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?
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
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
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
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.