Monday, November 2, 2009

Are birth control pills the best option?

From the New York Times: Nearly a third of women who start a new type of birth control stop within a year, according to one recent study, largely because of changes in their insurance coverage. All methods have some side effects. And the current crop of intrauterine devices, or IUD’s, despite having a nearly perfect efficacy rate, have been slow to catch on, experts say, partly because more doctors need to be trained in inserting them. As a result, whether to promote their particular brand or to encourage better compliance, many birth control manufacturers and doctors are promoting the noncontraceptive benefits of contraception. Whether it’s reducing the risk of cancer, improving the health of mothers-to-be, easing cramps or enhancing complexion, it’s nice to have a medical excuse for using birth control.

Hormonal contraceptive methods use manufactured estrogen and progestin in different combinations and deliver them in a variety of ways — through pills, shots, skin patches, implants, IUDs and vaginal rings. Studies have shown that all those methods reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Some may also help protect against osteoporosis.

Using contraception can also give women a chance to get healthy before they conceive — to stop smoking, lose weight or lower their blood sugar.

Today’s marketing of the “no-bleed” or “extended regimen” pills, all variations on the original pill, plays down the breakthrough bleeding that can occur, according to some skeptics. And while some advocates argue that these newer contraceptive techniques are likely to cause no long-term problems since, historically, women spent most of their reproductive years either pregnant or nursing so had far fewer menstrual periods than women today, the health effects of going for months or even years without a period remain unknown.

I haven't decided which birth control method is best for me long term. I would love to know what you are using and why. It seems like there are risks and benefits to all of them. A part of me says being on hormonal birth control for the next 15 years probably isn't the best thing for my body.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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