Every year on March 8 we celebrate International Women’s Day. It is a time to reflect on the extraordinary achievements of women around the world and throughout history. There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but it is also important to recognize how far we have come. In the US we are quite privileged to enjoy freedoms that many women in other parts of the world don’t. Education, the ability to vote, drive work, share our opinions publicly, and many more. One issue that is still being debated quite heavily, however, is reproductive rights for women.
Almost a year ago we saw how the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a privately owned business which did not want to provide certain types of contraceptive for its female employees due to their religious beliefs. By the close of the SCOTUS 2015 session in June a decision will be made in this year’s landmark case King v Burwell which is set to change the landscape of healthcare and repro rights drastically.
We hear many politicians go on and on about this issue, completely taking away the perspective of the individual woman and ignoring the blatant scientific and medical facts when it comes to birth control. In some third world countries, access to birth control is a life-saving product.
Who is in charge of our decisions as women when it comes to birth control decisions? It is the Federal government? The State? Our employers? Religious institutions? Politicans? Lawyers? Parents? Let’s say that all these variables were taken out of the equation and it was simply an issue discussed by a doctor and his or her patient, what would we think of birth control then?
In honor of International Women’s Day 2015 and the continual fight for autonomous rights to birth control in America we decided to create that world for our readers and talk to a medical doctor, a practicing OB-GYN in fact, to get a perspective which SHOULD be the most dominant voice in this conversation.
Let there be no confusion about this issue, the right to have access to birth control and have the ability plan a family is one of the most progressive and important breakthroughs of our history as women.
The CDC recently published a study about the increased use of long-acting reversible contraception amongst women, so it was only fitting that we asked Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a partner and full-time practicing OB/GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York, who has a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition from Columbia University and her MD from Drexel University in Philadelphia and who is also the author of “V is for Vagina: Your A to Z guide to Periods, Piercings and Pleasures & so much more” about some of the findings of this study, how it is relevant to young women today, and why there is a huge need for more education when it comes to birth control in light of all the confusing information being peddled by politics and other institutions.
How will you be celebrating International women’s day this year?
I feel as though I’m fortunate to celebrate the meaning of International Women’s Day every day both professionally and personally. Women’s health is vital in helping us all to achieve our goals with both educational and professional aspirations as well as personal and family planning. I am excited to empower women when it comes to their health and family planning choices. As an ob/gyn, I’m honored to assist and guide countless women in achieving their goals by providing them with healthcare and counseling, so they may reach their aspirations.
We live in a time where women enjoy many more freedoms than other women in the past, but we still have a long way to go. One of the big fights for women in America is birth control. Why do you think this is still such a contentious issue?
Awareness and education about the numerous safe and reliable options available to women is vital. In addition, the importance of insuring women have access to affordable, safe and effective contraception cannot be stressed enough. The Affordable Care Act and newer medical recommendations are addressing these very issues. Oddly enough, the US has one of the highest unintended pregnancy rates in the world, despite its wealth and available options for contraception.
The CDC just released a new report on the trends in long-acting reversible contraception use in women aged 15-44. What were some of the most surprising findings from the study?
Specifically, the study revealed three exciting findings. First, the use of LARCs (long acting reversible contraceptives) has increased fivefold in the last decade in this age group. In addition, women who have had at least one birth use LARCs at a higher rate than those who have had no prior births, and this difference has increased over time. Finally, the percentage of women using LARCs has remained highest among 25-34 year-olds when compared to 15-24 or 35-44 year-olds.
Compared to other developed and western countries, contraception use in America is fairly low amongst women (17%). Why is this so low?
This is true in fact, in other countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands IUD use is just over 20% and contraceptive pill use 40% while in the US only 5% use the IUD and only 17% use the pill. Researchers suggest that the contraceptive prevalence rate will increase worldwide. Again access, affordability, awareness and education are vital.
Those not covered can seek assistance through company sponsored programs like Bayer’s ARCH patient assistance program. Bayer recently launched the ARCH (Access and Resources for Contraceptive Health) Program, a patient assistance program for IUDs. The ARCH program provides the long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) products Skyla and Mirena at no cost to up to 25,000 eligible women in the U.S. who can’t afford them.
What exactly is a long-acting reversible birth control method and how it is beneficial to women of child-bearing age?
Long acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods include the intrauterine device (IUD) and the birth control implant. Both methods are highly effective, last for several years, are easy to use and reversible. In other words, if you want to become pregnant or if you want to stop using them, they can be removed at any time.
In America women’s reproductive rights are so politicized it can be a very confusing issue to navigate for young women. What would you say to young women looking to get advice on whether it is right or wrong?
Contraception is a big decision and women and their partners should discuss the issue with each other and with her doctor to make the best individual choice for her. There is no one right choice for everyone. I counsel my patients based on their personal needs and medical history.
Birth control and even abortion clinics are painted as evil baby-killing institutions, but the reality is so different. What do you say to critics of these methods?
Studies show that IUDs like Mirena and Skyla may prevent pregnancy by thickening cervical mucus, inhibiting sperm from fertilizing an egg and altering the lining of the uterus. Neither Skyla nor Mirena are indicated for emergency contraception and healthcare providers should rule out pregnancy prior to insertion.
Globally, the situation is very different. Birth control and being able to choose when to have a baby is a matter of life and death in some third world countries. What are some of the major benefits of birth control for women there?
The benefits of birth control, be here in the US or globally still share a common theme. Women’s health plays a critical role in empowering women to take charge of their health in regard to family planning.
Is birth control an ethical issue or a health issue in your opinion?
Contraception might be the right option for many patients, but as stated in an earlier question, it’s a big and very personal decision. Women and their partners need to discuss with each other and her physician to arrive at the right choice based on personal needs and medical history. There is no one right choice for everyone.
What are some of the common birth control options that women can choose from?
There are a number of birth control options available such as the pill, condoms, the patch, the IUD, and sterilization, among others.
It is easy to get swept up in the media hype especially with big news stories like the Hobby Lobby case and Sandra Fluke’s argument for free birth control. What advice do you give to women who are looking for intelligent information?
I encourage women to speak to their healthcare providers about the best options based on their individual medical history and personal preferences and situations. Bayer HealthCare has long supported advocacy organizations to educate patients on family planning information, education and access and to assist low income uninsured women to gain access to IUDs.
We hope this interview will shed some light on the questions you may have about certain types of birth control and the statistics surrounding it. Birth control is a personal decision and we encourage you not to get caught up in the political and media hype, but talk to your doctor or OB-GYN to get the correct information about the choices that are right for you.