Objective: The study was conducted to assess hormone withdrawal symptoms, patient acceptance and occurrence and management of bleeding with an extended oral contraceptive (OC) regimen.
Methods: Subjects were placed on an OC containing 3 mg drosperinone (DRSP) and 30 microg ethinyl estradiol (EE), in the standard 21/7 fashion for two cycles, before converting to an extended pattern of OC for women who indicated they had menstrually related symptoms such as headaches, cramping and mood swings (52 weeks with phone-call follow-up 6 months later). Daily assessments of bleeding, headache, pelvic pain, mood and number of pain pills were recorded. Results are reported as means with S.E., and values were compared using analysis of variance with Dunnett's post hoc test for comparison with 21/7 cycle, Duncan's post hoc test for comparison of changes during the course of the extended regimen and Pearson's chi-square for comparison of proportions.
Results: Of the 111 women who began the extended OC regimen, 80 completed 1 year of use. Mood scores, headache scores and pelvic pain were all improved in the extended OC intervals, compared to the 21/7 cycle (p<.001 for all comparisons). Improvement in symptoms persisted throughout the 1 year extended regimen. The findings indicated that 53.7% of subjects had no breakthrough bleeding or breakthrough spotting (BTB/BTS) during any given 28-day interval of the extended regimen. BTB/BTS decreased in the second half compared to the first half of the extended regimen. To manage BTB/BTS, instituting a 3-day hormone-free interval (HFI) was significantly more effective than continuing OCs (p<.001). At the 6-month follow-up, most subjects had continued the extended regimen on their own with a high level of satisfaction.
Conclusions: An extended OC regimen containing DRSP/EE significantly improved mood, headaches and pelvic pain scores throughout the 1 year of use, compared to a 21/7 cycle. Sustained BTB/BTS episodes occurred in 45 subjects (56%), decreasing in the second half of the study and effectively managed with a 3-day HFI.