Women love sex every bit as much as men. It’s a simple fact that I think it’s time we acknowledged. Moreover, lots of us enjoy sex very much without the desire to currently hand over our womb as living quarters for a human fetus. A super-cute puppy? Sure, maybe. But human babies are a lot of work, and sometimes we want to get it on in a monogamous relationship and don’t want to deal with leaky boobs, diapers, and spit up right now. That’s okay! We have options!
Condoms, for example, are a great way to not get pregnant. But what if the idea of reaching for a rubber in the heat of passion fills you with frustration and annoyance? What if that doesn’t fit your lifestyle or relationship with your partner? (However we always advocate the use of condoms outside of a monogamous relationship as they are the only way to prevent infection and disease.) Enter the birth control pill.
One of the most important inventions in the history of the female fight for equality, birth control pills gave us the ability to make decisions about our body that empowered us to take on better jobs, have better sex lives, and have sex just because we felt like it.
They’re amazing, they’re easy, and they come in so many varieties that there’s a pill for just about everyone. But are they as safe as we assume they are?
If the only side effect of birth control you ever think about is the fact that it keeps you from getting pregnant, you are not alone. Most of us gratefully accept our prescriptions and go running to the pharmacy without a second thought. My pants are already around my ankles—let’s DO THIS!
But wait! There’s more! Birth control pills can come with a whole host of complications that can mean real danger to otherwise healthy women. According to the CDC, 10.7 MILLION women in America alone are using birth control pills. Even if complications are relatively rare (approximately 1 in 300o women will experience a dangerous side effect), in a sample group of 10.7 million, that’s still a lot of healthy women at risk.
The most significant risks to women taking hormonal contraception are cardiovascular in nature. This means blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, and deep vein thromboses. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, adding estrogen, which is found in most birth control pills, to a woman’s body means a 300-400% increase in risk of developing a dangerous blood clot. Blood clots are responsible for heart attacks and strokes, and this risk goes up alarmingly to a 3000% chance if the woman taking birth control pills is also a smoker. The FDA recently announced a stronger warning label for birth control pills containing drospirenone due to increased stroke and blood clot risks. The maker of Yaz, a popular birth control pill (containing drospirenone) is currently paying $110 million dollars in damages as the result of a class action lawsuit over the pill and damages caused by related blood clots.
There are also studies that taking hormonal contraceptives increases risk of developing breast, cervical, or liver cancers. These risks must be taken hand-in-hand with the studies that show taking hormonal birth control reduces risk of endometrial or uterine cancers, however. If you are already in a high-risk group for breast cancer or cervical cancer, this may be something you want to take into consideration before jumping aboard the BC Wagon.
To be sure, birth control is a beautiful thing for many of us. I’ve been taking it for close to 15 years, and potentially, as a result, have prevented, like, 17 pregnancies. That’s 17 toddlers not currently coloring on my floor with the one toddler that I planned and conceived thus far. Win! More seriously, make sure that you’re taking to heart the risks involved with birth control pills. Consider your family history of clots/cancers/and cardiovascular disease. Talk to your doctor. Read the pamphlets. Educate yourself on what you’re taking, because it’s ultimately *YOUR* body and your family planning that are at stake.
You can read more about the risks and benefits of birth control pills at CDC.gov and cancer.gov. Once you’re educated and protected, feel free to plan that romantic weekend away if you know what I mean…..
image via Creative Commons