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Malingering's period piece

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Wyeth received FDA approval yesterday for its continuous suppression birth control pill, Lybrel.
What does this mean?

Well, for some women it means "no more periods!!!! :)"
For others it means "no more periods?!?!?!"

Doctors and gynecologists have been recommending "menstrual suppression therapy" for years, namely for women who suffer from those horrible throbbing menstrual migraines, those bloody awful (literally) symptoms of painful and excessively heavy periods, the ups and downs of PMS (in this case men, co-workers, partners, spouses benefit as well), painful cramps (sorry Midol, you just aren't cutting it), endometriosis (monthly hell) and uterine myomas (nice little balls of uterus that make you bleed like a damn tsunami every month). It's been a godsend for some women, and now Wyeth is going to profit off of it big time.

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More on Aunt Flo after the jump.

Now now, this is not to meant to be taken as doctor's advice (heaven help you all if you start altering your reproductive systems because of some snarky little brat with a camera), but if it sounds interesting go on ahead and ask your doctor about Lybrel. And if your doc doesn't answer your questions, threaten a malpractice suit. Just for fun.

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Imagine a world without Tampax (pearl, Compak or otherwise). A world where flying winged maxi pads don't frolic across your TV screen as you are trying to enjoy Dancing with the Stars. A public restroom without some tacky sign taped over the toilet "please dont flush you're tampons in toilet, use wastebasket thankyou." No more trips to Target to buy tampons only to run into that person you really didn't want to see, and you have to say, "hey, good to see you. Yeah. I menstruate."

Ladies, this world could be yours! Wyeth's new Lybrel pill is basically the same as your regular old birth control pill with different packaging and a new marketing scheme.(Ask your doctor, you could get rid of your periods and still go generic). Since women have been menstruating since the beginning of time (from menstruation huts to belt-less napkins and everything in between), this can have a bit of a psychological effect on people. Some feel it's abnormal. Some feel they won't know if they're pregnant every month. Some are afraid of the potential health risks. For these reasons it is important to educate oneself to make informed choices about your medical treatment.

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There are women who vomit, cry, miss work, become horrendously suicidal, writhe in pain and squirm in discomfort once a month because of their periods. And there are women who simply don't like having periods for the inconveniences mentioned above or they're auditioning for an episode of Baywatch and simply do not have room for inconvenience. So listen up, as there is an answer.

From Wyeth:
Lybrel is intended for women who are seeking contraception and who are interested in putting their menstrual cycle on hold. Lybrel provides a steady low dose of hormones so that over time women may become cycle-free. Women considering Lybrel should know that most subjects in the clinical studies experienced some breakthrough bleeding and spotting, especially during the first three to six months. In studies and analyses, Lybrel did not delay a return to fertility nor did it affect return to menses.

Sounds nifty? What are some of the benefits?

Taking continuous hormones (estrogen and progesterone) will suppress ovulation and eventually eliminate periods all together. Fewer ovulations over a woman's lifetime seem to correlate with a decreased risk in breast and ovarian cancer. Less bleeding means no more anemia. Reducing periods reduces PMS, menstrual migraines, cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and all of the aches and pains that women have come to dread each month. Hormone therapy has been linked to a decrease in osteoporosis. There is money and time saved as feminine hygiene products are nearly eliminated from one's life (can you imagine the woman in the stall next to you: "excuse me do you have a tampon?" and you say: "I don't have periods anymore, WOO HOO!").

And what are the risks?

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All oral contraceptives have an increased risk of blood clots which can increase the risk of, well, blood clots, as well as heart attacks and strokes. A large percentage of women will have unexpected (surprise!) spotting, which can be inconvenient, though is expected to decrease over time. Spotting is also very common in progestin-only treatments (like DepoPovera), as the progesterone thins out the uterine lining and destabilizes the blood vessels, and this can be rather messy. The safety of continuous suppression therapy has been studied, but the longest study to date has been about 3 years, as seen in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in a study in 2006. Women are sometimes worried that uterine lining needs to come out or it will continue to build up in the uterus until one bursts, but thus far this has not been the case (and women have been doing this for years). Should one decide to procreate, ovulation generally resumes after about 3 months, but sometimes it takes longer, which can be bothersome to those really looking forward to having some young 'uns. There is also the psychological aspect associated with having one's period; some women are very attached to Aunt Flo and don't particularly want her to disappear anytime soon.

There is a lot to learn and even more to discuss. There are social implications which I could ramble on about for days, but I should be outside looking for Uggs and mufffin tops, or at least scowling at American Girl Dolls. If I had a point (and as usual, I'm not sure that I do), it would be this: Learn about what options are available to you. Women do not need to suffer. Talk to your doctor about what you can do. We really can have better living through pharmaceuticals.