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Femcon Fe - The Chewable Birth Control Pill

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Updated June 07, 2011

Femcon Fe - The Chewable Birth Control Pill

Femcon Fe - The Chewable Birth Control Pill

Photo (c) 2006 GSM

Definition of Femcon Fe:

Femcon Fe is the first and only FDA-approved chewable combination birth control pill that, when taken everyday, can help prevent pregnancy. It contains .4 mg norethindrone (a progestin) and 35 mcg ethinyl estradiol (estrogen).

How It Works:

Femcon Fe works like other combination birth control pills. Each pack supplies a steady dose of norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol to last for one month (21 hormone pills & 7 reminder pills).

How to Use Femcon Fe:

Follow your doctor’s advice as to when to begin. Most likely, you will start on the first day of your period or on the first Sunday after your period has begun. After opening the pack, take out the label and peel and stick it to your pill pack, which will indicate your start date and show you the order to take the pills. Pick a time that you will take your pill each day.

Femcon Fe is a small, spearmint-flavored pill that can be either swallowed or chewed. If you decide to chew the pill, you must wash it down with an 8-ounce glass of any drink. It is not recommended to let Femcon Fe pills dissolve in your mouth.

Advantages:

  • Completely reversible – the ability to become pregnant returns after stopping use

  • The only oral contraceptive that can be chewed, so it is a great alternative for women who have difficulty swallowing pills

  • It gives a woman the flexibility to take it on the go

  • It can be effectively used by women of all body types. According to one study, using a birth control pill with 35 mcg of estrogen may minimize the risk of pill failure as compared with lower dose pills in women who weigh 155 pounds or more (statistics show the average U.S. woman's weight as 163 pounds). See: Weight and Birth Control Pill Effectiveness
  • Femcon Fe can help lighten menstrual flow and regulate irregular periods

  • This method is discreet

  • Femcon Fe doesn't interfere with having sex so it allows for more spontaneity

  • Can help reduce menstrual cramps

  • There is a low occurrence of spotting or break through bleeding between periods while on Femcon Fe. In a 3-year study of 1,000 women, 92% of women taking Femcon Fe had no breakthrough bleeding

  • A safe method of birth control

Non-Contraceptive Advantages:

Combination birth control pills, like Femcon Fe, can offer additional benefits beyond pregnancy prevention. These advantages include decreasing the risk of developing:

Disadvantages:

There is a low occurrence of side effects associated with the use of Femcon Fe. Side effects will usually go away after two to three months of use. The most common side effects include:
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Spotting between periods
  • Headaches
  • Changes in mood or sexual desire

Who Can Use Femcon Fe:

This method of birth control is usually a safe option for most healthy women. It is important that a woman discuss her complete medical history with her healthcare provider before using Femcon Fe. Serious problems do not occur very often with birth control pill use. In general, the pill is much safer than pregnancy and childbirth.

Women who use combination pills, like Femcon Fe, may have a slightly higher chance of developing certain medical conditions than nonusers. These could include:

  • High blood pressure (which returns to normal when the pill is stopped)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Liver tumors (although rare)

A serious complication that could arise from Femcon Fe use has to do with blood clots in the heart, lungs, brain, or legs. Women using combination pills who are confined to bed rest or a cast appear to have a higher chance of developing a blood clot. Women should inform their surgeons about their Femcon Fe use when planning a major operation.

Women with a history of depression may not be able to continue to take Femcon Fe if their depression worsens.

Since this method requires a woman to take her pill at the same time every day, it may not be the right option for those who may have trouble remembering to take it.

Typically, serious problems do not occur very often with hormonal birth control use. Some women could still use Femcon Fe even with certain risk factors as long as they remain under close medical supervision.

Another factor to remember is that missing pills can also cause spotting or light bleeding, even when you make up these missed pills. On days that you may have to take 2 pills to make up for missed pills, you could also feel a little sick to your stomach.

Generally speaking, Femcon Fe is not recommended for women who have:

  • A history of blood clots, vein inflammation, or certain inherited blood clotting disorders
  • Had a heart attack or a history of serious heart valve problems
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Certain types of migraine headaches
  • Conditions associated with a heart attack (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol)
  • Had an abnormal growth or cancer of the uterus or breast
  • Are pregnant
  • Had certain types of stroke
  • A history of severe liver disease or liver growths
  • Controlled blood pressure but smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day

Warner Chilcott, the manufacturer of Femcon Fe warns that “Cigarette smoking while using the pill increases the risk of serious adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels. This risk increases if you are a heavy smoker (15 or more cigarettes a day) and with age (especially if you are over 35). Women who use the pill should not smoke.”

How to Obtain Femcon Fe:

In order to obtain a prescription for this pill, a woman will usually need to have 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.

Costs Associated with Femcon Fe:

Oral contraceptives may be purchased at a pharmacy or clinic as long as a woman has a valid prescription. Femcon Fe comes in monthly packs that can cost anywhere between $15 to $45 a month (plus the expense of having a medical examination or blood pressure check in order to obtain the prescription). In many communities, Medicaid covers the cost for this birth control method. A woman should check with her private health insurance policy as coverage for birth control varies.

Effectiveness:

Femcon Fe pills are 92- to 99.7-percent effective. This means that with typical use, only 8 out of every 100 women will become pregnant during the first year of use. With perfect use, less than 1 will become pregnant. Whether one decides to swallow or chew these pills does not alter their effectiveness rates.

Certain medications may also decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives like Femcon Fe.

STD Protection:

This method offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

Sources:

(2004). Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index. Accessed 8/1/07, from the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Femcon Fe. (2006). Full Prescribing Information and Patient Brief Summary.

Holt, V.L.,Cushing-Haugen, K.L., Daling, J.R. (2002). Body weight and risk of oral contraceptive failure. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 99, 820-827.

Rudel, H.W, Maqueo, M., Calderone, J., Martinez-Manatou, J.M. Safety and effectiveness of a new low-dose oral contraceptive: A three-year study of 1,000 women. Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 21 (2), 79-88.

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