Licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, women’s health specialist, founder of PAC Herbs, Chinese herbal medicine in PACkets.
December 15, 2011
Women have choices today that have never been available in the past. Choices have ramifications, and choices about our health and drug use are no exception. Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing and I support it 100 percent. I believe choices should be made after carefully weighing benefits and risks. Due diligence is especially important when the choice could involve serious health consequences.
With that preface understood, let’s discuss the results just released by the Guttmacher Institute which tells an interesting story about why American teenage girls are choosing birth control pills for noncontraceptive reasons.
The study points out that little data has been gathered previously on the use of oral contraception for purposes beyond that of preventing pregnancy. A federally-funded survey done from 2006-2008 by the “National Survey of Family Growth” examined the reasons why women and teens are using the pill for noncontraceptive reasons.
The Guttmacher Institute estimated from this survey that 1.5 million women in the U.S. are using oral contraception for noncontraceptive purposes. This includes reasons such as acne, primary dysmenorrhea, prevention of migraines, fibroids, excessive pelvic pain, bleeding and other “side effects” of menstruation. The Guttmacher institute says “The reliance on birth control pills for noncontraceptive reasons is highest among pill users who are teenagers. In fact, teens are more likely to report using the pill for noncontraceptive purposes than for birth control: Some 82 percent of 15-19 year-olds who use OCPs say they do so for noncontraceptive reasons.” The three most common reasons are menstrual pain, menstrual regulation and acne. The survey did not ask about other hormonal methods of contraception, i.e., the ring, patch, implant or IUD. The data was gathered using in-person interviews with 7,356 women aged 15-44.
Oral contraception is artificial hormone regulation of the endocrine system, and the risks of these drugs can be serious. A friend of mine, healthy at age 30, suffered a stroke from birth control pills and four years later still has no use of her left arm and walks with an extreme limp. She started the “pill” at age 15. This is not a scare tactic article, so I will not go any further with stories from my patients or friends about the use of birth control pills. But do the 82 percent of teenagers using the pill for noncontraception reasons understand the risks of these drugs? Do they know all the possible ramifications of their choices? My friend has said many times, “I wish I had known, I never would have taken the pill if I knew this could happen.”