|The revolutionary contraceptive super-pill that ends PMT|
By FIONA MACRAE
It promises to end the misery of pre-menstrual tension and banish periods.
Lybrel, the first Pill designed to be taken continuously, is likely to appeal to women keen to stop menstruation from intruding into their hectic working lives - as well as the millions whose lives are blighted by PMT.
By simply taking a tablet a day, every day, women could avoid the inconvenience of periods years.
It could also end the mood swings, bloating, tiredness and other uncomfortable symptoms that many experience in the run-up to their period every month.
But critics point to the documented side effects of hormone-laden oral contraceptives, which may raise the risk of breast cancer as well as potentially fatal blood clots.
The risks may be greater from taking the Pill every single day because this avoids the seven-day "break" every month that the female body gets with the traditional 21-day pill.
Some experts warn that stopping periods completely could mask infertility problems and unexpected pregnancies.
Ethical concerns have also been raised over taking a "sledgehammer" to control Nature by wiping out a basic fact of female biology.
Lybrel is already on sale in America under the name Anya and its manufacturer, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Wyeth, hopes it will be available to British women next year, New Scientist reports.
Like the majority of oral contraceptives in Britain, Lybrel is a combined Pill, containing the hormones oestrogen and progestogen.
The doses of hormone have been lowered to allow for it being taken without a break.
Wyeth's studies show that Lybrel completely stops bleeding in more than 70 per cent of those who take it for seven months and women used to experiencing PMT found their symptoms were eased.
Wyeth describes the Pill as "an important evolution for oral contraception".
Ginger Constantine, of Wyeth, said: "For those women seeking contraceptive options and who are interested in putting their period on hold, Lybrel may be an appropriate choice."
The firm says it is as effective as other oral contraceptives and does not damage fertility.
However, it admits it does not work for everyone and some women will experience some unexpected bleeding.
The 3.5million British women who take the current form of the Pill take one tablet a day for 21 days.
They then either stop taking it for a week or take a week's supply of dummy tablets. During this time they have an artificial period. This is usually lighter than a natural period and is triggered by the sudden drop in hormones.
However, some doctors argue there is no medical reason why women need to stop taking the Pill each month.
They point out that the current formulation of the Pill was chosen because it was thought women would find it hard to accept the idea of not having a period.
But Josephine Quintavalle, of campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, likened the idea of the continuous Pill to taking a "sledgehammer" to control Nature.
And Eric Hester, of Family and Youth Concern, said: "Being a teenager is complicated enough without having something like this tampering with hormones."
|It's a funny kind of freedom for women to take chemicals every day|
By JILL PARKIN
The question is: Is there anything we women will not do to our bodies if it makes us look younger, be more successful or compete better against men?
We shake our heads in wonder that the Chinese used to bind their women's feet and we quite rightly abhor the female circumcision practised in parts of Africa.
But what do we do in the enlightened West? We surgically tighten the skin on our faces, we starve ourselves towards size zero, and soon - just as soon as Lybrel arrives - we will rush to wipe out the basic biology that makes us female.
We all know that periods can be hell. Pre-menstrual tension can turn an easy-going woman into a harpy for days on end.
It can make you clumsy - one particularly bad month I hurled a wine glass across the kitchen into the sink.
And periods can be damned painful.
So shouldn't we be grateful that scientists have come up with a Pill you can take every day of the year, one which means no periods?
Imagine the convenience of it – imagine being available for sex 365 days a year and always on top form for work or socialising? No more nipping out of meetings, no more mornings off because you're grey with the pain of cramps, no more worries that a late period might mean pregnancy.
But imagine filling yourself with chemicals every single day, taken orally and so exposing your entire system to their effect, of course.
Imagine pushing doubts about whether or not you're pregnant to the back of your mind as you check your Blackberry for messages on the train every morning.
Imagine trying to forget years of health reports that have linked even the conventional Pill to strokes, heart attacks, embolisms and some cancers.
True, periods get in the way of that level playing field with men; surely they help to keep the glass ceiling in place, along with much-disparaged motherhood.
But, let's face it, equality in the workplace is always a compromise for women, who have to deal with periods, menopause, child care, maternity leave, and prejudice about their age and their looks.
Compromise is inevitable, but actually shoehorning women into a man-shaped space is wrong.
Has anyone suggested chemically suppressing men's testosterone, so we can have less aggression at work and less violence on the streets?
If that were the case, we could let the men have a few days off their medication a month to produce babies when we want them.
Scientists point out that we weren't designed to have decades of periods, but to have prolonged breaks for pregnancy and lengthy breastfeeding.
But certainly evolution intended that we menstruate. And, given the choice between having plenty of periods, and taking a chemical cocktail to cut them out altogether, I'll take the periods rather than filling my body with chemicals.
The conventional Pill helps with PMT to a certain extent and, as every craving woman knows, there is always chocolate. It contains iron, which stops you feeling so tired, and magnesium which regulates mood.
If the world wants women in the workplace, it will have to accept us as we are, not try to make us as much like blokes as possible.
In a world where communication is all, female qualities come to the fore. We haven't chatted at the cave entrance and over the garden wall for all those centuries without honing some very marketable, very female skills.
We don't need to turn off our ovaries to sell our abilities any more than we need to wear Y-fronts.
Sadly, lots of women will rush to take up this chance, because they have fallen for the myth that they can have it all.
They see themselves, free of the yoke of their hormones once a month, crashing through the glass ceiling, then having a baby or two quite easily when they're around 40 - the problem is there are questions over whether fertility will be affected after you stop taking such a Pill.
Come on girls, let's have the periods, the chocolate and the peace of mind.
Wine glasses don't cost so much after all.