Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Would You Take It?


The FDA just approved a new birth control pill, called Lybrel. It's designed to allow women to suppress their periods indefinitely by providing a continuous low dose of hormones all month. It's being manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and is poised to hit the market in July.

From ABC News -
"Lybrel, a name meant to evoke "liberty," would be the fourth new oral contraceptive that doesn't follow the standard schedule of 21 daily active pills, followed by seven sugar pills -- a design meant to mimic a woman's monthly cycle. Among the others, Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less and Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year."
Something about this just makes me sad. I know it sounds silly, but I really miss having my period. Yeah, yeah, I know. I remember the cramps and the water retention and the bloating...and the zits.(ugh) It was a drag some of the time. But it was also a very powerful thing. It meant that I was a woman and it was a natural part of life.

Our society looks on this amazing thing us women can do as a "curse" and that's just not cool. It is not a curse. It is not shameful. It is not something to discuss via embarrassed whispers in the ladies room, damn-it! If men could could bleed continuously for five days and live to tell the tale every month do you really think it would be a shameful thing? Hell no, there would be parades and national holidays devoted to the phenomenon. C'mon people have you seen the Washington monument? Uh-huh.

So, now we have a pill that will eradicate this icky, shameful, awful thing us gals have to put up with every month. That's just great.
I particularly enjoyed this passage from the ABC article.
She [Dr. Mindy Wiser-Estin] has seen a big increase in the last year in patients asking about it, but has one concern that leads her to encourage younger women to take a break every 12 weeks. About 1 percent of oral contraceptive users become pregnant each year, and young women taking continuous pills who have never been pregnant may not recognize the symptoms, she said. "They may not know it in time to do something about it," Wiser-Estin said.

Wyeth obviously thinks otherwise. (I'll bet they do. ah-hem)

"It allows women to put their menstrual cycle on hold" and reduces 17 related symptoms, from irritability to bloating, said Dr. Amy Marren, director of clinical affairs for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
Call me cynical, but I don't think Wyeth has our best interests at heart here. That quote sounds like she read it off of the pamphlet for one thing. For another, they are set to make a considerable amount of money off of convincing us that our periods are unneccesary, obsolete functions that we would all be better off without. I find it disturbing that this pill creates a situation where a woman is so out of touch with her body that she may not notice that she's pregnant. This does not sound like a great idea to me.

Slate.com had this intersting little tid-bit back on Oct. 18, 2006

"In two different surveys of college women, Ingrid Johnston-Robledo, associate professor of psychology and women's studies at the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, found that women who were asked to name positive aspects of menstruation reported that it was a sign of health and fertility and that it helped connect them to other women and the rhythms of nature. This may sound like an ode to the inner moon goddess, but it has relevance. Johnston-Robledo found that women who didn't like their periods were also more ashamed of their bodies."
I know there are women who have terrible cramps and pain every month who may be looking forward to this new pill. I understand why they would want to take this. I just hope that they do it it responsibly and with great care.

I personally wouldn't take one of these things if you paid me to.

Would you?

12 comments:

Ms. S said...

I just found out that I have polycystic ovaries, so I don't ovulate. I'm on the pill so I am regulated. I'm glad that I have my period. Not "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret" kind o' glad, but mine aren't too bad.

I know women that do this sort of thing with their pills already: avoid the period. Personally, after a recent experience, I'd rather have the sign to know that I'm not knocked up.

Vivacious Vegan said...

I took birth control pills continuously for 11 years. Just last year I stopped taking them and you know, I am really comfortable with my body's cycle. I might be one of the lucky few but I actually had worse side effects with the bc pills than without them. My periods now are actually very light with no cramping or other PMS symptoms. Honestly, after being pill free for a year now, I don't think I'll ever go back to bc pills.

bazu said...

Oh I would have absolutely no problem never having a period again as long as I live. The only reason I don't take my bc pills back to back to achieve that very effect is b/c my insurance wouldn't pay for the extra pack of pills a year that that would entail.
I don't think of periods as icky or unclean or anything... but I distinctly remember being bummed as a kid when I found out that I would get these once a month, every month, for 4-5 decades. I guess I'm not the communing with the moon and my cycle kind of girl.

However, I too feel suspicious about pharmaceutical companies' motives... then again, imagine the environmental impact of taking all pads and tampons out of the landfills? Then again, our water supplies are already so pumped with hormones from drugs... Ow! My head hurts!

Marz said...

