If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The FDA has approved a new birth control pill designed to put an indefinite end to a woman’s monthly periods.

Called Lybrel, it’s the first such pill to receive Food and Drug Administration approval for continuous use. When taken daily, the pill can halt women’s menstrual periods indefinitely and prevent pregnancies.

Unlike false periods (withdrawal bleeding) that occur when a woman takes a placebo for one week after 21 days on a regular hormonal BC pill, this pill is designed to dismiss all need for that monthly bleeding. Many women, I imagine, are thrilled to pieces. Not many of us, if any, enjoy bleeding for a few days each month. Even fewer of us enjoy the other symptoms that coincide with that function such as tender breasts, cramping, bloating, irritability, headaches, and so forth. I know some ladies who have such horrific periods that they are bedridden for days in agony, pained beyond measure from cramping and other aches. For those women, I can understand a desire to cease what seems to be a terrible time of life that repeats over and over until menopause finally sets in (which I hear isn’t all that fun).

Here’s one oddity about this “new amazing advancement”: birth control pills that are on the market right now could be taken indefinitely without the one week placebo substitute. Withdrawal bleeding does not need to occur since hormones are kept in balance and the uterus lining remains thin for as long as the pill is consistently taken. Remember, one doesn’t have a true menstrual cycle while on the pill; it’s a fake period for (so far as I can tell) appearances only. The second link above describes this better than I can. So to women who take the pill to “regulate your period”: it doesn’t seem to regulate your true cycle at all. It works to stop your cycle and instead gives you a monthly bleeding session to make you feel more normal. It’s a bit sad, when I think about it.

Another concern I have about this new pill is on the tails of a general concern many women deal with while taking other BC. How do you know if/when you become pregnant while on the pill? They aren’t 100% effective. Pregnancies still occur. With Lybrel, wouldn’t it take longer to detect? Couldn’t there be serious consequences inflicted on the baby if one becomes pregnant while on this “amazing pill”?

In case it matters, I am not a fan of hormonal birth control. I am blessed with easy, regular periods and find a joy and not shame in my natural body cycle. I don’t want to mess with it just because of convenience or the illusion that life will be easier and more free with hormones adjusting what my body already does naturally. Some women may have a motivation for taking this, but I don’t like the sound of it. I am a woman and my periods are part of that womanhood, which I love.

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3 thoughts on “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

  1. I’m not a huge proponent of hormonal birth control fan either. I like that they help “that time” not be so painful (mine are pretty bad), but the whole concept just bothers me.

    Our hormones are in a certain balance for a reason. HBC screws that up. Any other medicine we take is taken for the purpose of FIXING something that’s not working right. HBC is taken for the purpose of BREAKING something that’s working as it’s intended.

    It’s just….odd.

  2. Hi,

    I just found this site randomly and read your piece about this new hormone pill. My two cents is that we should always be wary of any product designed by men to “cure” our “women’s problems” and need to learn (like you have) to love our bodies as they are.

    For a healthier alternative to the male-designed menstrual products that we currently seem addicted to see http://www.mooncup.com

    All the best

  3. We want to contreol our bodies. Is that reasonable or not? That is certainly open to debate. Birth control pills by and large are meant to keep one from becoming pregnant. It seems more than a little bit absurd to worry about the effects on a pregnancy of birth control pills. If they allow a pregnancy a significant percentage of the time then they certainly are not effective birth control pills. It also does not make sense to start pills for the purpose of birth control when one is pregnant.
    Stil, there is a time when it does make sense to use birth control pills. When one is sexually active and does not want, for any reason, to have a child. These reasons can be legion. It These reasons also include choices about children within a marriage. I am a aquainted with a woman whose hips separated who had too many children (definitely in too short of a period of time, perhaps ever for her body). She had to have surgery to put her pelvis back together. I also had a grandmother who had so many children that it wore her down and sapped the life from her.
    On the other hand, completely stopping periods that it might be going too far. What will be the long-term side effects of such an action? We are, in a very real sense, our bodies. How will it affect a woman’s character to have her hormones changed in this way? How will it change her personality? There are many questions that remain to be answered.

    Socialecologylondon is right about men trying to solve “women’s problems”. I could hardly believe it when I learned that hysteria was once a medical diagnosis for a woman who had “too much” pleasure from sex. “treatment” included partial to total amputation of the clitoris. Ouch!
    Men have been puzzled and afraid of women’s ability to bleed so much and not die for as long as women have menstruated, but that does not mean that menstruationis to be avoided. Painful side-effects are another question. Still the pharmaceutical industry and medicine as a whole has a tendency to medicalize conditions and declare them disease, disorders and syndromes even when these conditions are natural and normal. Not everything that someone finds unpleasant or istasteful is wrong.

    Just how far can we distance ourselves from the messy nature of our bodies? How much can we control what our bodies do?

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