Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is the Pill worth it?

Birth control pills are the default contraception method to such an extent that many people use the word "contraceptives" to mean birth control pills to the exclusion of all other methods, not realizing that diaphragms, condoms, sponges, IUDs, and withdrawal, among others, also count as contraceptives.

Birth control pills come with a raft of side-effects including weight gain, depression, and potentially fatal blood clots (such as deep vein thrombosis and strokes), but their popularity seems to improve their perceived safety. A new book looks at the risks of birth control pills, given the big and small health risks of them.

Of course this view is not new at all. The Boston Women's Health Collective famously recommended in Our Bodies Ourselves using barrier methods only: you know exactly what they're doing and their effects end once you remove them from the body. The ultimate transparency. Plus they prevent STDs.

Unfortunately barrier methods besides condoms are rarely used: diaphragms are used by less than 1% of contracepting women and the only company making the cervical cap discontinued it due to lack of demand.

Perhaps this book will convince some of its readers into looking into barrier methods instead. Plus condom plus diaphragm is at least as effective as the pill in typical use. (Here's the math: effectiveness of each alone is 80% in typical use, so effectiveness of both together is 96% (1-(1-.8)^2=.96), which is better than the 94% typical use effectiveness of the pill cited in the article.)

1 comment:

%Shocked% said...

Hm, interesting post. I meant to comment when I first read it, but forgot. Here I am now.

Couple of points. First off, I'm a guy (I find research fascinating, psych major :p, and your blog is very informative), but a female friend told me that there's a certain time during sex, that even with the pill, one can become impregnated. In other words, the pill isn't a solve-all-and-end-all solution, some care need be taken when having sex. Correct me if my friend is wrong..

Second point. In Orthodox Judaism, I don't think that condoms are ever allowed. The sperm has to be released into the woman otherwise it's a waste, which is impermissible. Would that not be the case with all 'barrier methods? As it is, the laws when birth control is allowed are complex, but condoms (from what I've learned) is always a no-no. The pill seems to be the only, or one of the only, way to go.