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Women Gain Greater Control Over Menstruation, Conception

Women who do not want children, and those who do, are both getting new help. The U.S. government has approved a birth control pill that eliminates menstrual cycles, and it also has approved a product to help women who want to conceive. VOA 's Carol Pearson has more.

Many women have painful monthly menstrual cycles. Others simply find the cycles inconvenient. Soon they will be able to choose to eliminate them altogether. Rosa Nolasco participated in the study of a pill that does that.

"I get lots of severe cramps and start eating like crazy," she said. "When I was on the pill, it was none of that stuff. I was like, 'Wow!'"

Lybrel is a low dose birth control pill, like many others already available. But those other pill packets include seven sugar pills that women take to help them keep track of their monthly medication. The difference with Lybrel is women take the real drug every day.

Gynecologist Anne Davis says there is no down side to not having a period. "It's safe. It works, and it works for birth control," explained Dr. Davis. "It's effective for birth control. And for [certain] women, it really will provide some real relief from menstrual problems like pain and heavy bleeding with the menstrual period."

Lybrel, made by the company Wyeth, may not totally eliminate bleeding or spotting. The company's own study shows that after a year of taking Lybrel, about 4 out of 10 women still had some bleeding or spotting.

In a separate development, there is also help for those who want to get pregnant. There is no guarantee that it works, but the U.S. government has decided that a new device - a cervical conception cap - does no harm to women who prefer a low-tech, inexpensive method to help with conception.

Dr. Janette Walker explained how it works once the sperm has been placed in the cap. "You pinch it shut, and then you place it vaginally, up against your cervix, and then it stays against your cervix for six to eight hours," she said.

Another fertility specialist, Dr. Eldon Shriock, expresses doubts that this new method is effective. "FDA-cleared doesn't mean that this has been approved or proven to improve pregnancy rates," he noted.

The maker of the kit has not yet conducted studies to see if the cap helps women get pregnant, but studies are being planned.