How birth control’s side effects may harm women
By Kayla Gomula
According to Planned Parenthood’s website, a birth control pill is safe, effective, and convenient. The website states that some birth control side effects are bleeding between periods, tender breasts, nausea and vomiting. The rest of the side effects are general warnings, which could easily make a girl trying to prevent pregnancy think that birth control is simple, sometimes having only a few disadvantages.
Although it seems as if birth control information is well-known, or at least readily available from healthcare providers and the media, many women are still having problems with their birth control. As of mid-February, over a thousand lawsuits have been filed against Yaz, the number one selling birth control pill in the country. Women are claiming that they have suffered greatly, with the most severe cases being strokes and heart arrhythmia, seizures, deep vein thrombosis, eye occlusions and kidney failure.
Birth control companies are known for using commercials to reach out to women looking for new methods of contraception. A majority of most commercials’ time is spent advertising the product’s benefits. When it came time to list the undesired side effects in a Yaz commercial, all that were listed were blood clots, stroke and heart attack. There was no mention of gallbladder problems, which has become a prevalent issue among the women filing lawsuits.
Brook White, a student at Ithaca College who used Yaz said, “I was menstruating for the better part of the month and my gynecologist told me to go to the emergency room and to stop taking Yaz.”
Brooke stopped taking the pill but during her next visit, when she asked for a new birth control, her doctor told her she was fine on Yaz. “I had mixed feelings because I trusted her opinion as a doctor, but then I had second thoughts afterwards because I feel like she was ignoring the side effects it caused me.”
Last year, Bayer HealthCare, who makes Yaz, was required to spend $20 million to run an advertisement campaign that would accurately reveal the side effects that had been downplayed in previous commercials. Still, are people paying attention to girls dancing around while balloons with “bloating,” “fatigue” and “cramps” written on them float away? Or are these people listening to the side effects, even though there are few actually said.
The truth is that although it is easy to get birth control, it is not always easy to find the best product. Maureen Kelly, vice president for education, training and communication at Planned Parenthood said, “Birth control decisions are profoundly personal. It is about your body, your schedule, your personality type, your physiology, and your biology.”
As of today, the most common types of contraception are birth control pills and condoms. But those numbers are changing among college-aged women who are becoming more aware of the pros and cons of what they’re taking.
Condoms are easy and cheap to buy. Because of the possibility of them breaking, many women use other various methods of contraception. Each type of birth control comes with different side effects. For example, blood clots are proven to be more common among women that use the patch over birth control pills.
The diaphragm, which contains no hormones, can be difficult for some women to insert and can be pushed out of place. It is also known for causing urinary track infections and vaginal irritation.
The birth control shot is easy enough and for most women, the series of shots will stop their periods after a year. However, the shot also takes up to nine months to stop being effective after stopping its use, which would be a disadvantage to someone trying to get pregnant. It also can decrease sex drive and cause a change in hair growth on the body.
Kelly said, “The biggest thing when it comes to side effects is to know your body. That is the biggest mandate I can say for every woman that is true no matter their sexual orientation, race, background. Know your body.”
Kelly urges women to go on the Planned Parenthood website and take the “My Method” quiz to see which form of birth control is right for them.
While there are some serious side effects associated with birth control girls don’t take into consideration or even know about, it is still a form of control and prevention that is important for women in the world.
“People have been using birth control for thousands of years, even if it was dung being placed in the female vagina so we know this something women want,” Kelly said.
However, women must remember that birth control companies may put profit over their health. Women should do their own research and work together with their health care providers so they can play a role in finding a safe and effective birth control method.
Kayla Gomula is a freshman writing major who wants women to take action by learning more about birth control. E-mail her at [email protected].