You know that Gloria Steinem wrote an article called, "If Men Could Menstrate" that is about how menstration would be a huge thing if men bled. I'll have to lend it to you.

I don't want to skip periods. I started taking the pill so I would have a period every month and know when I would start so I wouldn't ruin my clothes. Man, "Women who didn't like their periods..." it is sad how we are socialized to have so much shame being women.

Anonymous said...

I am forty years old and do not look forward to another decade of periods. As a sidenote, I also don't look forward to menopause. However, what is important to me is that the end of my periods will mean the end of my season to create children--the only one I'll have in this lifetime--, and I know the change will be a difficult turning point for me, emotionally and spiritually.
I should hate to think the approaching generation of young women may see this pill and the other methods already available as a great way to avoid something so 'icky' as a period.
--Lady Emma

Thorny said...

I'm suspicious of this pill, and of the deeper motives of the pharmaceutical company promoting it. IMHO, assigning altruistic motives to pharmaceutical companies makes about as much sense as assigning human emotions to viruses.

I swore off hormonal bc several years ago, when it was discovered I had a small (benign, thankfully) tumor on my pituitary gland. It had shown up while I was on the pill, but my symptoms were brushed off until I went off the pill and the symptoms got worse.

Even though my period is fierce - cramping, moodiness, clumsiness (seriously!), and bleeding bad enough to earn itself the moniker "WOGIMP" standing for "Wrath Of God In My Pants" - I'd still rather have it and have that method of monitoring my body rather than suppress it and be left in the dark.

Also, it doesn't inspire additional confidence for me that this pill has been approved by the same FDA which can't even keep our pet food supply safe. I'm in no mood to be a free guinea pig to Wyeth or any other pharmaceutical company out there while they figure out the 'long term' effects of their latest and greatest drug.

Miss B said...

I've said it before and i've said it again. i don't care if u have a degree or not. if you don't start submitting your smart, witty articles to some magazine, someone else will. like me. i would love to pick up a magazine and see your words in it. would really take the BLEAH out of my days.

Anonymous said...

Historically, women did NOT have period after period after period for years on end. That's what's kind of abnormal.

Women would be period free during a pregnancy, then have several months to a couple of years of amenorrhea from breastfeeding. Then another pregnancy.

I can't say I want to take drugs to recreate this, but I don't think the absence of periods is so abnormal for our bodies.

Banana Split said...

Personally I wish that I didn't think my period was gross and disgusting but I do. I started mine 2 weeks after turning 10 years old and I was NOT ready for it. Reproduction wasn't anything talked about in my home. My mom used to put K (for Kotex) on the grocery list so no one would know she was buying pads. I hated having my period and enjoyed the regularity and less bleeding the pill provided. I only started using tampons regularly at age 30 because I couldn't stand that horrible gushing feeling anymore. That being said I haven't been on bc for 9 years. I would love to not have to deal with all the stuff during my period but I can't see how medically supressing menstration can be good for the body. What kind of fertility problems are these young women going to have in later years. I've gone through that too and that is NOT easy. I hope that I can try and make my daughter's menstration easier for her to accept. I actually kind of look forward to menopause except for the memory loss, night sweats, moodiness etc.....
Great post and wonderful responses.

meesh said...

Wow, thank you everyone for those comments. As usual, you ahve given me a lot to think about and consider.

Cherry Red said...

Hi Meesh,

I've been AWOL from Blogger lately, so I'm weighing in late.

My periods are terrible. Every other one is so bad I miss a day of work because my cramps are so painful I can barely get out of bed. I get feverish and lightheaded too. (The opposite month is very bad too, but not as bad.)

I do not want children, nor have I ever been really happy with my body, nor do I never talk about my period or write more than "Always" on my shopping list. I'm shy about personal things like that.

That being said, I would never consider taking these pills. Women have periods every month for a reason and it feels wrong to try to stop that. Women who have hysterectomies have to take hormones, grow facial hair, etc. Clearly (if we can help it) we shoudn't be messing with our bodies' natural cycle. Nothing scientific here, just my opinion.

I feel the same way about Depo and Seasonale.

Love your blog. Life's busy right now. Need to play catch up soon. :)

Kim

Peter Matthes said...

I think Wyeth is now working on a pill that would target the uterus and make it blow up.

That way you would never have to take any more pills and you would never get pregnant.

They say it will be 100% effective.

However, the consumer cost of this pill, slated to be called Utaburst, is projected to cost $14,500 each and would not be covered by any of the HMOs.