Myths on birth con­trol pills

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH - VIWE NDONGENI

CON­TRA­CEP­TIVE pills are used for var­i­ous rea­sons, from plan­ning a fam­ily to bal­anc­ing hor­mones and even in the treat­ment of acne-re­lated con­di­tions.

While the ben­e­fits of con­tra­cep­tives are many and var­ied, myths about them have cast a neg­a­tive light on the drugs in re­cent years.

Some peo­ple be­lieve that the use of con­tra­cep­tive pills may lead to in­fer­til­ity if used over a long pe­riod, while oth­ers think birth con­trol pills may re­sult in weight gain.

There’s also the false be­lief that some oral med­i­ca­tions may pre­vent sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions.

In South Africa, it’s es­ti­mated that around 65% of women are on some form of con­tra­cep­tion.

Tina Visser from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal group Bayer said there are women who still think that us­ing con­tra­cep­tion is “un­nat­u­ral”.

“Most women still think if you take them for long pe­riod it may cause in­fer­til­ity. While oth­ers think that it’s not safe and of­ten won­der what hap­pens to the blood when you don’t get your pe­riod,” said Visser.

But are con­tra­cep­tives safe? “Oral con­tra­cep­tives have been around for about 50 years. They’ve un­der­gone many im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing the de­crease of cer­tain hor­mones in some birth con­trol pills. They con­tinue to im­prove ev­ery day,” Visser said.

With ad­vances in med­i­cal re­search and devel­op­ment, con­tra­cep­tives have im­proved con­sid­er­ably over the years.

Women now have a much wider choice, in­clud­ing implants, in­tra-uter­ine de­vices (IUDs) and in­jec­tions.

How­ever, the use of birth con­trol pills con­tin­ues to garner con­tro­versy.

Some stud­ies sug­gest they in­crease the risk of can­cers, such as breast can­cer.

A study con­ducted in 2017 by the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan re­vealed that some com­monly pre­scribed birth con­trol pills may quadru­ple lev­els of syn­thetic oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone hor­mones, which may re­sult in breast can­cer.

Visser said there was strong ev­i­dence that showed oral con­tra­cep­tives do not cause ovar­ian can­cer, but have ac­tu­ally proven to de­crease the risk of ovar­ian can­cer and en­dome­trial can­cer.

Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­na­tional sur­vey by Ge­sellschaft für Kon­sum­forschung (So­ci­ety for Con­sumer Re­search) which sur­veyed 208 mil­lion preg­nan­cies around the world, 41% were found to be un­planned preg­nan­cies, with nearly half of th­ese un­planned preg­nan­cies end­ing up in abor­tion.

An es­ti­mated 33 mil­lion un­in­tended preg­nan­cies each year were a re­sult of con­tra­cep­tive fail­ure or in­cor­rect use.

‘They’ve un­der­gone many im­prove­ments’

At least 65% of women in South Africa are on some form of con­tra­cep­tion.

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