by S. Fenella Das Gupta, Ph.D., Neuroscience
It’s strange to think that these three things- birth control, your wallet and your health would be linked, but in today’s socioeconomic climate they form a nice interweaving mesh.
It begins with the revolution that’s now occurring in our health care system, which ultimately affects both your wallet as well as your health. That revolution comes in the form of the Affordable Care Act.
As part of the Act, American women recently began to have access to free family planning. This means that insured women no longer have to pay a co-pay or deductible for birth control pills, pap smears or mammograms. Free breast-feeding support, supplies for pregnancy-related diabetes (gestational diabetes), and even screening for domestic violence are all free of charge.
For decades now, birth control pills have been at the center of heated debates, including whether or not they should be free. If the average household income for working adults is less than $75,000, and many reporting that they simply can’t afford to raise a baby, free is a great option… See! Good for your wallet.
With the price of parenthood too high for some, many women choose to stay on oral contraception for much longer than they intended but then worry about the implications of that option. So, is good for your wallet also good for your fertility health? There’s some confusion about that issue.
Talk to different women, and you’ll get different answers. Some will swear their years on the Pill ultimately helped them conceive by making their cycles more regular. Others are convinced that the synthetic hormones must have wreaked havoc with their cycles - delaying their pregnancy.
So what’s fact, what’s fiction? Here’s some fertility awareness-
Overall, the pill is extremely effective at inhibiting fertility in the short term only. With the evidence showing no long-term impact on fertility. A review of studies conducted last year comparing reversible forms of contraception found between 79% and 96% of women were able to get pregnant in the 12 months after they stopped taking the pill.
So for the vast majority of women, it’s a myth that the Pill will affect your ability to conceive permanently. In fact, it can protect against some fertility problems as it suppresses the symptoms of endometriosis, a condition in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus.
Incidentally, this tiny Pill also packs a powerful punch as it lowers your chances of getting uterine and ovarian cancer.
But there’s no smoke without fire right? So where did this myth that the Pill affects your fertility come from? Really what is being asked is “why is there a delay in achieving pregnancy?” Here are some thoughts:
Partly it’s related to the fact that most have an idea that they will promptly return to their pre- Pill fertility levels, commented Paul Blumenthal, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore and an adviser to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. For example, if you were in your early twenties and started taking the Pill at college, and you’re now 35, your chances of getting pregnant will have gone down.
Alas, you are not the ‘you’ you were then. That’s the mental part.
As for the biological attributes, the delay of normal cycle return may be attributed to the residual (synthetic) hormones that remains in the body. The residual hormones then interfere with the normal ovulation cycle and even when all the hormones are excreted, it may still take some time to readjust to normal hormone levels.
Finally, another reason for the delay may be related to the fact that the Pill sometimes acts to thicken the cervical mucus to prevent conception. The “side effect” of this is that the Pill in part does this by destroying the cells of the cervix (that produce this mucus), and although it can be regenerated, this may take some time.
Factoring in the numerous other health and lifestyle issues that affect fertility, such as general and gynaecological health, concurrent illnesses, weight, exercise levels, cigarette smoking and stress, the amount of time you spend on the Pill may be an insignificant consideration.
So, although it's not clear how many women will take advantage of this new health care policy, potentially with this new Act in place millions of women across the nation may have a better quality of life in more ways than one way.
Fenella Das Gupta is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working in Northern California, specializing in fertility counseling. To read more about fertility issues in the news go to http://petaluma.patch.com/users/fenella-das-gupta-phd-neuroscience-mft/blog_posts