Contraceptive Pills: Are They Really Safe?


No single pharmacological advancement or medical discovery has made a greater impact on the worldwide cultural landscape, as the invention of the Pill. Contraceptive pills have reshaped the sexual health of women throughout America, Europe, Australia and much of the Western world. The impact in regions like Africa and Asia has been equally important. As we enter the 21st century, a greater debate has arisen concerning the safety of the Pill and contraceptive birth control.

The Research Debate

Debate over the health effects over birth control pills is not new, but research studies were inconclusive or unsophisticated until recently. What has changed over time is the number of women using oral contraceptives, since first being introduced to the public in 1960. This was the first generation of women to use birth control pills, but little was known about the possible long term effects. Most women took the Pill, because it offered them freedom to lead sexually active lives without the fear of unplanned pregnancies.

As the numbers of women using the Pill have increased, more research has begun to debate the pros and cons of contraceptive safety. Both sides of this great debate have studies to back their individual findings, each claiming to have irrefutable arguments proving or denying the Pill and it’s safety. In 2002, studies from the Centers for Disease Control were published and stated more than 11.6 women currently used birth control pills. Today the debate is ongoing, as 80 percent of American women have used the Pill at some point in their lifetimes.

So what are the facts about the Pill? Are contraceptive pills safe for the millions of women using them everyday? And how does this impact the health of women worldwide?

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Positive Effects of Birth Control

The obvious positive effect of the Pill is it’s ability to suppress ovulation. The Pill uses estrogen and progestin to hinder the development of unfertilized eggs within women’s bodies. It also creates thicker cervical mucus, so that sperm are less likely to reach and fertilize a woman’s eggs. Other benefits associated with birth control pills include easing the symptoms of PMS, lessening female patterned hair loss, lowering the risk of multiple sclerosis and lesser risks for developing ovarian or uterine cancer. Recent studies have also found that the Pill maybe useful in the treatment of bulimia. Since bulimics have higher testosterone levels, taking the Pill increases estrogen levels and effectively treats tendencies associated with bulimia, but only in a small percentage of cases.

Risks Associated with Birth Control

The Pill has a number of risks associated with it, these include blood clotting, heart attacks and circulatory problems, especially with women over 35 who are smokers. Birth control pills are not the  recommended method of contraception for women with high blood pressure, certain blood disorders or hormonal abnormalities. Birth control pills maybe related to increased risk factors for cervical cancer and breast cancer, particularly in  pre-menopausal women. Although certain studies indicate that these levels return to normal in females that stop using oral contraception for a 10 year period. In contrast to this theory, the same research indicates that oral contraception decreases risk factors that are associated with ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Sexual Dysfunction and Birth Control

Despite the great debate concerning oral contraceptives and a variety of potential side effects, much documentation proves that birth control pills directly impact the female sexual health. Using oral contraceptives has been linked to sexual dysfunction in women all over the world, but only recently has been studied due to medical stereotypes that attributed such complaints as psychological problems, rather than being legitimate sexual health issues. Oral contraceptives can be linked to diminished states of arousal, lower sex drive, decreased vaginal lubrication, inability to achieve an orgasm, unpredictable menstrual bleeding and painful intercourse. It is important for women to understand that most problems associated with both oral contraception and sexual dysfunction in women are related. Women currently using birth control pills and experiencing any symptoms sexual dysfunction should be evaluated by their personal physician, pharmacist or other parties involved in their birth control prescription. This is the best way to avoid any long term complications, side effects and risk factors, before continuing to use oral birth control methods further.

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The Informed Choice

Often the convenience, effectiveness and availability make oral contraception a preferred method of birth control, but not all women are the same. What makes using the Pill ideal for some women, makes oral birth control a dangerous health risk for other females. All women should recognize the potential benefits and risks associated with birth control. Oral contraceptive pills are only one form of birth control, so many other methods do exist which are just as effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy and providing safer sex alternatives. Women have more choices and options available to them today, but only when taking an active role in their personal health.

Most users of contraceptive pills report positive effects, but just as many experience some issues related to hormonal adjustments, weight gain and other minor side effects. All women have individually unique bodies, so using oral contraceptives will be more or less effective in each case. In rare cases, the Pill is sometimes ineffective as a method successful birth control, due to unique sexual problems. Therefore, all women using birth control pills should get regular checkups and advisement from their physician, pharmacist and trusted health professionals.

When weighing the pros and cons of contraception, remember that all women are not the same. Understanding the individual health of any woman, requires that she is an active participant in her unique holistic health care process. This can only be done, when an individual is not just willing make decisions about their personal health and well being, but be able to make an informed choice. Discuss the risks and benefits with other women, family members and your health care providers. It is important to be proactive about all health decisions, including taking the Pill. Safe sex isn’t just avoiding unwanted pregnancy, it’s about enjoying life and staying healthy for a lifetime.

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Contraceptive Pills: Are They Really Safe?
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