Women were finally trusted to treat their own vaginal yeast infections with over-the-counter drugs like Monistat in 1991. Last month, a federal judge ordered that the most common morning-after pill be made available over-the-counter for women of all ages.
Shouldn’t the birth control pill have its day, too?
We can buy drugs that help us fall asleep, stop coughing, shrink hemorrhoids, lose weight, stop sneezing and control our hay fever, but we can’t get one tiny pill to keep us from getting pregnant?
The birth control pill is 53 years old. It’s time.
Opponents think women need a doctor’s advice to make this kind of decision. They worry that side effects could be risky. They’re afraid that if the No. 1 reason women go to an OB/Gyn — to get their birth control prescription — is eliminated, we’ll stop going altogether.
Yet those very doctors disagree. Calling unintended pregnancies a major public health problem, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended last year that birth control pills be made available without a prescription. They cited numerous studies that show women are perfectly capable of self-screening for conditions like blood clots, high blood pressure, certain types of cancers and uncontrolled diabetes that make it inadvisable to take the pill.
Risks? They’re there, just like they are when you pop an aspirin or Tylenol and run the risk of stomach bleeding or liver damage. But your risk of getting blood clots is considerably greater if you’re pregnant or have just given birth than if you’re on the pill.
Half of the nation’s pregnancies are unintended, a rate that hasn’t changed much in 20 years. And with those pregnancies comes a host of potential complications including hypertension, gestational diabetes, infection, vaginal thrush and, for older women, breast cancer.
That sure sounds riskier than giving us access to a pill that keeps us out of this situation in the first place.
Over the counter? Heck, we should be dropping the stuff from airplanes.
Mama Sass, a Miami mother of two, blogs at MomsMiami.com, where she welcomes comments.