Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oral Contraceptives: The Societal and Health Impacts

A reader Kristin Davis who likes to share her topic on women's health as my guest blogger for today. This is what she wrote......

Sexual responsibility remains a major topic for women today, especially with the increasing number of birth control options on the market. Unfortunately, receiving unbiased information regarding healthy sexuality is difficult because contraception has become such a profitable business. Although condom advertising remains common, oral contraceptives are the modern contraceptive alternative many women choose and receive the highest levels of promotion. Unfortunately, most users remain oblivious to this method’s limitations.

For birth control pills especially, a serious lack of available information regarding their effectiveness and safety remains. While appealing because of their easy use, effectiveness and affordability, it’s important to realize that because of this drug’s popularity, oral contraceptive sales have become a major industry with huge profit potential. Drug manufacturers now promote their products heavily and regularly encourage health facilities to do the same. The U.S. government even endorses the use of these drugs, encouraging their use in family planning clinics targeting indigent, unmarried women.

Unfortunately, this heavy marketing can mislead young women, who might believe these products are total health safeguards. Furthermore, many manufacturers advertise their products as treatments for additional health conditions, including acne and depression. Although these products have led to the welcome decline in unwanted pregnancy throughout the U.S., the increased rate of sexually transmitted disease might actually be a result of misconceptions regarding these products. Young women protected from pregnancy might be emboldened to have unprotected sex, believing disease prevention is just one more benefit of these “miracle drugs.”

Indeed, manufacturers of these contraceptives have little reason to dispel these misconceptions and hurt their profits. In truth, several manufacturers have contributed to the widespread misconception surrounding their products, regularly failing to point out important details regarding safety. One oral contraceptive producer, Bayer HealthCare, was even cited by the FDA for deceptive advertisements they produced. Labeling their products a total quality-of-life enhancement, the FDA found these ads further misled teens with unproven claims. In addition, Bayer was cited for substandard conditions in a plant that manufactured these drug ingredients. However, the company’s annual multi-million dollar advertising campaigns continue to overshadow these revelations, preserving its product popularity.

Although this lack of corporate integrity is alarming, the severe physical consequence of these drugs is even worse. Oral contraceptives literally alter women’s hormones and can actually cause permanent side effects, like infertility. Originally introduced in the 1960’s, recent evidence links the use of these drugs with the increased rate of cancer in U.S. women. Although easily dismissed by their harmless appearance, these drugs literally upset many significant aspects of women’s physiology while misleading the body into believing it is pregnant.

Mounting Yaz lawsuits today highlight just how serious the health consequences of these pills are. Users of Yaz, the most popular oral contraceptive currently sold, have experienced severe side effects including heart attack, stroke and gallbladder disease, with some cases even ending in death. However, until the seriousness of sexually transmitted disease is recognized, pregnancy prevention will continue to be the focus of young women, to the exclusion of other risks.

Although instances of unwanted pregnancy have declined recently, rates of sexually transmitted disease continue to climb. This might be explained by society’s views toward sexuality and which behaviors are acceptable and which remain taboo. While society still holds strict stigmas regarding unintended pregnancy, sexual promiscuity has largely been validated in our culture. This inconsistency is ironic because sexual promiscuity is arguably more dangerous than unintended pregnancy. While young women have several safe options in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, women who become infected with these diseases risk permanent harm to their bodies and might continue to spread their illness.

Furthermore, popular drugs preventing pregnancy can lead to severe consequences themselves. Unfortunately, with this fixation to avoid pregnancy, many women ignore these other serious physical risks. Based on recent health data, it is obvious that measures to prevent pregnancy do not ensure safety from disease as well. Unless women are made aware of oral contraceptive limitations and dangers, the production of these products will remain extremely lucrative and the related health trends will undoubtedly continue to escalate.


Just Me said...

My new birth control pills caused me to gain 15 pounds in less than two months. Okay, I admit that I ate the food and didn't exercise that made me gain the weight, but the pills caused the moodiness, exhaustion, and insatiable appetite. If there is anything I want to be insatiable, it is the sexual appetite! Not the real one.

Thank you for sharing. Gaining 15 pounds is nothing compared to some of the more serious side effects. People really do need to be informed about the drugs they take - and this may require some self-initiative in order to find the information.

Kristin said...

Dear Just Me,

Thank you for responding to my article! It definitely does take a little self-initiative when it comes to finding out about these types of serious side effects. When putting a drug into your body daily, it is really important to be informed about what may happen to you & you can't always depend on your Dr. to tell you.