Low-Dose Birth Control Pill Treats Severe PMS
First Oral Contraceptive for PMDD May Be Approved for Sale Early Next Year
WebMD News Archive
24 On, 4 Off continued...
Yaz is similar to another oral contraceptive marketed by Berlex under the
brand name Yasmin, but there are important differences, Schillace says. Both
contain a unique progestin that mimics the activity of a diuretic (water pill)
used to treat the symptom of bloating or water retention seen in PMS.
But women who take Yaz get 24 days of active hormone followed by four days
off hormones, instead of the standard 21 days of active hormone treatment
followed by seven days of no hormone treatment.
Yonkers and colleagues says the shorter time off hormones offered by Yaz
treatment may help women avoid severe menstrual-related symptoms.
"We know that women taking oral contraceptives
often complain of symptoms like headaches, bloating, and other problems during
the week that they are off hormones," she tells WebMD. "This has been broadly
characterized as 'hormonal withdrawal.' It is total hypothesis at this point,
but it may be that shortening the time off hormones may help women avoid this
SSRIs Don't Work for Everyone
Jean Endicott, PhD, says it is not clear if the new contraceptive is
uniquely useful for treating PMS and PMDD because other contraceptives have not
"What we do know is that the high-dose estrogen and progestin contraceptives
did not help and seemed to [promote symptoms] in some women," she says. "But
that doesn't seem to be the case with the low-dose formulations."
Endicott directs the Premenstrual Evaluation Unit at Columbia Presbyterian
Medical Center and is also affiliated with the New York State Psychiatric
She says the low-dose contraceptive could prove to be a useful alternative
treatment for the 35% to 40% of women with PMDD who are not helped by
antidepressants and for women who simply don't want to take them."
"Certainly for many women there is a stigma attached to taking
antidepressants," she says. "And others are bothered by the side effects,
especially the sexual side effects [seen with many SSRIs]. There is a need for
more treatment options."