Saturday, January 28, 2012

MEDICINE : Sex on the Pill (What Should be Common Knowledge)

Sasha Martin

"I want to tell you a terrific story about oral contraception.  I asked this girl to sleep with me and she said, 'No'."  ~Woody Allen

Though saying "no" is also an option, saying "yes" has been made much easier with the use of birth control. This article will mainly focus on the Pill, but it is important to realize that different forms of birth control have been in use for thousands of years. Documented use of birth controls goes as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. In 1850 BC, recorded on brittle papyrus was a concoction for spermicide using acacia gum. This substance is now used in many contraceptive foams. The same piece of papyrus reveals a method very similar to the modern-day diaphragm: honey and sodium carbonate was poured inside the vagina to hold steady a makeshift pessary (often the pessary was made of crocodile dung). Thankfully, throughout the years major improvements have been made to forms of birth control. No longer must we resort to crocodile dung! 

In the fifties, when birth control first came around in the United States, the Pill was much less forgiving than it is today, causing mood swings, acne, bloating, maybe even kankles. As the Pill has been more and more refined, women can find the Pill best suited to their unique body. Now, we can't blame mood swings on the pill as readily; no more, "Sorry babe, I didn't mean to start crying and yelling in the middle of the super market! It's the Pill, I swear. My hormones are all off." Because now we have brands, such as LoEstrin Fe or Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, with lower amounts of estrogen. 

No longer do we bloat or break out. In fact, many women have reported to be more energetic on the pill. And, as many of us know, the Pill is now used as a prescription to help with bad acne, rather than making the skin worse. While taking low hormone birth controls, periods become lighter, and low hormone or no, the Pill makes periods much more predictable. Cramps also lessen while on the Pill. The placebo portion of the birth control pack, the time in which women ingest sugar pills and go through menstruation, has also been lessened to a week or even four days-- hardly any time at all! Some Pill packets hold off on the placebo for months (like Yaz), though it is still questionable how healthy such pills are. LoEstrin Fe seems to have the 'short and sweet'; there are only four days of placebo pills, and the placebo pills are iron supplements rather than sugar to avoid anemia.

Here is something surprisingly very little women know, though it is of the utmost importance: if you are taking birth control and an antibiotic simultaneously, the Pill's effectiveness is reduced for a period of time until the body can adjust. The process is explained by experts of the field as...

"Certain antibiotics can interact with birth control pills, making the birth control pills less effective and pregnancy more likely. Spotting - or ‘mid-cycle’ bleeding - may be the first sign that an antibiotic is interfering with the effectiveness of your birth control pills. Antibiotics that have been shown to interact with birth control pills include rifampin (brand name Rifadin), and to a lesser extent, penicillin (Veetids), amoxicillin (Amoxil), ampicillin (Omnipen), sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Septra or Bactrim), tetracycline (Sumycin), minocycline (Minocin), metronidazole (Flagyl), and nitrofurantoin (Macrobid or Macrodantin). To help women avoid pregnancy while taking an antibiotic - and for at least one week afterward - doctors generally recommend they use a condom or spermicide as a back-up method of birth control. If you are taking both antibiotics and birth control pills, be sure to check with your doctor about how long you should continue to use a back-up method" (Dickey, R.P). 

Another lesser known quality of oral contraceptives was revealed to me just last week. A UC Berkeley doctor recently explained that it is next to impossible to become pregnant while on the Pill. Even if you were to become pregnant on the pill, it is very unlikely for this pregnancy to last. The Pill, you see, also acts as an abortive agent. Though this view is controversial and still being researched, there are many doctors who would agree. Knowing that the Pill might not just be a contraceptive device, but an abortive agent too is something women should know so that each might have the choice as to whether or not she is comfortable with such properties. Some may consider it a blessing in disguise while others may revert back to condoms, however less pleasurable. 

It is extremely important to remember to check what our medications are capable of, side effects and all, and to research what might interfere with the medicinal drugs we ingest. When you meet with your doctor ask questions and make sure you understand the full gravity of the drug, as well as the precautions. Do research to insure you know everything about the medication! 

Now, I'll leave you to celebrate the progression of science: cheers to no longer relying on crocodile dung to keep from getting pregnant!

Sources:Dickey, R.P. Managing Contraceptive Pill Patients. EMIS Inc.,1998. Hansten, P.D, J.R. Horn. Drug Interactions Analysis and Management, Applied Therapeutics, 2000.Dipiro, J,T, Pharmacotherapy A Pathophysiologic Approach. Fourth Edition. Appleton &Lange. 1999.Health. “Birth Control Pills”. Mayo Clinic Health. 

Also, see if you are wondering why antibiotics reduce the Pill's effect.

    The Woman Behind Unleashed and the Words                       
   I am a Practice of Art Major and Creative Writing Minor at UC Berkeley. My passions are writing and the arts in general. I created Unleashed for the empowerment and enlightenment of women everywhere. I am the editor, designer and contributing writer. I truly hope this magazine speaks to each and every woman.   Sasha Martin                                                             

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