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The dark side of birth control

By: Uendjii Kandang

For those of us who have been blessed with a uterus, there’s also the brunt of having to deal with menstruation.

And sometimes bleeding monthly can become such an enervating thing that we seek ways to deal with it, such as turning to birth control for help.

We often hear slogans such as, “The implant helps with period cramps” or “The pill decreases your flow,”, as the panacea to a wide variety of challenges experienced during menstrual cycle.

Relying on the recommendations of medical professionals, the reviews of peers, and positive narrations produced by a swift search on Google, we proceed to put these hormones into our bodies.

And of course, the benefits lead the rhetoric.

Besides the common uses of birth control, which are to prevent unwanted pregnancies and, more popularly, to deal with menstruation, it can also be used by anaemic patients to help with blood retention because losing blood during menstrual cycles directly impacts their iron levels. Even people with severe acne and oily skin conditions are prescribed hormonal birth control.

One thing I should emphasize is that women don’t just take birth control because they have nothing else left to do with their lives. Some take it because they feel like they have no other option. Birth control is presented to us as a cure-all.

But in reality, it opens up a whole world of side effects and long-term complications. And this is the kind of conversation which eludes the attention and comprehension of many women.

So, on the one hand, we benefit by not falling pregnant, our skin clearing up, having a lighter flow, and maybe, maybe adding a little weight in the right places.

The negative effects, though, can be devastating. We deal with mood swings, heightened anxiety and depression, excessive weight gain or loss, vomiting, hypertension, abdominal pain, nausea, severe headaches, acne, blood clots (primarily in the legs), and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. These are just to name a few.

Another thing not widely known is that if you’re taking rifampicin-like antibiotics, you should use alternative birth control because the antibiotics will make the birth control pill less effective, which may result in an unplanned pregnancy.

The implant, the injections, namely Depo-Provera and Norethisterone, and the oral contraceptives may also lead to an increase in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, what we can be sure of is that it’s exacerbated by hormonal imbalances, i.e., an increase in the androgen hormone.

These imbalances cause ovarian cysts, irregular bleeding, trouble falling pregnant (related to infertility when one is actually trying to fall pregnant), endometrial cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
PCOS often goes undiagnosed and, ergo, untreated. Pill-induced PCOS is the second most common, right after insulin-resistant PCOS. Pill-induced PCOS is a result of taking birth control pills, which suppress ovulation.
While there is no cure for PCOS, most health practitioners suggest hormonal birth control that contains both oestrogen and progestin to “band-aid” the symptoms.
Another long-term effect of the Depo-Provera injection is increased bone density, which may lead to osteoporosis. And once you get off the shot, prepare to bleed extensively as your body is readjusts and regulates itself.
Women deserve to know that there’s a possibility, albeit small, that the intrauterine device (IUD) could puncture their uterus and result in perforation. Perforation is a hole that has developed in the wall of a body organ. In this case, the hole that develops in the uterine lining may become infected and result in haemorrhage and even sepsis. Although it is on the rare side, it is increasingly common in women who are lactating or have recently given birth.
In conclusion, women take birth control to avoid falling pregnant, decrease bleeding, and ease painful periods, but on the other hand, we must deal with weight gain or loss, acne, increased chances of developing PCOS, infertility issues, and potential ovarian and endometrial cancer.
These adverse effects are detrimental to our health. And not enough people, including public health officials, are talking about it.

Staff Writer

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