I was stunned to see the May 3rd issue of Time magazine. Their cover story was the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. The subtitle read So small, so powerful, and so misunderstood. The misunderstood really grabbed my attention, as I expected to read a great discussion on the medical implications of taking the pill.
Instead, the article covered the social and feminist changes the pill brought about. As fascinating as this perspective was, I was shocked that they barely touched on the medical issues surrounding this form of birth control. In fact, the only real reference to the medical side of the pill was to a March 2010 study from the British Medical Journal, which found that women on the Pill live longer and are less likely to die prematurely of all causes, including cancer and heart disease. It goes on to read yet many women still question whether the health risks outweigh the benefits. However, the article never discusses those risks.
I found this particularly surprising, given that one of the March 2010 issues of the same publication discussed the study in detail, which explained that the study was on women who at taken the Pill at some point in their lives. Interestingly, the March Time article goes on to read Women who take birth control pills do need to consider potential risks, including an increased risk for blood clots, and should discuss their medical histories with their doctors prior to taking the pill.
Additionally, the author included advice from gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Katharine O’Connell White, who told the magazine in an earlier article that women who have high blood pressure, migraines with aura, are smokers over age 35 and women with a personal or family history of blood clots should not take the pill. Where was all this discussion in the May article that was supposed to be discussion the misunderstanding of the Pill?
Clearly, the author of the May 3rd article was a proponent of the Pill and wanted to discuss the social impact it has had. I get that. However, I find it irresponsible to refer to the March study and not discuss the risks of taking the Pill.
What the author failed to discuss is the increased risk of breast, cervical, and uterine cancers from the Pill. Or the danger of developing blood clots or increasing your risk of heart attack. I personally cannot take the Pill because of a blood clotting disorder I have, and the increased estrogen levels the Pill provides worsens the condition. Plus, as Dr. Lark has written, the Pill can actually impair reproductive healthparticularly in younger women with a poorly established menstrual cycle who use it as a PMS treatment.
Additionally, there is currently not a bioidentical birth control pill, which means that all oral contraception is comprised of synthetic hormones rather than your own natural female hormones. And, as we now know from traditional hormone replacement therapy, synthetic hormones are bad medicine for women.
So, while I appreciate the freedom and control the Pill has given to women, for me, the real freedom and control will come when we cease to use women as guinea pigs and start offering safe, natural solutions that women can trust.