Monday, November 21, 2005

Women's health and OC's

I wasn't too surprised to read the misinformation about the birth control pill in the November issue of Parents magazine. The point of the short feature was to clarify four common myths about taking OC's. Their points were: "1. taking the pill cuts your cancer risk… 2. it won't make you gain weight… 3. it may hurt your sex drive… [and] 4. you need to get plenty of calcium."

The first point made was a claim that the Pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, but that is only half of the story. In a July 2005 press release, the World Health Organization classified estrogen-progesterone birth control pills as "carcinogenic to humans." (Carcinogenic means "cancer-causing.") They also "stressed that there is no convincing evidence that oral contraceptives have a protective effect against some types of cancer." They go on to admit that OC's increase the risk of some cancers (breast, cervix and liver) while decreasing the risk of others (endometrial and ovarian). Because of this benefit and risk relationship, it is hardly responsible for only one side of the information to be given to women. Encouraging women to use OC's or for government-funded programs to push for their universal use is irresponsible and dangerous to women's health.

Combined with a past abortion, OC's become even more dangerous. In their booklet "Breast Cancer: Risks and Prevention," the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute says that "having an induced abortion, especially as a teenager or before you have a full term pregnancy, increases the risk [of breast cancer]. If you do have an abortion, taking hormonal birth control after an abortion will increase the risk further. However, having children and breastfeeding them will reduce the risk."

It is also worth mentioning that one of the causes of osteoporosis is "consuming an inadequate amount of calcium." On the flipside of a lack of calcium consumption is taking pills or treatments that have decalcification effect. It is interesting to note that breastfeeding actually has a this effect, but after a mother has weaned her child, her bones become more strong and more dense, lowering her overall risk of osteoporosis (unless she takes an OC or other chemical birth control method).

Why isn't this information shared with women?

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