A professor of mine at Marist (one of my favorites, actually) once said that no invention in the twentieth century changed our modern world so much as hormonal birth control. He may very well be right. After all, the introduction of hormonal birth control placed (HBC) sexual independence in the hands of women in a way they never experienced before. Families and individuals could for the first time accurately and safely decide how many children to have. HBC helped to fuele the women's liberation movement and feminism, allowed women to actively control their reproduction, and opened cultural doors in our society unheard of prior to its introduction. The Pill is, in short, amazing.
Last summer, I decided to go back on hormonal birth control, for the obvious reasons. My doctor, a young woman herself, prescribed Yaz. I had been on HBC before, Yasmin, and it had worked fine. When the need for the drug stopped being present, I stopped taking it, obviously. But this summer, I was prescribed Yaz. Without scaring anyone too graphically, the damn pills made me bleed for a month and a half straight. Every time I called my doctor, she told me that it would take time to adjust. I hardly think that is a worthy side effect for an adjustment period, but maybe that's just me...
Then, my hair started falling out. Not in clumps, but it was thinning noticeably (to me). Now, I'm not saying the Yaz caused my hair to fall out, but I eventually visited a dermatologist who told me anemia probably caused a bout of telogen effluvium, which is a fancy term for "your hair is falling out slightly, we don't know why, but it'll probably stop." I'm not going to say the Yaz caused this at all, but looking at the evidence, I just want to point out that a month and a half of constant blood loss might have some bearing on anemia. Just sayin'. Ahem.
I was peripherally aware of Yaz's legal problems while I was on it. Since I stopped taking it, all of this has caused me to wonder what in side-effect hell is the FDA smoking? How are drugs like this allowed on the market? Why was I pushed, and I was, into taking Yaz even when I voiced concerns about it to my doctor? Why isn't accurate, reliable, and personalized information about reproductive health choices available to women like me? It's enough to make me want to punch a baby. (I kid, I only punch toddlers and older.)
I've opted for alternative birth control now, I have a copper IUD, which prior to undertaking my own research, thought was a veritable death sentence. As it turns out, IUDs are actually one of the most reliable, widely-used form of birth control world wide, but due to the deaths associated with the Dalkon Shield in the 1970s, they never regained a share of the U.S. contraception market. So if Yaz has been attributed to the deaths of women taking it, why is it still out there? Why are women still taking it? And why aren't the risks associated with HBC enough to make us rethink how we approve and prescribe these drugs?
Women in America often lack in appropriate healthcare. In fact, Amnesty International and the World Health Organization have recently reported that the United States has worse mortality rates during childbirth than 40 other countries. American women are five times more likely to die during childbirth than their Grecian sisters. Can I get a "what the fuck"?
As US Amnesty executive director, Larry Cox, puts it, "Mothers die not because the United States can't provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women."
Apparently, my ovaries are worth jack shit in political capital. (So, to every woman out there who seems to think we don't need nationally subsidized healthcare, take note, madam.) And this is just a part of the greater issue surrounding Yaz. Was it just plain lack of political will that allows crappy, deadly, horrible drugs to flood the market? And worse yet, is it the same lack of political will (or worse yet, dare I say financial corruption) that promoted these deadly drugs to doctors, who in turn prescribed them to us?
So that leaves many of us with a conundrum of self-education. With all of these things in mind, we ladies are left in a position of veritable ignorance and yet great need. The information on what would work for the individual is out there, floating about in cyberspace and what have you, but that's not enough, if you ask me. (And you're not asking me, but I'm telling you anyway.) This information needs to be easy to access and available to all women. But if our doctors aren't going to do it, as they seem to be waxing the pharmaceutical companies' balls, who will? I can only relate my experience; I can't offer any expertise. I do think that American women still suffer a certain amount of shame and stigma when they take their own reproductive health into their own hands. The post I wrote about a month ago touched on how perverse our attitudes about sex really are.
So until we really sort this nonsense out, I'm going to try to stay on top of my own health, in all regards. After all, if I don't do it, no one else is going to, obviously.