Q: I’m a little wary of the new no-period birth control pills on the
market. Are they safe?
A: The FDA approved the first no-period pill (brand name Lybrel) in
2007. And, yes, this new pill is safe. It isn’t that different from other
low-dose birth control pills that use estrogen and progestin to stop ovulation.
Instead of taking four to seven days of placebo pills, however, women take
Lybrel continuously, with no breaks and no period. Seasonale, another
extended-use oral contraceptive, limits menstrual cycles to four per year.
You probably know that the pill has hormones in it to keep you from getting pregnant. Most versions have a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Some have more estrogen in them than others. While fewer hormones sounds like a good thing -- and it mostly is -- you should know the drawbacks when you’re weighing your choices.
The FDA approved Lybrel based on two clinical trials, each lasting one year,
of more than 2,400 women ages 18 to 49. The trials showed Lybrel to be a safe
and effective contraceptive when used as directed.
Not having to worry about a monthly menstrual period is liberating, but
there are downsides. Side effects of Lybrel include breakthrough bleeding or
spotting. Many women also rely on their monthly period -- even when they’re on
the pill -- to ensure they’re not pregnant. Some researchers do question the
long-term safety of how continuous-use hormones may affect the risk of breast
and other hormone-fueled cancers. Ask your doctor if the no-period pill is
right for you.