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No Periods, No Pain?

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One new pill contains a diuretic or a medication that increases urination. Another has a fine-tuned estrogen dosage regimen, offering low- and ultra-low doses during the cycle, with just two days of placebo [dummy] pills. The result: fewer PMS symptoms -- along with the reassurance of a brief monthly period.

"I think we're going to see more pills coming down the pike with a decreased pill-free interval," Robert Hatcher, MD, MPH, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD.

Still another of these new pills claims to clear up acne, and a clinical study has been done to prove it. But gynecologists say that all birth control pills help with acne. "It's just a matter of to what extent and how effective the different pill formulas are," Lane Mercer, MD, tells WebMD. He is a professor of gynecology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.

Also among the so-called third-generation pills are those with varying forms of the hormone progestin. Pharmacologists are now trying to develop a true natural female progestin, not a synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone, as progestin traditionally has been, Mercer says. "It promises less of side effects like weight gain, depression, PMS symptoms," he says.

The makers of a pill called Seasonale would like to go a bit further in their claims. Last year, a large clinical trial was launched to test Seasonale, which gives women the option of "seasonal" periods -- one every three months. A woman takes the pills daily for 81 days, then is off them for seven days. "We're interested in quality of life. We want to show that it can relieve menstrual migraines and other PMS symptoms," says F.D. Anderson, MD, the trial's principal researcher and an associate professor of gynecology at the Jones Institute at Eastern Virginia Medical Center in Norfolk.

The truth is, gynecologists have long experimented with the monthly cycle. Is a honeymoon or a vacation approaching? A period need not ruin your plans! Toss away those placebo pills and jump to the next pack of "active" pills, gynecologists have often advised patients.

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