Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WARNING: Womanly Talk Inside

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I stopped by my friendly neighborhood news stand on my lunch today and behold! the new Bust magazine is on the stands. Wheee! I spent the better part of my lunch hour flipping through the pages, skimming through articles on how to alter thrift store finds so they will actually fit, how to make my own raw milk yogurt (?) and why I should pick up a copy of The Notebook Girls this weekend. Ah, bliss. My favorite part about this mag is the plethora of itty bitty ads for online DIY businesses like this one and this one. I could spend the whole afternoon flitting from site to site, spending way too much of my hard earned money on vintage style dresses and thigh high striped socks. I almost wish I still had a period so I could try the Lunapads. (sigh)

Speaking of periods and all things gurl (sorry, boys, I warned you) I saw this headline yesterday:

FDA Approves IMPLANON, The First and Only Single-Rod Implantable Contraceptive

"Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "Self, whatever could this be?" Like any good American I am immediately distrustful of anything the government says is safe and/or good for us so I started to do a little digging. (Hey, these are the same folks that approved fen-phen and vioxx.) Call me a skeptic. Besides, I just found out that the Woman's Health Iniative was only started in 1990 in order to include more women of child bearing age in medical studies. 1990! Up until then, we were just considered "abnormal men" for research purposes so there was hardly any way to tell how a drug might actually work on us. The reasons given were that the scientists didn't want to have to account for a menstrual cycle in their analysis and they were concerned about effects on women who may want to become pregnant. Nice.

Of course, a birth control drug would only be tested on women (I hope!) but let's just say I'm not brimming over with trust and confidence here.

Implanon is a birth control drug that is implanted under your skin in a small "rod", about the size of a toothpick. You can leave it in there for up to three years and it's supposed to keep you from getting preggers more effectively than the pill or the patch. The idea being that you don't have to remember to take it every day or worry about it coming unstuck. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (yep, the Premarin people) had a similar product back in 2000. Theirs was called Norplant. It used 6 rods, lasted for 7 years and spawned quite a few lawsuits by women injured during the removal process and other side effects. Good times.

With Implanon, a doctor uses a local anesthetic to put the device under your skin and you can have them take it out at any time. Once you remove it, you can get pregnant right away. They've been using it in about 30 countries since 1998 and about 2.5 million women have tried it, so maybe it is actually safe. It works by releasing something called etonogestrel, which causes your cervical mucus to thicken. (Did I actually just type the words "cervical mucus"? Gah! I did it again!) The result being that sperm have a hell of a time fertilizing the eggs. Any eggs that might get lucky (or not lucky depending on your point of view) are unable to attach to the wall of your uterus. It also can prevent ovulation entirely.

There are, of course some problems with it. It can get lost in your arm over time so the doc might have to use an ultrasound to find it. A hassle, but not too painful I should hope. They have not done much testing on women who are very overweight, so they don't know how effective it would be or if there is a greater chance of the rod getting lost. The side effect that would creep me out is the possibility of abnormal periods and skipping of your periods altogether. That just does not seem ok.

So, I'm curious what other women think. Would you use this thing if you could forget about taking the pill every morning or worrying that your patch came off in the shower? Do the possible side effects bother you? I'm all for women having more options in their choice to control their own reproductive future. I guess I'm just a little jumpy about new drugs and whatnot. I worry that the financial motivation can override safety or health concerns. I have to admit, I would be pretty tempted to try it out. Of course, with my terrific medical luck the thing would probably disappear after a few months and turn up floating around in my left butt cheek three years later.

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Monday..Tuesday...Wednesday...wait, did I take Wednesday? Crap!

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I love these demonstration photos. Who has a belly like this!?
Where do I put the patch if I don't have a super model tummy?


Cherry Red said...

I'm with you. I love that women have options. The more the better. Many people are fond of Nuvaring as well.

My husband and I always used condoms and spermacide until he got his vasectomy, so I can't speak of personal experience with anything else-- though I do know many people in the medical field through my job.

I've never heard of Bust magazine. I'll have to check it out.

Marz said...

No way, no how would I try this. I had a friend in college who had the 6 rod implant and she had to have a very painful surgical removal of a couple of the rods because they attached to her muscles. Attached themselves! Outrageous I tell you!

You know, if men had to be the ones on birth control, we would have a completely safe and foolproof method already.

Painter Beach Girl said...

NUH UH!!!! I tried birth control pills a long time ago and was a total mess from it, it really increased the pms thing for me, so I stopped and had a hard time imagining using anything chemical in me for that. Then a few years ago I went on the nuvaring, which has been incredible...good thing is I onoy have to remember every three weeks..the patch has had some problems, so I wouldnt do that. Nuvaring is awesome. I dont forget to change it, it cannot be felt, but it isnt staying in me for 3 years (ACH SCARY!) liek that rod thing.

Thorny said...

I have to admit I'm more than a little ambivalent about these birth control methods which mess with our menstruation, whether my disrupting it or by enforcing it.

Not that I'm not often ambivalent about menstruation myself (after all, when you've got the wrath of god in your panties, that's bound to cause some conflicted feelings). But I learned through personal experience that there are a number of health conditions and problems which often don't have much in the way of initial symptoms /besides/ menstrual irregularities.

So while I'm not one to be all, "Oh, but that's the naaaaaatural way for women to monitor their health," I am deeply uncomfortable with effectively shutting down one of our more reliable "early warning systems" as women.

As you mentioned, women's health has not and is not taken seriously enough in this country as it is - giving the medical establishment another means of preventing me from seeking appropriate medical care when and if I need it doesn't sit well with me.

(P.S. Sorry I'm so late on this - I'm doing some catching up! :) )