Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What your doctor won't tell you about birth control

For the vast majority of human history, most women probably had many more children in their lifetime than they desired. But without a way to really control it, the only answer to avoiding pregnancy was abstinence.
Enter the sexual revolution of the 1960's along with the FDA's approval of "the pill". Within five years of its introduction in the United States, around 6.5 million women were using the pill and finding it to be quite effective in suppressing pregnancy.
I want women to be able to have the best access to healthcare and be able to make choices that are good for them, their body, and their circumstances. Women having control over how many pregnancies they have in their lifetime is an excellent thing for women. Pregnancy and childbirth is hard on the human body and has its own set of risks and then caring for and raising a child is another process which is lengthy and expensive.

However, the ability to "control" our reproductive system has not come without consequences to the health of women. Some of these consequences are more severe than others. Unfortunately, women are often not told about all the possible negative side effects of taking birth control before they begin using it. Doctors rarely mention things other than weight gain or pimples. Society accepts the pill as a normal part of people's lives and so the negative side-effects are again rarely mentioned.
Wellness Mama wrote an excellent article covering many of the possible side-effects of hormonal birth control. For example, The Breast Cancer Prevention Program put out a study that found women under 25 who have not carried a pregnancy to term and who have been on the pill for 2+ years increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 10 times. Women who have history of migraines and take the pill increase their risk of having a stroke (and for women who smoke and take the pill, the chances are heightened even further). Women on a low-dose pill increase their risk of heart attack. The pill may also be linked to long-term risk of diabetes. Women with HPV who have been on the pill for 10+ years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer. Women with HPV who have been on the pill 5-9 years are almost three times more likely to develop cervical cancer.

IUDs aren't really any better. In fact, IUDs carry many of the same risks as the pill in additional to increasing the risk of the woman needing a hysterectomy or having a complication from an ectopic pregnancy.

There are other health risks to the pill, IUDs, and sterilization. You can click on that link to Wellness Mama to get more information from her extensive post about it and about what natural alternatives she suggests. I didn't want to just re-write her article as she already does an amazing job researching and citing all of the stats I listed above so I would definitely encourage you to check it out for more information and sources.

There is no unicorn to solving this problem. There is no perfect method of birth control that will allow women to have care-free sex. Being sexually active comes with risks -- pregnancy and disease, to name two. Hormonal birth control has health risks. Not doing anything to suppress birth also has possible negative consequences for the woman who does not want to become pregnant.

The Wellness Mama article gives some excellent ideas for women looking to stay off of hormonal contraceptives. These are options most doctors don't really mention or know much about. They aren't perfect, but neither is the pill. And it is better to get a full picture of your options than to think that a pill or an IUD are the only way to go. Like most things in life, there are options. No single one is perfect and without consequences, both good and bad. I would encourage all women to research, weigh the risks, and make an informed choice.  

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