Gender, Inequality

It’s time for male politicians to get their heads on straight when it comes to birth control

This is not just about the right to choose. It's about the rights to a healthy life.

Women have long used hormonal birth control methods for reasons other than birth control. Most hormonal contraceptives contain a combination of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone which develops and regulates our reproductive systems and secondary sex characteristics, and progestogen, another sex hormone that’s responsible for the production of ovaries and the placenta.

So when you recognize the fact that “birth control” methods are often used by women trying to conceive either immediately or at some point in the future, you have to reconsider whether anti-birth control policies really are about being “pro-life.”

Believe it or not, many women who have never had sex use birth control pills. In addition to inhibiting fertility, patches, pills, and rings are often used as a treatment for menstrual cramps, heavy periods, lack of periods, severe acne, and multiple reproductive and endocrine (hormonal) disorders. Here are some of the most common:

Here are some of the most common:

1. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

PCOS is the most common endocrine disorder among women ages 18 to 44; it affects anywhere between 8-20% of them worldwide. Its definition isn’t exact and many women live undiagnosed, but there are an estimated 5 million individuals with PCOS in the U.S. alone. Those with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that causes irregular menstruation, heavy periods, excessive body and facial hair, acne, and fertility issues. Hormonal birth control is often prescribed in order to fix hormone levels so as to alleviate these symptoms. PCOS can also result in mood disorders, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and endometrial cancer.

2. Endometriosis 


Endometriosis affects roughly 6-10% of women, most commonly those in their 30s and 40s. Those affected have tissue that is supposed to grow inside of the uterus, instead grows outside of it, most commonly on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and around the ovaries and uterus. As a result, 70% of those with endometriosis experience extreme pain during their periods, while almost half also have chronic pelvic pain. Nearly half of those diagnosed with endometriosis are also diagnosed with infertility, although 25% never experience any symptoms whatsoever. Hormonal birth control will temporarily prevent periods and therefore improve those cramps and pelvic pain.

3. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)


PMS, the bane of many a woman’s existence, can get so severe in some women that only prescribed medication helps. PMS is characterized by mood swings, acne, bloating, breast soreness, and weight gain that make an appearance up to two weeks before your period. A doctor may prescribe birth control medication in order to improve these symptoms by balancing out hormone levels and preventing ovulation.

4. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)


Primary ovarian insufficiency, or premature ovarian failure (POF), is when a woman’s ovaries cease to function before she reaches the age of 40, as a result of low estrogen. Women with POI experience menopausal symptoms even more severely than older menopausal women, such as irregular menstruation, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, inability to focus, decreased libido, and difficulty getting pregnant, Affecting approximately 1% of women, it can occur as a result of radiation or chemotherapy, autoimmune disorders, or genetic disorders such as Turner Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. Birth control hormones prescribed to those with POI work to regulate menstruation and maintain bone health.

Each one of these reproductive disorders also has psychological effects, and it is not unheard of for affected women to also be diagnosed with anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. In addition to treating these disorders, hormonal birth control also decreases your likelihood of anemia, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, or ovarian cysts.

When an employer, lawmaker, or insurance company tries to limit a woman’s access to birth control medication, they are not just interfering with a woman’s rights to her own body. They are also causing undue harm and hardship on women who are trying to have babies and women who are just trying to live their lives. This is not about just a woman’s right to choose. It’s about her right to live a healthy life.

And I do not for one second think that they are completely unaware of this. Women’s healthcare has a long history of being neglected and dismissed. Despite the number of women affected by the disorders that I have mentioned, lack of research has led to a relative dearth of information and, therefore, effective treatment. Women have simply never been a priority for the healthcare industry, nor have they been for lawmakers. However, the intense opposition to hormonal birth control tells me that, far from lack of concern, there’s a downright contempt for women’s health care.

Birth control is just their excuse.