Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Birth Control for Breakfast

I have taken to watching Rachael Ray in the mornings while I have my breakfast. The only reason for this is because I have a bit of an addiction to TV and she seems to be the only watchable thing on. I like her. She's fun and harmless and sometimes really funny.

This morning, the first thing on the show was a bit on how to choose the right birth control. And, surprise! It wasn't all that bad! The first thing the guest doctor said was that women need to realize that the only contraception option that protects against STI's is condoms. So, for a lot of women, condoms are an important choice - even if they are also using another method. Yeah! She also said that she and her husband of 14 years use condoms as their primary method. Yeah! Score one for the lovely and much maligned condom - saver of lives and preventer of unwanted little ones!

The whole thing was actually very good - she covered several different methods including two which are not hormonal: diaphragms and condoms. It's nice to hear someone talk about methods that don't screw with your body chemistry. They are very effective, inexpensive, and virtually free of side effects, and yet, we hardly ever hear about them when contraception is discussed in the media. Pills always seem to be the answer - and if not pills, some other method of getting hormones into your body.

The one thing I would have liked to see was more discussion about side effects. The doctor very briefly touched on the fact that hormonal contraceptives have side effects - with a fleeting mention of low libido. Women really need to know that these drugs (yes, virginia, they are drugs) have a lot of side effects that are very common and some of them are very serious. It's extremely important to talk to your doctor about whether you smoke, what other drugs you take, and if you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or migraines before you decide to take the pill or use the ring or patch. They never tell us that hormonal contraceptives can make you batshit crazy, or that they can kill your sex drive, or all of the other even more serious things that can happen. It's up to us to ask those questions and to run back to our doctors and demand answers if those things happen.

But, in the meantime, score one for Rachael Ray for a passable piece on sexual health. I thought it was kind of funny that after the birth control segment, she was going to show her audience how to make stuffed hot dogs. Too bad I missed that.


Margaret said...

Totally agree with you about the birth control thing. The side effects of hormonal contraception are usually downplayed, even by doctors. I had some terrible side effects when I was on the pill, including severe depression. The pill works for some women, but we really need to hear the whole story.

Brenda said...

I agreed completely - I was on the pill twice in my life. Both times I had major side effects that my doctors failed to warn my about. Both times these were issues that were already in my medical history that should have been discussed with me before putting me on the pill. I was not aware that it could aggravate my existing condition. I'm glad that we have the option of the pill - that was a huge step forward for women's reproductive rights. But we've come so much farther now. We've got to stop thinking that the pill is the only effective method.