We’ve discussed birth control hormone drugs for PMS & PMDD before. Birth control pills like Yaz® and Yasmin® allegedly cause dangerous side effects; and all birth control hormones, from Nuvaring® to Depo-Provera® to the pill, cause side effects that many women simply can’t tolerate. Now there is new evidence from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that these birth control methods—pills, patches, and rings—don’t prevent pregnancy nearly as well as long-acting reversible contraception methods such as IUDs, implants and injections, including Depo-Provera®.
If you are researching birth control methods, you are probably weighing a handful of concerns: convenience, effectiveness, and risk of side effects. If you are researching PMDD medication or treatments for PMS, you want a drug that will address your symptoms but without bad side effects.
What this new study tells us is that for convenience and effectiveness, and to some degree for risk of side effects, there is little reason to even consider birth control hormone pills, patches, and rings. Women using these methods were more than 20 times more likely to become pregnant—that’s 2000%! Women using IUDs, implants, or injections had far more success preventing pregnancy, regardless of their age. The risk of contraception failure doubled for women under the age of 21. The long-lasting methods require much less of what doctors call “compliance” – remembering to take medications, remembering to get drug refills, and so forth.
Some women don’t tolerate hormonal treatments, whether for birth control, PMS or PMDD, or another health issue, so it is good news that IUDs and other long acting methods were found to be vastly superior, and had few or no side effects. Long-lasting hormonal treatment like Depo-Provera® was as effective as IUDs and implants in this study.
Of course, an IUD or other long acting non-hormonal birth control method will not prevent or treat PMDD or PMS. Depo-Provera has not been widely studied for PMDD and PMS. Because it does interfere with your body’s natural hormone self-regulation, it might work, though it could cause similar problems to other hormonal treatments.
Every woman has to make these difficult decisions related to her own health care for herself, whether it is how to treat PMDD or PMS or how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Of course, doctors and health care practitioners have the information and expertise to help you make an informed decision, and for many women it will be important to include family members in these choices. But studies such as this one make the decision about the best birth control with the least chance of side effects very much easier.
Bayer Pharmaceuticals is famous for many reasons: they’re one of the leading chemical and drug companies in the world; they have been leaders in bringing aspirin to the world not just for aches and pains but for heart attacks and even colon cancer; and lately, and less favorably, they’re under fire for some problems that allegedly resulted in young women who took one of their popular birth control brands, Yaz and Yasmin.
So our ears pricked up when we saw a research article on PMDD, also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, was written by Bayer scientists in Brazil. The paper is an attempt to estimate the number of women who suffer from severe PMS and PMDD in Latin America. While it’s a worthwhile subject, when a drug company goes about creating increased awareness of a medical condition for which their medication is very likely to be prescribed, we can’t help but think that such research contains some profit motive.
You see, drospirenone-containing birth control has been studied quite a bit for use in PMDD and severe PMS, with many of these studies indicating these drugs should be a first-line treatment. In fact, such medications are considered part of the standard of care for these conditions. Recently, though, the British Medical Journal has published studies showing that drospirenone is associated with roughly four times the risk of blood clots compared to an older drug that drospirenone is meant to replace.
It’s not unusual for drug companies to publish research from which they’ll benefit, though we might wish they would publish their negative results just as readily. It’s also not unusual for doctors to have to balance risks and benefits when making the decision to prescribe medication. Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware of the significant risks allegedly associated with Yaz and Yasmin.
We look forward to the day when there is money available to adequately research natural therapies for PMS and PMDD such as a natural diet, supportive lifestyle, and hormone-balancing herbs and nutrients.
Lifestyle and dietary changes, and nutritional and herbal supplements that balance your body, make you more healthy and bring natural symptom relief, but they are almost always much more difficult to fit into your life than simply swallowing a prescription drug pill every day.
However, drugs come with a big potential problem: side effects. Side effects of medication is one of the main reasons people seek out alternatives to drug treatment of all diseases, including PMS and PMDD. But sometimes those side effects are a lot more than just an annoyance, which is why two stories you may not have seen should concern you.
First, Attorney Brenda Fulmer writing from West Palm Beach for Injuryboard blog network tells us:
“There are now more than 7,500 individual lawsuits pending in state and federal courts involving girls and young women who suffered blood clots (leading to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac death) or gallbladder injuries as a result of ingestion of the popular birth control medications Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella.”
