Look Beyond Access – Demand Safe Birth Control
Fair warning, this may get ugly. I’m mad. Bayer just announced the next in a long line of dangerous hormonal birth control options the Skyla IUD. Though not much different from the currently embattled and lawsuit ridden Mirena (which tends to dislodge and cause hemorrhage among other things) and likely not much safer than their oral contraceptives – the Yasmin line ($700 million in lawsuit settlements and counting) – women’s health and feminist groups are jumping on the support bandwagon. Now younger women can get a (dangerous) IUD too (Skyla happens to be just a hair smaller than Mirena), yippee.
Wake up, ladies. Medical devices and pharmaceuticals are not shiny new iPads. We cannot blindly support and recommend each and every new product in this market.
The fight to give women access to birth control as a point of equality is dead on and much needed, but ignoring the safety issues and not demanding safer birth control options is just downright negligent. Advertising these birth control options without understanding the serious dangers makes us pawns of pharmaceutical industry and complicit in the deaths and injuries of the women who use these devices and medications.
Women need birth control options. I support that – wholeheartedly. I am a child of the 80s-90s when access to oral contraceptives was unquestioned. Access to birth control allowed me to compete against guys in my chosen sport, allowed me to date, to pursue academic and career goals without worrying about pregnancy. Easy access to oral contraceptives also, unbeknownst to me, elevated my blood pressure to dangerously high levels, caused progressively worse vertigo and syncope to the point of multiple hospitalizations, tests and desperation. I stopped taking oral contraceptives and all of the symptoms resolved. It wasn’t until years later that I understood the connection.
Like so many others, my physicians and I were blind to the legitimate dangers of hormonal birth control. Sure we’ve all read the package inserts (which are really the tip of the adverse event iceberg), but in a sort of cognitive dissonance we dismiss the side-effects as happening to someone else or as something to be tolerated in exchange for our freedom. Physicians often downplay the dangers hormonal birth control, even today, as more research comes to light.
Imagine, pregnancy versus possible death from cardiac arrest, stroke or a myriad of other adverse events; that is the choice we make daily when using hormonal birth control. We shouldn’t have to make that choice. As educated women and modern feminists we must be able to distinguish between fighting for the absolute right to have access to birth control from a stance that says all birth control options are good and safe. The later is most certainly not the case.
Not all contraceptives are created equal. Some really and truly, should not be on the market. Even among the safer birth control options, there are dangers. We should be fighting for more research, for better and safer birth control options and not promoting each new pill or device that comes on the market. Just because it’s new and the makers say it is safe does not make it so. The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of publishing only positive results for their products (here, here, here) and paying physicians to promote their products. If ever there were a buyer beware, it would be here – with birth control.
Finally, we should be boycotting companies like Bayer who continue to put women’s lives at risk. We boycotted Rush Limbaugh and the Koch brothers for their anti-women statements, why are we not as aggressive when it comes to companies that seriously injure women? At the very least, we should not be promoting their latest, greatest assault on women’s health. Bayer is the maker of the Yasmin line of birth control, arguably the most dangerous line of oral contraceptives on the market. Bayer is also the maker of Mirena, the hormonal IUD with on-going class action lawsuits due to serious adverse events. Skyla is almost equivalent to Mirena and is simply repackaging and re-branding of that old, soon to be off-patent, dangerous IUD. It is neither new nor innovative and it remains to be seen whether it is any safer. What are we doing ladies?
Post Script: Hormones MatterTM is taking the safety of birth control into its own hands. We find it unacceptable that the adverse events of many birth control options are poorly understood, that medication interactions are not investigated and that oral contraceptives (like many other medications in women’s health) are regularly prescribed for uses for which there are no data to support their efficacy. We are conducting our first of many studies on oral contraceptives and women’s health issues. If you have ever used oral contraceptives, whether you had any side-effects or not, please take the Oral Contraceptives Survey. Another woman’s life may depend upon it.
About us: We are an unfunded company, committed to improving women’s health through research. We believe so strongly in the need for better research that rather than wait for funding, we’re doing the research anyway. We are crowdsourcing this research and would be much appreciative if you would also share the link throughout your social media networks. To take another health survey, click: Take a Health Survey.
To suggest a survey, help create a survey, write a guest post or otherwise get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org