Q. Glen, What s Lybrel?
A.Lybrel is a brand new combination birth control pill that is the first extended-cycle oral contraceptive designed to supply an active dose of hormones every day. This pill will completely stop a woman's period for a full year. It contains 365 90 microgram levonorgestrel/20 microgram ethinyl estradiol tablets and is classified as a low dose, continuous, non-cyclic combination oral contarceptive. Lybrel was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 22, 2007 as the first, and only, birth control pill that is also designed to eliminate women's monthly periods.
How it works:
Lybrel will work just like other combination birth control pills by preventing ovulation from occuring. The difference is that it will supply a steady low dose of ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel to be taken 365 days of the year without a pill-free interval or placebo period. Lybrel will prevent menstruation as long as the pill is taken daily.
The most recent study of 187 women taking Lybrel found that 99 percent of the women began menstruation within 90 days (3 months) after discontinuing use. Additionally, 4 women became pregnant before their period returned, and 2 women reported a return to menses more than 90 days after the completion of the study.
The Debate Surrounding Lybrel:
Opponents claim that it is unnatural or harmful to manipulate a woman’s menstrual cycle by completely stopping her period. The reality, however, is that by using birth control pills, in and of itself, women are already manipulating their menstrual cycles. Given that few women naturally have a regular 28-day menstrual cycle, pill use automatically manipulates a woman’s cycle causing it to be a perfect 28-day cycle.
An important distinction that should be made is that women who take oral contraceptives do not have a “true” period; they actually experience what is known as withdrawal bleeding on the seven days they are off the active hormones. The bleeding tends to be shorter and lighter than a regular period because the uterine lining does not build up in women who use the pill, so there is less that needs to be shed. Basically, once the hormones are not taken (as during the fourth week of a pill cycle), the small buildup of the lining of the uterus is discarded. Women on Lybrel get continuous hormones (without days off the active pills), so they should have little or no uterine bleeding.
This so-called period that occurs during regular 21 or 28 day combination birth control packs really has no medical function other than reassuring a woman that she is not pregnant. In fact, according to Dr. Steven Goldstein, professor of OB-GYN at New York University School of Medicine, “scientists who invented birth control pills back in the ‘50s thought that women would be more likely to take them if they included a period week.”
Women have chosen to avoid their periods through manipulating their birth control pills due to physically demanding jobs, upcoming honeymoons or vacations, and/or severe period-related symptoms. For decades, medical professionals have been advising women on how to do this properly. Up until now, many pill users have chosen to avoid having a period by starting a new pill pack during the fourth week (when one’s period usually occurs).
Advantages and Benefits of Lybrel:
- The FDA approval of Lybrel is reflective of the wishes of the American public. A national poll found that 60 percent of women would appreciate not having a period every month and one-third would choose never to have one
- Gynecologist, Dr. Anita L. Nelson, professor of OB-GYN at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, advises that all women using birth control can benefit from having more control over their bodies. She further claims, in regard to the withdrawal bleeding that occurs while using the pill, “women need to realize that there is no health benefit to this.”
- Medical authorities state that there are no health risks or medical reasons women need to have a monthly period
- Eliminating the menstrual week of a woman’s cycle (as Lybrel will do), will cause hormonal levels to stabilize which often leads to a reduction or complete elimination of the symptoms associated with this week such as: bloating, cramping, irritability, headaches, tender breasts, and other various aches and pains
- According to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (the manufacturer of Lybrel), 59 percent of women taking Lybrel stopped bleeding after six months of use
- Eliminating periods through the use of continuous oral contraceptives has been shown to be an effective treatment for many health-related problems, such as endometriosis, anemia, and epilepsy
- The use of Lybrel will save women money because they would no longer have to buy feminine hygiene products and/or period-related medications to treat headaches and other PMS symptoms
- One study reported that after seven to 13 pill packs, women on Lybrel reported less nausea and breast pain than those on a 21-day birth control pill. Researchers found, in a different study, that three months of taking Lybrel reduced PMS and associated complaints in 114 women (Source: Planned Parenthood)
- Since Lybrel contains a lower daily dose of synthetic hormones than traditional combination pills, the cumulative monthly dose may actually be equal to or lower than some of the other brands women are currently taking
Potential Risks and Disadvantages:
- Many women welcome their monthly period as it provides reassurance about their continued fertility and femininity or lets them know they are not pregnant. In fact, according to research done by Wyeth, 50 percent of the women surveyed welcomed their periods as a sign that they were not pregnant and nearly 25 percent revealed that they felt their periods were a natural part of womanhood
- The continuous exposure to hormones associated with Lybrel has been a source of concern for some people. However, many health-care providers point out that seven additional days of low-dose hormone exposure per month are unlikely to significantly increase any risks beyond those faced by women taking other types of combination birth control pill
- The low doses of hormones used in Lybrel may cause breakthrough bleeding (unexpected spotting)
- One of the greatest concerns is that the long-term safety of continuous contraception remains unknown.
- There is some apprehension that continuous hormone treatments could increase the risk of breast cancer; however, there is no evidence to back this up
- Another concern about Lybrel: Since approximately 1 to 8 percent of oral contraceptive users become pregnant each year, young women who have never been pregnant and are taking Lybrel may not recognize pregnancy-related symptoms if they are indeed pregnant since they cannot rely on a missing period to indicate a pregnancy
- Lybrel has the same side effects as other hormonal methods
- In women who smoke
- In women age 35 and older (should be monitored while taking Lybrel)
- In women who are 35 or older and smoke
- In women who have conditions associated with a heart attack (such as, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and conditions that increase the risk of blood clotting)
- More on: Women Who Should Not Use Hormonal Contraceptives
Health-care professionals and additional data reveal that Lybrel is just as safe as other combination birth control pills and preliminary research yields that the effectiveness of Lybrel is similar to that of oral contraceptives as well.
Findings presented at the 55th Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists showed that when Lybrel was compared with a traditional 21-day combination oral contraceptive:
- Of the 323 women who took Lybrel, 0 became pregnant
- Of the 318 women who took a traditional 21-day oral contraceptive, three became pregnant
How to Obtain Lybrel:
In order to obtain a prescription for the Lybrel, a woman has to have a medical evaluation, blood pressure check, and possibly a pelvic exam by a physician. Women can then have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy.
Lybrel may be purchased at a drugstore or clinic as long as a woman has a valid prescription. A woman should check with her private health insurance policy as coverage for birth control varies. Medicaid may sometimes cover these costs. In general, the charges from family planning clinics will usually be less than private health-care providers.
In addition to the cost of the year supply of Lybrel, there is also the cost associated with the medical examination in order to obtain a prescription. At the time of the publishing of this article, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has declined comment as what it would cost to purchase Lybel.
Lybrel offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program.Please consult your physician !
Wishing You Great Health!
Glen Edward Mitchell
Any questions? Ask Glen