Student: Ronald Huereca
Date: 10/14/2004
Topic: Birth Control Alternatives

Introduction

When birth control showed up in the 1960s, it was hailed as a milestone for women. Women could now plan their periods and somewhat avoid unplanned pregnancies. Since the 1960s, when the Pill was introduced, birth control methods have evolved significantly. There are tried and true methods, such as the regular Pill, but there are other methods as well. As beneficial as birth control is, using birth control can have various side effects.

Summary

Birth control methods have long been used and are even mentioned in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 38:8-10). However, the commercial segment of birth control did not take off until the early 1960s when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pill. The popularity of the Pill soared, and by 1984, approximately 50 to 80 million women were taking the Pill (American Experience). Introduced in the 1980s was a product called ParaGard, which was a device that was inserted into the Uterus. The 1990s introduced the shot, and the new millennium has brought along such advents as the patch, and period-free pills.

Women today are swarmed with birth control alternatives. There are simply too many to choose from. Such alternatives include ParaGard, the patch, the shot, and the Pill. This article will discuss these alternatives as well as give some information regarding the side effects and impacts that birth control has on women today. The future of birth control will be discussed as well.

ParaGard, which was introduced in the 1980s, is a device made from soft, flexible plastic and copper. The device, measuring 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 3/8 inches long, is deigned to fit into the uterus comfortably. A doctor can install ParaGard during a routine visit and the device itself can last up to ten years. ParaGard is one of the few birth control methods that do not use hormonal therapy. The device does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, but is over ninety-nine percent effective. Furthermore, ParaGard is completely reversible. ParaGard does have side effects, however. ParaGard users have been known to be susceptive to in-use microwaves, and users generally have heavier periods during the first few months of use. Other complications include pelvic inflammatory disease, perforation of the uterus, and partial or full expulsion of the device. Even though the side effects can be severe, ParaGard has been used safely for over twenty years by over fifty million women worldwide (ParaGard Offers Women, 2004).

The patch was first introduced in the U.S. in 2002. A contraceptive patch, under the brand-name Ortho Evra, is used by more than four million women worldwide. The patch is a luxury for women used to taking the Pill. The patch does not need to be taken daily, but instead worn on the body in areas such as the arms, stomach, or buttocks. In research trials, only 15 out of 3,319 women got pregnant on the patch, thus proving the patch has 99.995% effectiveness in reducing pregnancy. The patch works by releasing estrogen and progestrogen through the skin. The patch must be worn consecutively for three weeks, with a week off to induce a menstrual cycle. The patch’s side effects include developing a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism (blood clot). A recent FDA study linked the patch with seventeen deaths, mostly due to blood clots. However, the risk of developing a blood clot by using the patch is slim, and the makers of Ortho Evra have released information that can decrease the chances of developing some of the more serious complications associated with the patch (Hope, 2004).

The second most requested method of birth control behind the Pill is Depo-Provera, a shot given every three months. The shot stops the ovaries from releasing an egg much like the Pill. Benefits of using the shot include less menstrual cycles, a three-month window between shots, and a reduced risk of pregnancy (Depo-Provera is 99.7% effective). Side effects include weight gain for seventy percent of users, irregular bleeding, headaches, nervousness, mood changes, decreased sexual desire, acne, hair loss, and back aches. An additional disadvantage is that women may not become fertile again until six to twelve months after discontinuing the shot. Advantages include that the shot is effective after twenty-four hours, and the shot may decrease the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers (Depo-Provera).

The Pill, first introduced in the 1960s, has not changed much in the way it is delivered. Women still take the pill for three weeks with one week being sugar pills. In fact, most pills come with twenty-one active tablets (which contain progesterone and estrogen), and seven placebos (Ginty, 2004). The placebos are in place to allow the body to have a menstrual cycle. The Pill is highly effective and prevents pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg (Hudson, 2004). Side effects of the Pill include blood clots, strokes, weight gain, and increased risk of breast cancer. New forms of the Pill, including a drug called Seasonale, reduces a woman’s menstrual cycle to four times a year (Ginty, 2004).

Problems with the Pill and other birth control methods, besides the side effects, are the long-term impacts of decreased menstrual cycles. Many doctors on one side will argue that decreased menstrual cycles harm a woman’s health, while doctors on the other side will argue that it actually benefits a woman’s health. While the question of whether or whether not birth control methods can affect a woman’s long-term health is in the air, the reason for the debate will be explained (Ginty, 2004). When taking birth control such as the Pill or patch, the body goes through a monthly withdrawal of the hormones usually received from continuous usage. This withdrawal causes the lining of the endometrian to shed, causing bleeding. Doctors call this a withdrawal bleed, or artificial period. This means that the woman is not going through a normal menstrual cycle. Other birth control methods prevent menstrual cycles from even occurring such as the new pills being introduced in the future. The danger of having no or artificial periods has yet to be proven, but will be argued by doctors for many years to come (Hudson, 2004).

The future of birth control includes a new form of the Pill called Librel. The product, when taken continuously, will significantly reduce, if not eliminate menstrual cycles in women. Librel will potentially help women who have severely heavy menstrual cycles, or need freedom from embarrassment in swimming pools, on vacations, or even on honeymoons (Hudson, 2004).

Significance of article

Birth control methods have been around since the beginning of humankind’s existence. With the commercial introduction of the Pill in the 1960s, many women have taken control of their menstrual cycles. Various birth control alternatives exist on the market today. Although there are obvious benefits to birth control, there are some serious side effects and the long-term impacts on birth control have yet to be discovered. With the advent of period-eliminating birth control methods, women can live life worry-free from the inconveniences of the natural menstrual cycle.

References

American Experience – The Pill – Timeline. Retrieved October 14, 2004 ,from here

Depo-Provera (3-Month Shot). Retrieved October 14, 2004, from here

Ginty, M.M. New Pills Launch Debate Over Menstruation. (2004, June 22). Retrieved September 28, 2004, from here

Hope, J. (2004, September 21). Birth control patch linked to 17 deaths and blood clot risk. Daily Mail,p. 14. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from ProQuest Newsstand database. (Document ID: 696522171).

Hudson, F. (2004, September 19). PERIODS CAN BE CUT TO JUST FOUR PER YEAR ; BUT SOME WOMEN AND A BOSTON PSYCHIATRIST AREN’T CONVINCED THAT THE PRODUCTS ARE SAFE.; BIRTH CONTROL PRODUCTS :[ALL Edition]. Wisconsin State Journal,p. D1. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from Business Dateline database. (Document ID: 695938301).

ParaGard Offers Women a Safe, Effective, Long Lasting Alternative to Hormonal Birth Control. (2004, September 27). Pr Newswire,1. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from Business Dateline database. (Document ID: 700457751).