Hormonal birth control has a very long history of causing blood clots, and while the current forms are safer than the birth control that was used decades ago, it obviously is still a big problem. And these drugs are some of the most commonly prescribed for PMS and PMDD!If there are 7,500 lawsuits, you just know that there are more girls and women injured by these medications who never made it to a lawyer’s office. Let’s call this Exhibit A in why we think natural relief of premenstrual issues is superior to a potentially dangerous drug approach.
On to exhibit B: The Food and Drug Administration last week put out a safety advisory for Celexa, one of the commonly used antidepressants for PMS and PMDD, letting cardiologists and psychiatrists know that doses greater than 40 milligrams could lead to potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms. Although there appears to be no additional benefit to higher doses of the drug, the drug labeling information had claimed that some people required a 60 milligram dosage!
This is all very concerning in its own right, but as we recently shared with you, millions of antidepressant drug prescriptions are being written by non-psychiatric health care practitioners, who aren’t as adept at managing complications from psychopharmacological compounds—and who weren’t even targeted by the FDA advisory.
We think natural measures like diet and lifestyle changes and holistic, doctor-designed nutritional supplements are preferable to potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms and blood clots. Now, if you’ve taken these medications and have found them helpful, and aren’t having any side effects, that’s fantastic. We recommend you check in with your doctor though, particularly if you think you might be susceptible to one of these problems. We think if doctors more accurately disclosed the risks of the drugs they prescribe, and if more women realized there is a way to treat the cause of PMS and PMDD, and make yourself healthier and get real natural relief at the same time, there would be a lot less of these types of scary stories.
We all know drugs can be real lifesavers. And we probably all know someone who, at one time or another, felt like an antidepressant prescription lifted them out of a rough patch in their life, or even changed their life. But the widespread use of prescription antidepressants is starting to make some psychiatrists nervous, as they have become the third most common prescribed class of drug, with sales of over $11 Billion (!) in 2010.
A recent study, published in the journal Health Affairs, that came with some heavyweight credentials—Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, the Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research, and Eli Lilly, the big pharma corporation—found that 80% of those antidepressant prescriptions are being written by non-psychiatrists, and that more and more of them are being given for non-psychiatric uses such as PMS and chronic pain.
PMDD, otherwise known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, can be considered both a gynecologic and a psychiatric condition. In today’s health care environment, we can’t blame a gynecologist for prescribing antidepressants for PMDD or severe PMS rather than referring to a psychiatrist. But the study left little doubt that these medications are being overprescribed by medical practitioners who may not fully understand these drugs, their side effects, or how to manage patients taking them.
All of which leads us to wonder, at least as it relates to PMS, PMDD, and antidepressants, why so many doctors and health care practitioners don’t understand how safe and effective natural, holistic PMS remedies actually are:
Diet: There are foods that are bad for PMS such as caffeinated beverages (decaf coffee still contains caffeine, so your reaction will depend on your sensitivity), alcohol, and refined sugar; foods that are good for PMS, like whole grains, leafy greens, broccoli, flax, and soy; and overall dietary factors like food sensitivities or allergies, and blood sugar instability, also called hypoglycemia, that can actually cause PMS. We suspect that most doctors who write antidepressant prescriptions for PMS don’t discuss the healing role of diet in adequate detail. Lifestyle: Lifestyle choices, good and bad, can have a significant impact on PMS symptoms. Premenstrual syndrome has been proven to be connected with cigarette smoking, weight, and stress. And exercise is one of the most tried and true natural PMS relief remedies. Supplements and nutrition: Several nutrients, taken as supplements, are known to help PMS, like vitamin B6, magnesium, and calcium. But nutrients work together, so we shouldn’t forget the other B vitamins, or vitamin D, or essential minerals like zinc and chromium. We’re pretty sure most doctors aren’t extolling the virtues of a high-potency multivitamin as they write their prescriptions! Herbal supplements: Certain herbs are safe, effective, and downright invaluable for treating PMS. Chastetree Berry and Dong Quai are among the most commonly used, though there are others we like as well. It is too bad that so many doctors don’t trust herbal medicine, despite its record of safety as well as the large amount of research showing its efficacy for PMS.
We are thrilled that modern science has created the wonder drugs and technology that are able to help so many people. But we do wish there was a trend towards a greater recognition of the role diet and lifestyle changes, and natural remedies could play in decreasing the need for antidepressants and other pharmacological medications.