individual to individual.
In general, the combined oral contraceptive pill (if used without a break), the Depo-Provera progesterone injection, the progesterone-only pill (taken every day), the contraceptive implant and the hormone coil can all halt bleeding.
Alanna is far from alone in her decision to put a stop to her periods.
"I'm seeing it more commonly than I used to in the past - especially as women are working longer hours in high pressure jobs or have to travel a lot for work," says Dr Shazia Malik, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital for women and children.
"There is no 'need' for the body to have periods as such. In theory, there's no reason why you can't stop your periods indefinitely.
"By giving you a constant level of hormones, the Pill doesn't stimulate the lining of the womb to thicken in readiness for a pregnancy, as would happen in a natural menstrual cycle. So it remains thin.
"When you then withdraw that hormonal 'support' as in the Pill-free week, you get a withdrawal bleed - not a natural period which is the shedding of the womb lining developed in the previous cycle. The bleed in the Pill-free week is reassuring to some women either because they believe their body 'needs' a period or as reassurance that they are not pregnant."
There's no medical reason for the Pill-free week, but for some women taking the Pill without a break may lead to breakthrough bleeding on other days during their cycle.
Women who do not want to have a withdrawal bleed can take the Pill without a break or use another method that prevents periods, such as contraceptive injections. But there are some risks - especially over the long term.
"For women who want to use hormonal contraception purely to eliminate periods, the main points to be aware of are cancer, fertility, bone health and heart disease," she says.
"There is conflicting data on cancer risk with hormonal contraception, with some protective and some increased risks. Future fertility can be adversely affected if you use hormonal birth control for too long. The longer you use the injection in particular - and the combined oral contraceptive pill to some extent - the longer it can take for your periods (and therefore your fertility) to return."
This could have consequences for those women leaving it until their late 30s or early 40s to have a family, when the window of fertility is already reduced.
And there are other health risks. "The injection can reduce your bone density, causing bone thinning the longer you use it. We also know that the combined oral contraceptive pill can increase the risk of heart disease too but only in women who have other risk factors such as a family history of early heart attacks, smokers, diabetes or those with high cholesterol or who are very overweight."
Yet none of this seems to concern Alanna.
"I know there are health implications because at every appointment to get my injection, the nurses said I should think about an alternative because long term use can lead to osteoporosis," she says.
"They warned me that it could affect my fertility. But even though these are my 'child-bearing' years, I really don't like the thought of having a baby now - although I definitely do want children in the future. I managed to stand my ground for six years but last year I was bullied into changing to the implant. I was reluctant to do so as the injection suited me but thankfully, I've not had a period with this either.
"I wouldn't be worried if I never had a period again. However my mum is of a different generation. She thinks it's 'unnatural' for a woman not to have a period. But it's possible for women of my age never to have to suffer the inconvenience of having a bleed. Why should we?"
Morgan Spicer, 27, a graphic designer, could not agree more. Working in a male-dominated advertising agency, she was anxious that her monthly cycle was damaging her career. She felt terrified that her cycle might interrupt an important boardroom meeting and two years ago she decided to stop menstruating completely.
"It was really inconvenient, and my gynaecologist asked me if I'd like to try a mini-Pill called Cerazette as it would probably stop my periods completely."
Cerazette is a progesterone-only Pill, a type which halts periods in many women - although others may experience irregular or constant bleeding. This is because unlike the more common combined Pill, users have to take a Pill every day with no break week.
Morgan adds: "I was absolutely delighted and said: 'Yes, please!' and since then I've felt so much happier. Having periods was detrimental to my working ethos. I had to take a few days off every month as I was in so much pain.
"I was working in an all-male office and in meetings, I'd sometimes feel a pain in my lower abdomen and think: 'Oh no, I'm going to start my period' and would have to excuse myself. It was a constant worry. Now I have no anxiety about that. My job involves a lot of international travel with some as far away as Costa Rica. Not having a period means I'm free to come and go without having to worry about being prepared on a train or plane. And when I'm working in an office full of men, it feels like I'm on a more level playing field."
Like Alanna, Morgan can only see the benefits. "I'd love to keep taking this Pill until I reach menopause," she says. "I've not been told that there are any negative side effects. If it affects my fertility I'm really not concerned because I'm pretty set on not having children.
"Not many women even realise it's possible to stop your periods altogether. Many people, especially the older generation believe it's not a 'normal' accepted thing. Yet it should be taught in sex education that girls and women don't need to put their bodies through this horrible thing every month."
Yet is it such a "horrible thing"? Research from 2013 revealed that 20 per cent of the estimated 200 million women on birth control have experienced "menstrual suppression" at some point. Yet there is a growing counter- movement that asks women to think twice before stopping their periods.
"There's an argument that going through the monthly cycle can protect against the most common causes of premature death in women - heart disease, breast and cervical cancer as well as osteoporosis and strokes," says Holly Grigg-Spall, author of Sweetening The Pill.
"The Society For Menstrual Cycle Research believes menstruation should be viewed as the fifth vital sign to be monitored by doctors alongside blood pressure as an indicator of overall heath."
Dr Susan Rako, author of No More Periods?, is convinced that there's a risk.
"Tampering with the menstrual cycle for the purpose of doing away with periods is, in a word, reckless," she says.
"Manipulating women's hormonal chemistry for the purpose of menstrual suppression threatens to be the largest uncontrolled experiment in the history of medical science."
- Daily Mail