May 22, 2007

Is this Liberty or is this Death?

A post about Lybrel (TM) by Wyeth-Ayerst
(levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol)

A new oral contraceptive to stop women's periods may be on the market soon. It's brand name is Lybrel. FDA approval may come today. Am I the only one worried about this?

Wyeth-Ayerst's application for approval of Lybrel by the FDA was postponed last year because of the lack of submitted data on the manufacturing process and clinical detail. Lybrel is manufactured at a plant in Puerto Rico which has undergone scrutiny by the FDA for quality-control problems.

I have yet to see any actual data or study results related to Lybrel as far as the side effects or long-term implications of stopping a woman's menstrual cycle altogether. What I have read indicates that some women on Lybrel will continue to have what they call "unscheduled bleeding". It takes about 3 months after stopping Lybrel to begin menstruating again.

Here's the standard party line with oral contraceptives:

Serious risks of all birth control pills that can be life threatening include blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. These risks are increased in women who smoke cigarettes, especially women over 35. Women who use oral contraceptives should not smoke. Some women should not use oral contraceptives, especially women who have had a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, certain cancers or liver diseases, unexplained vaginal bleeding and those who are or may become pregnant.

What bothers me most about Lybrel is that a lot of women will rush to get this pill because it's already being touted as "emancipatory". The name, Lybrel, itself, according to Wyeth-Ayerst, is meant to evoke "liberty". What scares me is that there are just so many unknowns related to the long-term implications of stopping menstruation. Most of us women already know that birth control pills, which can regulate the period, are not entirely safe.

I was on birth control for about 10 years. I put on 10 pounds, it did not stop my period entirely or the bloating or irritability. The possible link between it and breast cancer is what got me to stop taking it. I would never take them again now that I have finally embraced celibacy as our Church teaches.

But, the second I mention to an OB/GYN that I'm having any "problems" with my period the immediate response is that I should take "the pill" again. Is the pill really the answer to every "female problem? or are we just being conditioned to think it is?

Personally, I've solved a lot of my menstrual problems by exercising and watching my salt and caffeine intake.

Ladies: Think and reflect long and hard before you jump on this bandwagon, please.


Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Ok, I try not to do this often, but I'm putting on my Nurse Practitioner hat:

1. Prescribing the pill for any mentrual problems is a cop out. It is nothing more than a method for covering up symptoms. Very few providers wish to look into the WHY of mentrual problems, rather shove in their face an Rx for the pill and get them out the door...No attempt is made to find the cause and actually treat it. Arrrgh!

2. This pill is not so new and not as weird as it sounds - there's been something very close to it called Depo Provera, which is given by injection every 3 months. Now I'm not talking chemical formulation, but rather in the effect of preventing periods. The vast majority on Depo have no periods. The side effects are very common though: weight gain and depression.

3. You asked if you were the only one worried about this Cathy - fact is some women already take "The Pill" all month in order to have this effect. Also due to the depo-lack-of-period side effect no one is concerned about it. Amennorrhea is fairly common due to this.

Thanks be to God I have never in my career prescribed any form of contraception. It is also by His grace alone that I've actually found employment in practicing within Catholic medical ethics.

All contraception is intrinsically evil. Pope Paul VI was right.

May 22, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Sanctus Belle: Thanks for the clarifications! I forgot about Depo Provera. Actually, I try not to think about it. Pretty sloppy for a blog post.

Anyway, you are correct that there are women who have expanded their pill use already so they don't have to have a period. But, wouldn't this be a "off-label" use? Or, is there already a 30-day Pill?

May 22, 2007 11:56 AM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

Despite what many folks would believe, Natural Family Planning is more than "birth control." There are different types of NFP, but the type I'm famiiar with, the Creighton Model, is able to help women with all types of problems, from preventing miscarriages to irregular bleeding. Check out the Pope Paul VI Institute ( for more information or do an internet search for a local Creighton Model NFP provider. It's 100% chemical free!!

May 22, 2007 1:56 PM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Cathy - no not a sloppy post at all! Anyone who raises awareness about the evils and dangers of contraceptives is a blessing!

You are right, using OCP's continually is an off label use, but that doesn't keep women from using them this way.

Swissmiss is absolutely right. The Creighton Model can be used to avoid pregnancy, achieve pregnancy also to diagnose and guide treatment options. I don't personally know this method, but used to work with an MD who did very successfully.

May 22, 2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Thanks, swissmiss and Sanctus Belle-blog readers are the best! Great information.

May 22, 2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

I am totally ignorant of the details of "chemical contraception."

But I am absolutely astounded at the huge numbers of women who eagerly are ready to accept the word of a pharmaceutical company and will mess with their body's functioning for ten or twenty years and not think that it might have serious consequences.

At a minimum, when they finally decide to have a "trophy child" they might have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to initiate conception artifically.

May 22, 2007 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Joan said...

Seasonale, which reduces periods to four per year, isn't nearly as popular as the manufacturers hoped it would be. Much as they complain about it, women like the reassurance of having something that resembles a period, and reassurance that they aren't pregnant.

May 28, 2007 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the mother of a young woman (34) who is cognitavely impaired (mentally retarded), I embrace whatever can provide a better quality of life for her. She suffers from partial complex seizures and the disturbances that hormone flucuation produce every month is worse than any 'normal' woman's PMS. The attitude expressed here regarding reflects only one of the reasons I have backed away from my birth religion.

August 01, 2007 5:21 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

anonymous: My post was to put forth my concern about stopping women's periods altogether and how I'm concerned that is harmful and unhealthy. Plus, this pill has not been adequately tested for long-term effects of stopping menstruation.

I did not, in this post, talk at length about the church's teachings on contraception. Though, I did briefly acknowledge it.

August 02, 2007 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person who practices abstinence by choice... I am on Lybrel by sheer necessity.

Every manner of medicine, surgery and testing was done to try to diagnose why every couple of months I got cramping so severe and painful that it put me in the hospital with dropping blood pressure, near syncope, projectile vomitting, the inability to stand on my own two feet.. this doesn't even mention the other little "nuisences" like drenching sweats or full body tremors from the intense pain.

I can assure everyone that no doctor put me on this as a cop out.. we tried everything else, including surgery to diagnose the problem. For a year and a quarter I suffered with this needlessly.

I thank God every day that someting has been created that can end my menses and therefore the terrible suffering that came with it.

Should I decide I want to start a family and get married, studies have show a return to menses or pregnancy withing 3 months of quitting Lybrel.

When people start believing cardiac bypass to treat heart disease is a sin, then I will start believing that me taking Lybrel to keep from ending up in the hospital with pain more intense than anything I have every experienced before is a sin.

February 10, 2008 4:23 PM  

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