Amethyst - The Continuous Birth Control Pill

No More Periods!

Amethyst_Pill.jpg
Amethyst (Generic Lybrel). Photo © Dawn Stacey

What is Amethyst?

Amethyst is a combination birth control pill. It is the generic version of Lybrel -- Lybrel was the first extended-cycle oral contraceptive designed to supply you with an active dose of hormones every day. You took pills for 365 days and had no more periods. Lybrel is no longer available. Amethyst is manufactured by Watson Laboratories. This birth control pill will also completely stop your period for an entire year.

Each pack of Amethyst contains 28 tablets (90 microgram levonorgestrel/20 microgram ethinyl estradiol). Amethyst is classified as a low dose, continuous, non-cyclic combination oral contraceptive. 

How Amethyst Works:

Amethyst works just like other combination birth control pills. The main difference is that Amethyst supplies a steady, low dose of ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel to be taken every day of the year. Unlike most other birth control pills, Amethyst does not contain any inactive tablets -- so there is no placebo period. By taking this pill everyday (as continuous birth control), you will no longer have your regular monthly period. 

The Debate Surrounding Amethyst:

The idea of not having your period sounds pretty amazing. The "opponents" claim that it is unnatural or harmful to manipulate a woman's menstrual cycle by completely stopping her period. Well, my friends, these "opponents" need a quick reality check.

You see, any woman who uses birth control pills (no matter which kind) is already manipulating her menstrual cycles. So few women naturally have a regular 28-day menstrual cycle -- so pill use automatically manipulates a woman's cycle by causing it to be a perfect 28-day cycle.

Women who use birth control pills do not even have a "real" period What they actually experience each month is called withdrawal bleeding -- this is what happens during the seven days that they are using the placebo pills.

The bleeding tends to be shorter and lighter than a regular period because the uterine lining does not build up in women who use the pill -- so there is less that needs to be shed. Basically, once the hormones are not taken (which is what happens during the fourth week of a typical pill cycle), the small buildup of the lining of the uterus is discarded. When you use Amethyst, you get continuous hormones (since there are placebo period -- there are 28 days of active pills), so you should have little or no uterine bleeding.

And now, get ready for this piece of information... the so-called period that occurs during regular 21 or 28 day combination birth control pill packs actually has no medical function other than reassuring you that you are not pregnant. The researchers who invented birth control pills back in the 1960s thought that women would be more likely to take them and the church would be more accepting of them if they "built-in" a period week (to more naturally mimic a woman's cycle).

Amethyst Crisis... Averted!

We know that women, everywhere, have been choosing to skip their periods by manipulating their birth control for a variety of reason... perhaps due to physically demanding jobs, upcoming honeymoons or vacations, and/or severe period-related symptoms. For decades, doctors have been showing women how to do this properly. Up until now, many pill users choose to avoid having a period by starting a new pill pack during the fourth week (when one's period usually occurs).

Advantages and Benefits of Amethyst:

  • Amethyst is reflective of the wishes of the American public. A national poll found that 60% of women would appreciate not having a period every month, and one-third would choose never to have one.
  • Medical authorities state that there are no health risks or medical reasons women need to have a monthly period.
  • Eliminating the menstrual week of a woman's cycle (as Amethyst does), can cause hormonal levels to stabilize -- this can lead to a reduction or complete elimination of the symptoms associated with your period week such as: bloating, cramping, irritability, headaches, tender breasts, and other various aches and pains.
  • Eliminating periods through the use of continuous oral contraceptives has been shown to be an effective treatment for many health-related problems, such as endometriosis, anemia/menorrhagia, and epilepsy.
  • The use of Amethyst will also save women money. This is because you would no longer have to buy feminine hygiene products and/or period-related medications to treat headaches and other PMS symptoms. This also makes Amethyst more eco-friendly (for all of you wanting to lead a "greener lifestyle, you know, reduce your carbon footprint).
  • Since Amethyst contains a lower daily dose of hormones than traditional combination pills, the total monthly dose may actually be equal to or lower than some of the other pill brands women 

Potential Risks and Disadvantages of Amethyst:

  • Many women welcome their monthly period -- it provides reassurance about their continued fertility and femininity and lets them know they are not pregnant.
  • The continuous exposure to hormones associated with Amethyst has been a source of concern for some people. But, many doctors point out that seven additional days of low-dose hormone exposure per month is unlikely to significantly increase any risks beyond those already faced by women taking other types of combination birth control pills.
  • Since approximately 1% to 8% of oral contraceptive users become pregnant each year, young women who have never been pregnant and are taking Amethyst may not recognize pregnancy-related symptoms -- if they become pregnant... Since they cannot rely on a missing period to alert them of a pregnancy.
  • The low doses of hormones used in Amethyst may cause breakthrough bleeding (unexpected spotting). Research shows that about 5 out of 10 women had 7 or more days of bleeding/spotting up through their third 28-day Amethyst pill pack. This bleeding lowered to 3 out of 10 women reporting 7 or more days of spotting by their seventh pill pack. Among women who continued to use Amethyst for one year, about 6 out of 10 women had no bleeding/spotting by their last month of use. (You see, there is a light at the end of the tunnel!)

Amethyst Side Effects:

Amethyst has the same side effects as other combination hormonal methods.

Serious complications are not common with oral contraceptive use.

When using Amethyst, medical risks when using Amethyst can increase:

  • In women who smoke.
  • In women age 35 and older (should be monitored while taking Amethyst).
  • In women who are 35 or older and smoke.
  • In women who have conditions associated with a heart attack (such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and conditions that increase the risk of blood clotting).

    Amethyst Effectiveness:

    Amethyst (just like other combination birth control pills) is 91% to 99.7% effective. This means that with typical use, only 9 out of every 100 women will become pregnant during the first year of Amethyst use. With perfect use, less than 1 will become pregnant during the first year of using Amethyst.

    How to Obtain Amethyst:

    In order to obtain a prescription for the Amethyst, you will most likely need a medical evaluation, blood pressure check, and possibly a pelvic exam by a physician. Women can then have the prescription filled at a local pharmacy.

    Amethyst Costs:

    Amethyst may be purchased at a drugstore or clinic with a valid prescription. You should check with your health insurance policy as Amethyst should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for all non-grandfathered insurance plans.

    STD Protection:

    Amethyst will not offer you any protection against sexually transmitted infections.

    Source:

    Jacobson J, Likis F, Murphy P. "Extended and continuous combined contraceptive regimens for menstrual suppression." Journal Of Midwifery & Women's Health. November, 2012; 57(6):585-59. Full article accessed via private subscription.

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