Friday, May 25, 2007

A Woman's Burden !


The US Food and Drug Administration has approved Lybrel, the first continuous use drug product for prevention of pregnancy. One side effect of the drug is that it eliminates a woman’s regular menstrual cycle. Like other available oral contraceptives, Lybrel is effective for prevention of pregnancy when used as directed. The risks of using this pill are similar to the risks of other conventional oral contraceptives and include an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. The labeling also carries a warning that cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects from the use of combination estrogen and progestin-containing contraceptives.


When I read of research findings like this that seem to guarantee some results but with plenty of side effects to go with it , I wonder at the fact that so little options are available for men contraception and so little research goes into it. when we think about contraceptive availability this way and what contraceptive is available to men, the answer is that only three purely male methods exist - withdrawal, the condom, and vasectomy (male sterilization).


This contrasts with the list for women- the diaphragm, the sponge, IUDs, the pill, cervical caps, "morning after" pills, Norplant, Depo Provera, natural methods, ovulation detectors, the female condom, foams, jellies, suppositories, sterilization, and more. From the portfolio of product available for women , it would appear that society is selling the message to women that birth control and contraception are fundamentally womens' issues and the market is out there. Further, of the three male methods withdrawal has low effectiveness, the condom faces psychological resistance and a 3-15% failure rate, and vasectomy is not reliably reversible, and it seems inevitable that men should be left alone in assigning responsibility for birth control. One common argument against providing a male contraceptive supermarket is that there is little expressed demand among the men of our society


Having read this far, it would seem that society has put an inequitable burden on women and this seems to be based on the premise that since it is women who get pregnant it is their look out to take steps to ensure and prevent pregnancy. Men who are at the fore front of research, and science have found it natural to invest their time, money and energy in ways to prevent women from getting pregnant , while promoting negligible research in male contraception.


In some ways , it is good that women have tools at hand that can prevent pregnancy for the burden of an unwanted pregnancy is a heavy one to bear and that too if one has to bear that burden alone, especially in conservative societies like India. But these technologies do not come cheap, either in economic terms or in terms of their linkages with potentially damaging health consequences. Even so, for those who can afford them , they have that limited use , that they do protect one from unexpected and unplanned pregnancies.


What is inequitable however is that although condoms are cheap and have little side effects , they are often not the preferred tool for temporary birth control. Other invasive tools that women need to use are the preferred ones, even if they are much more expensive. Condoms might be cheap but they interfere with the “pleasure” of the sexual act and hence are largely not in vogue. As far as permanent methods are concerned . Vasectomy , especially the modern , no scalpel vasectomy(NSV) is a hassle free out patient procedure , but because it supposedly interferes with men's virility, it is not popular and their association with Sanjay Gandhi and his coercive methods have made them an even bigger object of loathing. So tubectomy , a comparatively more complicated procedure which is invasive is used , even though it requires usually at least a day of hospitalization and some more days of rest is the one routinely suggested to women even as the man is standing by.


The cafeteria approach to family planning and birth control so popular in government programs has a bouquet of products for a woman to choose from and a few nuggets for the man and even they are cursorily explained and promoted. Clearly the research, the range of products, the marketing and the promoting of the birth control motifs make it abundantly clear that the balance is unevenly tilted against women who alone seem to have the responsibility to ensure that they do not get pregnant.

1 comment:

dark_one said...

My name is Jennifer Murphy and i would like to show you my personal experience with Depo-Provera.

I am 41 years old. Have been on Depo for at least 10 years now. (started so long ago, can't remember) Pills had me lying in the floor crying. They had taken Norplant off the market, and the idea of glass under my skin spooked me. I'm now over 40, so weight gain can't all be blamed on Depo, but I know it's responsible for about 10 lbs worth. No periods in a decade. Can you top that??? No bleeding, no PMS, no cramps, no surprise pregnancies. Miracle drug, as far as I'm concerned. I am now level headed and not a jumpy bag of hormones every month. No mood swings. I refuse to take calcium, as I have had a kidney stone in the past, so going for a dexascan later this month. You MUST watch your bone density. Long term, depo can affect bone density and it's not 100% reversible. Posters here are fussing about doctors hiding the truth of side effects, but most of what's posted here is not listed as a side affect of Depo, so the doctors aren't going to mention them. Some of what's listed here sounds l

I have experienced some of these side effects-
Slight weight gain - 5-10 lbs. Extremeties swell with heat.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Jennifer Murphy

Depo-Provera Prescription Medication