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New Drug Prevents Pregnancy, Stops Period

New Drug Prevents Pregnancy, Stops Period

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Laurie Francis, a San Diego mother of two preschool-aged children, suffers from such intense cramping, vomiting, and headaches as a result of her period that, for a few days each month, her mother visits and helps care for Francis’s children while she lies in her bed, stricken with pain.

“It’s terrible,” Francis, 36, says of her monthly period. “But I just accept it and deal with it.”

Women, including those who, like Francis, experience debilitating physical symptoms from their periods, now have a way to put their monthly cycles on hold indefinitely.

Lybrel®, developed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2007, is the first low-dose, daily prescription contraceptive pill intended to stop the menstrual cycle.

Unlike traditional birth control pills, which are taken for 21 consecutive days followed by seven days of placebo pills, during which time women have their periods, Lybrel® is taken 365 days a year. The pill continuously delivers a slightly lower dose of the same hormones present in most standard birth control pills to suppress menstruation.

Lybrel® is promoted as a way to put the menstrual cycle on hold while reducing 17 period-related symptoms, including irritability and bloating. Surveys have found that up to half of all women would prefer not to have any periods, while most would prefer to have them less often, according to the drug’s maker.

Most women who take Lybrel® stop having their periods within six months and return to having normal cycles and getting pregnant if they choose within 90 days of ceasing usage of the pill, according to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

However, there are concerns about the physical and psychological effects of taking Lybrel®.

Women, particularly those who have never had children, might not realize they are pregnant while missing their regular periods and fail to receive proper prenatal care, critics say. And psychologists argue that producing a pill to stop a woman’s menstrual cycle sends the message, particularly to young women, that their periods are a shameful condition to be avoided.

Francis, a freelance writer who works from home, said she would not take a daily birth control drug to stop her monthly period, in part because of concerns about what it would mean to her long-term physical well-being.

“As much of a pain as my period can be, I don’t want it to stop entirely,” Francis said. “It’s a natural thing, part of being a woman. I think somehow I’d miss it if it was gone.”

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