Over this past weekend, I began reading articles about the possibility that birth control pills could become free in the United States. It’s a subject that didn’t really interest me as here in the US, we have bigger issues. But the more I read into the benefits of birth control, the more I began to hop on the band wagon.
One of the biggest benefits from a physical standpoint (aside from the obvious) is that birth control can help in fighting acne. Up until now, individuals that wanted an oral remedy either had to purchase birth control pills ($15-$50) or get a prescription for controversial drug Accutane which has harsh side effects that may include alopecia, fragile skin, and depression among others. Another benefit of birth control is that it can help curb hirsutism or excess facial hair growth on women. Both acne and hirsutism and even oily skin are symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome so the contraceptive pills could help make this disorder (affecting 5%-10% of reproductive age) a bit more manageable.
Birth control pills have the ability to lower free circulating testosterone in the body thus decreasing hirsutism and can also decrease androgens which stimulate the sebaceous or oil gland.
In a double blind study involving the contraceptive Yaz, randomized, placebo controlled study, 889 subjects, ages 14 to 45 years, with moderate acne received Yaz or placebo for six 28-day cycles. Mean reduction in inflammatory lesion counts was 15 (49%) in YAZ-treated subjects compared with 11 (33%) on placebo. Yaz is among three birth control pills approved by the FDA to treat acne in women:
- Ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate (Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
- Ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Estrostep)
- Ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone (Yaz)
Of course these do some with side effects that can include nausea, weight gain, and stomach pains. Using LED light therapy may be a safer way to go if you're trying to fight acne on its own.
The reason for the push behind birth control isn’t due to a surging population growth or factors like acne- it is for preventative measures. Women on birth control see a 60% decreased risk of ovarian cancer. There is also a 50% reduction in uterine cancer which has 37,000 new cases every year.
While I understand that some may feel as though something like birth control shouldn’t be something that the government regulates, its benefits do out weigh the side effects. Insurance companies would probably love it if this passes because they’d get to charge a higher premium for a pill that costs them little to make but individuals might not be thrilled by the increase in price. What do you think about the new measure, should birth control be free?