Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Fifty Year Fall Out - Was the pill as liberating as we thought it would be?

I turn 50 this year and so does the “pill”.  As I am child number five in a brood of six, I have to wonder if I would ever have been born were the pill celebrating say, 55 years of existence. Ahh, but there are such grander concepts for women like myself to ponder here.  As the first generation of pill users has for the most part reached the end of their reproductive years, what can we say we learned from our experience with this kind contraception?  Was it all as liberating as we thought it would be? That is debatable.  Were we guinea pigs in the first of many experiments to manage women's health?  Many would say so.

While the large families of the 50's and 60's remain a thing of the past as far as the modern, industrialized world is concerned, the baby boomers produced prior to the dawn of the contraceptive pill took full advantage of the convenience and control it offered them.  Without a doubt, it guarded against unwanted pregnancies, and in the very least, provided women with the chance to time and plan smaller families.

The drawbacks of the oral contraceptive are now well known and include everything from headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood changes, or decreased libido.  Because it did away with the need for the condom, it also put women at risk for a multitude of sexually transmitted diseases.

Controversy and confusion over actual health hazards continue to this day.  Just this year, in Canada, we had news about the growing number of lawsuits filed against the Yasmin brand of newly formulated oral contraceptives, regarding serious side effects.  At practically the same moment, a U.K. study that began way back in 1968, proclaimed the “pill” as posing no health risk at all but warned this study was based on the long term effects on users of the original formulas and not the more recent medications for contraception.

The view of Chinese medicine regarding the pill, as with many other medications, is that it can derail the delicate hormonal balance required for optimum reproductive and overall health.  Interestingly enough, the side effects listed above such as headaches, depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood changes, and decreased libido are some of the most popular reasons why women consult in acupuncture.

What does this all mean to you? Well, I guess if you are in my age group, it gives you a chance to reflect upon your own usage and  experience with the pill.  Do you consider that we were indeed guinea pigs?  If so, do you feel the pros outweighed the cons?  And, another burning you feel we are once again going through the same thing with regards to the use of hormone therapy in order to "manage" menopause?  If you are a new mother, you may have another perspective on what the pill means to you, just as will the younger generation of women who have yet to bear a child.  And how about the men? The pill certainly had an effect on their lives, but in an altogether different way.  All your feedback is welcome.