Friday, October 5, 2012

Common myths and misunderstandings about contraception

By Gregory Allen


An undercover study, “Pharmacy Communication to Adolescents and Their Physicians Regarding Access to Emergency Contraception”, published by the journal Pediatrics found that 19% of American pharmacies are illegally preventing young women from obtaining the morning-after pill. The pill is legally available without a prescription to women 17 and older.

The study, conducted by Dr. Tracey Wilkinson and other doctors from Boston University, found that women received incorrect information from 19% of pharmacies and were denied access to Plan B. Doctors seeking permission for their patients, however, were given the correct information from the same pharmacies 97% of the time.

When false information is intentionally spread regarding contraception, it’s done so to deter people from using legal contraception some parties feel should be outlawed or made unavailable because of private personal beliefs. Obstacles like misinformation and denying access are designed to make the time-sensitive medication irrelevant.

Plan B One-Step is not the only contraception slandered and mislabeled, but it’s one of the most prominent. Some who oppose pills like Plan B One-Step do so because they feel the medication is equivalent to abortion. But, science does not support this perspective.

Scientific research reveals pills like Plan B One Step and Next Choice contain the hormone progestin, which is found in birth control. These pills do not prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterine walls, as many antagonists advertise.

Plan B prevents eggs from detaching from the ovaries. Morning-after pills delay ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching eggs. This research was recently validated by International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, who declared Plan B’s ingredients “impair ovulation,” and “do not inhibit implantation.”

Many myths stick to birth control. According to Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC who wrote for About.com, one of the most frequent misunderstandings regarding birth control holds “the pill is not safe and causes birth defects.”

While all medications may produce side effects, those related to the pill are rare, and according to Stacey, “It is actually safer to use the pill than to have a baby.” Stacey also cites there is no evidence currently linking the pill to birth defects, and is “one of the world's most researched and prescribed medications.”

Stacey also identifies other myths, like “the pill makes you gain weight” and “long term use can affect infertility” as lacking any genuine support. On infertility, Stacey cites “There is NO connection between taking the pill and infertility.”

Opponents often insist abstinence is a safe alternative to using the pill; abstinence is a highly ineffective replacement, and those who take abstinence pledges seem to miss the point.

Jessica Valenti explains in her book Full Frontal Feminism, “Recent studies have shown that teens who take virginity pledges are actually more likely to have oral and anal sex.”

Valenti provides other interesting statistics about misinformation regarding women’s health rights, “A 2006 report showed that 87% of ‘pregnancy crisis’ centers – which have received more than $30 million in federal funding – provided false or misleading information about abortion.”

Abstinence and deterring myths also disregard the medical benefits the pill provides. These benefits well deserve attention, as the pill can have many positive effects not related to contraceptive purposes.
Stacey supports this, “About 100 million women worldwide use the pill. For many women, their quality of life is better while taking the pill than when not.”

Data provided by Planned Parenthood illustrates birth control pills help “reduce menstrual cramps” and “make periods lighter,” as well as prevent against “acne, bone thinning, endometrial and ovarian cancers, serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus.”

For those interested in using the pill or Plan B, and those avoiding them because of misinformation, it’s important to consult doctors and physicians who have access to scientific and medical data regarding contraception, rather than rumors spread by figures in popular culture, news, and media.

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