Lybrel: Birth control pill eliminates periods

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Lybrel: Birth control pill eliminates periods

Lybrel — 365-day oral contraceptive regimen allows you to skip periods for a whole year.

What happened? The Food and Drug Administration approved Lybrel, a new continuous-use birth control pill designed to eliminate menstrual periods for as long as a woman takes it.

The usual regimen for birth control pills is to take an active hormone pill once a day for 21 days, followed by taking an inactive pill once a day for seven days. During the hormone-free week, you get your period. Lybrel, on the other hand, is designed to be taken continuously, once a day for 365 days, with no break for hormone-free intervals. The pill contains low doses of a synthetic progesterone (levonorgestrel) and estrogen (ethinyl estradiol).

What does this mean to you? Continuous-use birth control pills relieve bothersome signs and symptoms of menstruation for some women, so the pills may be particularly welcome if you often experience severe pain, heavy bleeding or emotional problems during your periods. However, some women did experience irregular vaginal bleeding while taking Lybrel, so know that this might be a possibility for you too. Lybrel doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Stopping menstruation with continuous-use birth control pills doesn't appear to have any greater risk of side effects than regular birth control pills. In a clinical study, Lybrel was found to be as safe and as effective as birth control pills in standard hormone and placebo regimens. In some cases, it took several months for women taking Lybrel to achieve amenorrhea — absence of menstrual periods. The longer a woman took Lybrel, the greater her chances of having no periods. A subset of women had higher incidences of unexpected vaginal bleeding throughout the study, regardless of how long they continued with the birth control regimen.

Many women find the monthly bleeding associated with traditional birth control pills a reassuring sign that they're not pregnant. If you're like these women, you might find it troubling not to have periods. The failure rate for all birth control pills is very small, but it's not zero. If you're interested in trying a continuous-use birth control pill, ask your doctor if Lybrel might be right for you.

Last Updated: 05/24/2007
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