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Birth Control for PMDD: Yasmin®, Yaz® & Their Side Effects
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Women with PMDD or severe PMS, have two choices when it comes to prescription drugs for these conditions: SSRI antidepressants or birth control hormones like Yaz®, Yasmin®, Beyaz®, and Ocella®. These medications work by suppressing your natural hormonal cycle, and ovulation; they replace your cycle and your hormones with synthetic hormones.
Since PMDD and PMS symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that your hormones are out of balance, using artificial hormones to take control of your cycle makes sense from the standard medical point of view. And, in many cases, these drugs do work: drugs like Yaz® and Yasmin® can control PMS and PMDD symptoms. What these drugs can’t do, however, is restore balance to your body and your hormonal system. No drug, in fact, can do that.
Of course, you may not be overly concerned with finding a "state of balance": you may simply want your menstrual symptoms gone, no matter whether it is a natural program, drugs, or even surgery that brings you relief. Given the suffering that PMDD and PMS cause, it’s completely understandable that many women simply want to feel better using the fastest, simplest method available.
While antidepressants sometimes have intolerable side effects, birth control medications have side effects of their own, ranging from the troublesome to the truly scary. In the merely annoying side effects department, birth control has a puzzling ability to cause some of the same symptoms it can cure. While some women swear by the pill for these same symptoms, in other women they cause weight gain, acne, headaches, nausea, and irregular or heavy periods. Fortunately, these side effects almost always go away as soon as you discontinue the pill.
However, there is a darker side to birth control, and drospirenone®-containing medications like Yaz®, Yasmin®, and Ocella® have been found in some research studies to be among the most dangerous hormonal drugs. In fact, although all birth control has some degree of risk of blood clots, Yaz® and Yasmin®—which were originally marketed as low-risk alternatives to existing birth control—appear to many researchers to be significantly more dangerous than the birth control drugs they replaced.
Unfortunately, Yaz® and Yasmin® have been alleged to be capable of causing serious blood clots in even healthy young women. Sometimes referred to as venous thromboembolism, these blood clots can include pulmonary emboli, heart attacks and stroke, and can be fatal. While these events are relatively rare, most women don’t think it worth the risk of dying, or suffering a severe and damaging blood clot, as a result of taking birth control medication.
The other serious side effect associated with drospirenone®-containing medications is gallbladder disease. All of these side effects have given rise to legal cases that have been filed against the makers of these drugs, whom some lawyers believe have not adequately educated prescribing doctors as to the dangers of the medications. There have also been complaints against these companies for marketing these medications for purposes for which they were never approved or even intended, including PMS.
Drugs don’t balance your hormones: they simply replace unbalanced hormones with artificial hormones. While these artificial hormones may succeed at removing PMDD and PMS symptoms, they don’t address the cause of the problem—the fact that your own body’s complex system of hormone checks and balances isn’t working well.
What causes your natural hormones to fall out of balance? There is almost always more than one cause, and some part of the imbalance is often genetic. But other factors influence your hormones as well: diet, stress, and physical activity all play roles, as does overall health and the influence of other drugs. There are emotional and psychological factors at work, too: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a history of abuse have all been implicated as factors in PMS and PMDD.
The fact that diet, lifestyle, and attitude play a role in premenstrual symptoms means that you can take matters into your own hands by using natural approaches and remedies to improve your health. You can improve your diet and try our seven-day meal plan; you can lower your stress level, even if just by kicking (or reducing) the caffeine habit; and you can make sure you get enough exercise, which will also help your stress level.
But specific natural herbal and nutritional remedies have proven capable of balancing hormones, as demonstrated by their ability to provide natural relief of premenstrual symptoms with minimal side effects. The herb Vitex agnus-castus, or Chastetree berry, is the leading natural PMS remedy around the world. It has even been shown to work as well as medications containing drospirenone®, but without the side effects. Angelica sinensis, or Dong Quai, is one of the most frequently used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, and has been used for centuries to help remedy all manner of hormonal conditions in women. Black Cohosh, or Cimicifuga racemosa, is a popular menopausal herb that has hormone-balancing effects, including for PMS. The nutrient supplements calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 have all proven capable of vanquishing PMS symptoms, showing that they too are essential, natural hormone balance remedies. All these natural remedy alternatives are scientifically combined, based on decades of clinical experience, in our programs.
Whether you choose prescription medications or natural alternatives for your premenstrual symptoms, we feel you should be fully informed and empowered when you make your decision, and understand the risks and benefits of whatever approach you pursue.