No-Period Birth Control Pill May Help PMS
Researchers Say Experimental Oral Contraceptive Reduces Premenstrual Syndrome
Oct. 17, 2005 -- The first birth
control pill designed to completely eliminate periods for one year is also
proving to be an effective treatment for premenstrual syndrome
The experimental low-dose combined contraceptive, which delivers estrogen and a progestin 365
days a year (with no pill-free interval), was found to be highly effective in
stopping monthly periods and alleviating the emotional and physical symptoms
linked to menstruation.
The new study released Monday was one of four evaluating the birth control
pill Lybrel presented at the 61st annual meeting of the American Society for
Reproductive Medicine in Montreal.
The research was funded by drug maker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, which is
seeking FDA approval for the continuous-use contraceptive pill. Wyeth is a
More Women Skipping Periods
Women seeking contraception have had increasing power over the timing of
their periods in recent years. The injectable hormonal contraception
Depo-Provera can suppress monthly periods, although irregular breakthrough
bleeding can occur in many users.
And the approval of the Seasonale birth control pill two years ago ushered
in the era of seasonal menstruation. Women on this birth control pill
menstruate just four times a year.
Oral contraceptive users who have PMS, troublesome periods, or painful
endometriosis are also increasingly skipping the seven-day pill-free interval
(placebo or sugar pills at the end of the pack) recommended with currently
approved birth control pills. Instead,
they are opting, with their doctor's knowledge, to take active-hormone pills
continuously to eliminate monthly menstruation.
"It is not uncommon for women and their [physicians] to choose to monitor
when they have their menstrual cycles or to eliminate them completely,"
University of Vermont professor of obstetrics and gynecology Julia Johnson, MD,
said at a news conference from the Montreal meeting.
PMS Symptoms Improved
In the studies, the continuous-use pill was found to be as effective for
preventing ovulation and pregnancy as the oral contraceptives that are now on
While breakthrough bleeding did occur in about a third of women, this became
less frequent the longer the women stayed on the pill.
In a study involving roughly 100 women with PMS or similar
menstrual-cycle-related symptoms, most women reported significant improvement
in mood, behavior, and pain within a month of starting the continuous oral
Women who suffered from menstrual cramps also reported improvement. Within
three months of starting the continuous-hormone pill, cramps were reduced by
"It appears that this low-dose, continuous-use oral contraceptive
significantly improves cycle-related symptoms," says researcher and University
of Pennsylvania ob-gyn professor Ellen Freeman, MD.
No Need to Bleed
A new drug application for the no-period birth control pill was submitted to
the FDA in July. Wyeth spokeswoman Amy Marren, MD, says the pharmaceutical
company is hoping for FDA approval by next spring.
Obstetrics and gynecology professor David Grimes, MD, tells WebMD that there
is no medical justification for the 21 days on hormones, seven-days-off
regimens that have been used since birth control pills were first developed in
"This regimen simulates a normal menstrual cycle and can assure a woman that
she isn't pregnant, but other than that there has never been a compelling
reason for it," he says.
Grimes did not participate in the newly published studies. He is with the
University of North Carolina and is vice president of biomedical affairs for
Family Health International Research in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
"Some women like to bleed as an affirmation of their femininity, and that is
fine," he says. "But I think women seeking contraception are now beginning to
understand that they don't need to bleed."