Women may soon be free of “the curse” if they choose.
It can be a painful and sometimes unpleasant part of a woman’s life and a new contraceptive pill awaiting approval by Health Canada gives them the option to be period-free.
Anya is a birth control pill that allows women to stop their menstrual cycle. Unlike conventional pills that are taken for three weeks followed by a fourth week of inactive pills or no tablets at all, this new product is meant to be taken 365 days straight without the placebo.
While many women would assume that stopping their uterus from shedding its lining every month would be bad for their health, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says otherwise.
After conducting a two-year study of the contraceptive, the group says Anya is effective in preventing pregnancy and reducing bleeding.
“These results are the longest-term clinical data available for a 365-day continuous use oral contraceptive, and they add to the pool of international data supporting Anya as an important new contraception option for women,” said Dr. Robert Reid, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Division Head, Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Queen’s University and the study’s lead investigator.
But not everyone is convinced about the positive effects of the continuous-use contraceptive.
Suppressing menstruation is done by preventing the uterus lining from thickening, which it does each month to prepare for a possible pregnancy. When pregnancy doesn’t happen the lining sheds and results in monthly bleeding.
Some medical specialists believe it’s not a good idea to mess with this intricate monthly process and say the effects of stopping bleeding completely still aren’t known.
And some have suggested the continuous-use pill could result in higher cholesterol, weight gain and a slightly increased risk for blood clots in the women who take them.
A product similar to Anya is sold south of the border. It’s called Seasonale and is a standard birth control pill taken for 12 weeks with a break for bleeding four times a year.
Anya may hit the market sometime later this year.
Here’s a look at how birth control pills work, courtesy of sexualityandu.ca and Women’s Health Matters:
The oral contraceptive pill (OC) is one of the most researched (and often most misunderstood) drugs in the world. It is also one of the world’s most prescribed medications – about 100 million women across the globe rely on it. The Pill is a contraceptive suitable for most healthy women, regardless of age, and can be used long-term. Some women only want to take the Pill when they are in a stable relationship and stop taking it when the relationship ends. However, doing so can put people at risk of unintended pregnancy while adjusting back to a new contraceptive method. With proper use, the Pill is 99.9% effective, making it the most reliable contraception available. However, there is a 3% user failure rate.
What are the side-effects?
Some women have side effects when taking birth control pills. If these side effects last for more than three months, talk to your doctor about changing to a brand of birth control pills that contains a different dose of hormones. Don’t stop your pills without consulting your doctor and starting a new method of birth control. Side effects may include:
Bleeding between periods
Birth control pills that contain estrogen can increase your risk of having blood clots. This is a small risk for healthy women. Women who are at increased risk of cardiovascular problems, such as women over 35 who smoke, or women with high blood pressure increase their risk of heart attack or stroke if they also take birth control pills. They are often advised to use another method of birth control. Estrogen-containing birth control pills are not recommended for women who have or have had:
- blood clots
- heart disease
- high blood pressure greater than 160/100
- severe migraines
- heart defects
What happens when a woman takes birth control?
- her ovaries stop releasing eggs
- the mucus in her cervix gets thick making it harder for sperm to enter
- the lining of the uterus gets thinner making it hard for a fertilized egg to attach to the wall
- very effective at preventing pregnancy
- your period is regular and sometimes lighter
- you may bleed less during you period
- you don’t have to interrupt sex
- the woman controls this method of birth control
- may decrease menstrual cramps or pain
- may help control the pain associated with endometriosis
- you are not protected against sexually transmitted infections
- you need a prescription
- you must remember to take it at the same time every day
- you may have side effects