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.
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.
Brunilda Nazario, MD, WebMD Medical Editor