Birth control is not the only solution

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By Haley Strack

Birth control is not the only solution

Casual talk of birth control as a solution to women’s problems is abhorrent — and for a school that appreciates a proper, well-rounded education, I expected better.

The Curate women’s panel on Saturday covered many topics relevant to young ladies: careers, relationships, time management, and yes, menstrual cycles. One of the breakout sessions, led by a local pediatrician, was an “interactive talk on women’s menstrual health.” While I appreciated the open nature of the talk , the doctor mentioned birth control many times as the solution to women’s health problems.

For reasons beyond religious ones, contraceptives are problematic. Too often, young women are told that birth control can be a solution to their problems without knowing the side effects. Birth control has long-lasting detrimental effects on our bodies — ones that women should at least be informed about. Speaking of birth control as though it’s an easy fix to all of life’s problems is misleading, ill-informed, and wrong.

Birth control doesn’t actually “regulate” your body — it just creates an artificial cycle that takes longer for your body to adjust to. When women stop taking the pill, they have a high chance of what’s called post-pill amenorrhea, or when the body is forced to return normal hormone production, so the menstrual cycle is halted all together for up to six months.

The shot Depo-Provera (or DMPA), a popular form of birth control which is most frequently used by teenagers, can halt fertility for two years after the last injection. Say, for example, you took the shot in high school on the recommendation of your doctor. You enter college and by springtime in year four, you have that ring on your finger! When you and your financially stable partner are ready to consider conceiving, you go to your doctor. But wait — you might have to wait two years (or longer) until you welcome a new member into your family. Why wouldn’t your doctor tell you that contraceptive use can have long-term effects?

This is a phenomenon we see among quite a few young adults: doctors are quick to prescribe, slow to treat. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends over-the-counter purchase of contraceptives for teens.

A recent study found that many women are misdiagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a condition that makes it harder to conceive, makes cycles more painful, and causes depression. Women are told they may have difficulty conceiving and that the pill is the best solution for the disease. Twenty-one percent of young women are diagnosed with PCOS, and a shocking number of them are misdiagnosed. Further, many symptoms of PCOS go away after the age of 25.

But instead of waiting until young women have gone through puberty to see if symptoms go away, doctors prescribe them a hormone cocktail to fix problems they might not even have.

As young women, it’s easy to listen to the doctors who know more, the women with experience, or the friends whom we trust. It’s easy to look to a pill that might lessen cramp pains, relieve acne, or “regulate” your body.

It’s equally as easy to do your research about what birth control could mean for your body, long-term. Research what it means outside of pain relief or a “regular” cycle before you introduce an ocean of chemicals into your body.

So, what are the negatives? Hormonal birth control can trigger depression. Women are 23% more likely to become depressed while taking contraceptives, and teenage girls are 80% more likely to suffer from depression while on the pill. Not to mention the other emotional and physical side effects — anger, stress, weight gain, acne, and moodiness.

Birth control also causes increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and increased breast and cervical cancer rates. In 2001, the World Health Organization classified contraceptives as Group 1 Carcinogens, or a substance known to cause cancer. Other Group 1 Carcinogens include cigarettes, mustard gas, and arsenic.

It’s not as if there’s no hope for women — natural alternatives are just as effective as hormonal birth control. In April 2007, professional nurses at Marquette University began a study to evaluate the effectiveness of a Natural Family Planning service. NFP works with a woman’s natural biology to determine fertility schedules, allowing women to get in tune with their body’s natural cycle. According to the study’s ongoing results, the Marquette method results in as little as a 2 – 6.8% failure rate, as opposed to the 9% failure rate of the pill.

It doesn’t matter if there’s a 1% chance, a 5% chance, or a 10% chance of harm from contraceptives; what matters is that you know the risk and act accordingly. Don’t fall victim to the slough of people who are more willing to prescribe than educate.

 

Haley Strack is a sophomore studying political economy. She is an assistant editor for the Collegian.

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