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by Jaime Ahmed, staff writer

What if there was a birth control pill that could prevent monthly cramps, bloating, mood swings, headaches, and heavy bleeding which could lead to anemia? Women would be beating down the doors to get it, right?

Maybe not.

In May the FDA approved Lybrel, the first oral contraceptive that claims to do just that. By eliminating the one-week pill-free interval used by traditional oral contraceptives.

Lybrel is made of ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel, which is the orally bio-activeform of estrogen found in almost all modern oral contraceptives. Manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, and if taken 365 days a year, with no pill-free intervals, its users will not experience regular monthly periods, although it may have occasional spotting.

While Lybrel eliminates periods, and with them all of the above-described effects, the fact that the women who use Lybrel ingest an extra 13 weeks of estrogen increases the chances they will experience some potentially severe side effects.

According to the Wyeth Web site, Lybrel, like any other contraceptive, can cause nausea, vomiting, unscheduled bleeding, weight gain, breast tenderness, and difficulty wearing contact lenses. Symptoms usually vary from woman to woman, however, and these side effects, especially nausea and vomiting, usually subside within the first three months of use.

More serious side effects of Lybrel include blood clots, liver tumors, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, and cancer of the reproductive organs and breasts. Although these side effects also are possible with any contraceptive pill, the risk is greater with Lybrel because of the increased amount of estrogen ingested.

Besides physical side effects, Lybrel can cause some psychological ones as well, and not all of them negative. Some women, especially young women, feel embarrassed when it’s their time of the month; not having to suffer a period could increase their confidence and self-esteem.

However, a major unintended consequence of Lybrel could develop from the very absence of the period it is intended to prevent. No oral contraceptives is 100 percent reliable. If a normal oral contraceptive fails, the user knows it because she does not experience a period. A woman using Lybrel would not know of her pregnancy because she would not be expecting a period.

Some women question whether they should use Lybrel because of these potential side-effects. HPU Junior business major Holly Cabatbat has her own reason: she doesn’t trust new products.

“I would never use Lybrel because it’s new, and I wouldn’t trust something that fresh to alter my hormonal cycle,” Cabatbat said.

On the other hand, some women welcome their monthly cycle. “Lybrel is great for people who don’t like their periods,” said HPU senior public relations major Christina Failma, but she’s not one of them. Having a period, she added, “makes me feel healthy. It’s just something that women have to go through. If I didn’t go through it, I wouldn’t feel like a woman.”

Other women would not take Lybrel because they believe that the whole point of the monthly cycle is to cleanse the body, and altering that isn’t natural.

Is there anyone who would take Lybrel? Local radio personality for Hot 93.9, Andrea Kila, would.
“ I love [Lybrel]. I think it’s a great idea. My mother had kids back to back and didn’t get her period for years, and she’s fine!”

Women in the military, where privacy is scarce, may have good reason to take Lybrel. So might women who plan a long vacation, or women who have conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids, either of which can cause extremely painful periods.

Finally, deciding whether to take Lybrel is a personal decision that should be researched and evaluated in terms of one’s personal circumstances, just like any other major decision involving one’s health.



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