Caring for Patients: It’s medical not political

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act we now have coverage for contraception under all insurance plans. There are some exceptions. The rants of Mike Huckabee and other politicians were very upsetting. I did like Carly Fiorina’s take on the issue “Men should stop talking about women’s issues”. This really should be an issue discussed in the privacy of an examination room with a woman and her health care provider. Taking care of women has taught me some lessons. Women want reliable contraception with few side effects to prevent an unintended pregnancy and have the freedom to enjoy a sexual encounter with their partner. It has nothing to do with controlling our libido. It is about not worrying about a missed period. Another lesson I have learned is that caring men want their partners to have a reliable contraceptive with few side effects. They do not want their partner to have to suffer. They do recognize that they have to take responsibility and use a condom if they have to and feel very upset if they fail. Many of these of these offensive remarks sound like comments I have heard from abusive partners over the years.

The CDC website states that psychological/emotional abuse can “include, but is not limited to, humiliating the victim, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, and denying the victim access to money or other basic resources. It is considered psychological/emotional violence when there has been prior physical or sexual violence or prior threat of physical or sexual violence”. If this sounds familiar, it should make you as upset as I am. If you go back and listen to every statement made by the outspoken politicians of late, you find elements of this definition in their statements.

For me, starting the pill after my son was born made residency much easier. My husband was a pharmaceutical company sales representative. The company launched its low dose oral contraceptive pill and I started taking it in 1987. After a few weeks of morning nausea, I was fine. I learned to stop my period even before it was common place with the new extended cycle pills. I would not have period during my hospital rotation months, during my vacation or on my weekends off. When I finished residency and started my private medical practice, I continued regulating my period. I also managed to save many honeymoons and vacations by using this method for my many female patients. I never had a period because I was too busy seeing patients or being on call. That was my freedom.

Now there are the new extended cycle pills that are being used by more women. Many women are not using them because of the higher insurance cost. The ACA will change that. The hormone dose in these oral contraceptive pills is even lower; one pill has only 10 micrograms if estrogen compared to 30 micrograms back when I started. Not only are the pills lower in dose, the new IUD’s are called Intrauterine Contraception (IUC’s). There are two types. The copper IUC which is non-hormonal which lasts for up to ten years and hormone containing IUC which is effective for five to seven years. paragardParagard mirena I really love the new FemCap which is an improved version of the diaphragm and cervical cap. It is non-hormonal. cervical capfemcap FemCap Another blast from the past is the new and improved contraceptive sponge. Renamed “Today Sponge.” We all remember the Seinfeld episodes with Elaine hoarding her supply of the Sponge. This is an over-the-counter product and not covered by insurance. sponge

Access to reliable and affordable contraception is our right and is medically necessary. The medical facts are being dismissed as we have to listen to the political rhetoric and the hysteria. Contraception decreases the risk of unintended pregnancy for women. Worldwide, women do not have this freedom. Contraception can reduce child-birth related deaths worldwide. In Nigeria, women are waiting in lines to obtain contraception. The facts are that using contraception is a safe option.

We made the decision together to have only one child to add to my husband’s two children. Every woman should have that freedom. It just takes a few clicks to be informed.