The Controversy Over NuvaRing and Why Birth Control Will Never Be for Me

birthI’m almost 37 years old and I’ve never taken birth control. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Anything that jacks with my body’s normal functions kind of freaks me out.

Except for my Doritos. You can pry those out of my cold, dead hands.

That’s what birth control does, you know. Jacks with your body in a most heinous way.

Most pills have synthetic forms of two female hormones: estrogen and progestin. That gets all up in your system and rejiggers everything to keep you from ovulating.

Specifically, according to Columbia.edu, synthetic estrogen in the pill works to:

  • Stop the pituitary gland from producing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) in order to prevent ovulation.
  • Support the uterine lining (endometrium) to prevent breakthrough bleeding mid-cycle.

Meanwhile, synthetic progestin works to:

  • Stop the pituitary gland from producing LH in order to prevent egg release.
  • Make the uterine lining inhospitable to a fertilized egg.
  • Partially limit the sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg.
  • Thicken the cervical mucus to hinder sperm movement (although this effect may not be key to preventing pregnancy).

Let’s talk about the side effects of birth control pills. Common ones include: nausea, weight gain, sore or swollen breasts, spotting between periods, and mood changes. And those are considered the good ones. As WebMD notes, some side effects can be severe. They include: stomach pain, chest pain, migraines, blurred vision and swelling or aching in the legs and thighs. These could indicate a serious disorder, such as liver disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, or heart disease.

On second thought, ovulating is nice! Even when I don’t want babies. Give me ovulation any day! But stopping ovulation isn’t the only way birth control pills work. According to RXlist.com, “The progestin or synthetic progesterone in birth control pills also changes the physical and chemical environment of the female reproductive tract, making it hostile for sperm.”

Leave the environment of my reproductive tract alone! Condoms aren’t that bad. It amazes me how conscientious some people are about their diet but have no problem ingesting truckloads of hormones every year with stuff in them you can’t even begin to pronounce.

Etonogestrel/Ethinyl estradiol.

That’s the real name for a birth control product you know better as NuvaRing. You might have seen the cutesy commercials featuring women in bathing suits celebrating NuvaRing. But, as Jezebel reports, thousands of women don’t think there is much to celebrate when it comes to NuvaRing.

Vanity Fair published a scary article about the contraception, “Why Is Potentially Lethal Contraceptive NuvaRing Still on the Market?” It’s about 24-year-old Erika Langhart who died suddenly in 2011 after multiple heart attacks on Thanksgiving. It’s important to note that her death was never linked to NuvaRing but when her mother told the ER doctor she was using one, he said, “I thought so, because she’s having a pulmonary embolism.”

Once is one time too many but, as it turns out, embolisms and blood clots are happening to a lot of women who use NuvaRing (and other birth control options) many of whom are now suing Merck, the makers of NuvaRing. As Jezebel points out, “Most hormone-based birth control comes with a warning about blood clots, but as the (Vanity Fair) article points out, would women still use NuvaRing if they knew that the F.D.A. had determined that there was a fifty-six percent increased risk of blood clots when it was compared with birth-control pills using earlier forms of progestin?”

NuvaRing isn’t the only birth control drug being investigated by the F.D.A. As WebMD notes, “the FDA is investigating birth control pills that contain drospirenone, including YAZ and Yasmin. (According to this website ‘Bayer, the manufacturer of the birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin, and their generic versions Gianvi and Ocella, has announced settlements of 6,760 claims in Yaz birth control lawsuits totaling $1.4 billion.’) The F.D.A.’s decision to investigate those birth control drugs is based on two new studies that suggest an increased risk for blood clots in women taking pills containing drospirenone, a man-made version of the hormone progesterone. Other brands containing drospirenone include Beyaz, Safyral, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Syeda, and Zarah.”

It’s certainly worth noting that Merck made $623 million in NuvaRing sales last year, so I don’t imagine it going anywhere any time soon. I’m sure YAZ and Yasmin, and all the other drugs are raking in millions as well, so it’s safe to assume they’re here to stay.

But, does it really matter? If you use NuvaRing or any other form of birth control you should be well aware of the potentially harmful effects to your body. It’s no different, in my opinion, then any other crazy drug advertised on television promising to easy your backache, headache, leaky this or that but, oh yeah, side effects may include nervousness, acne, rash, increased appetite, hyperactivity, frequent urination, diarrhea, removes intestinal flora, leg pain/cramps, sensitive teeth, difficulty controlling emotions (ha!), difficulty in maintaining train of thought, weight gain, facial swelling, depression, mania, psychosis, or other psychiatric symptoms, unusual fatigue or weakness, mental confusion, indecisiveness, blurred vision (Wait! aren’t we trying to FIX my eye?), abdominal pain, ulcers, infections, painful hips or shoulders, bone-thinning, stretch marks, long-term migraines, insomnia, severe joint pain, cataracts or glaucoma, anxiety, black stool, stomach pain or bloating, severe swelling, mouth sores or dry mouth.

A year or two goes by and it’s then announced that people who take these drugs are dying, class action lawsuits are happening, and is anyone really surprised?

Point is, it’s up to you to decide whether putting all that crap in your body is worth not wearing a condom. For me, the answer always has been, and always will be (Doritos) an emphatic NO, and I will make sure my daughter is fully informed before she makes her own decisions as well.

Image: dietwebreport.com

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