Tuesday, June 5, 2012

War On Women: Battle for the Pill

This year we've seen so many steps backwards in women's rights that some are calling it the "war on women."  There is another issue in this war that hasn't been covered by much media and has come to my attention.

Most doctors make women have an pelvic exam and pap smear before writing them a prescription for the pill, when there is absolutely no scientific evidence that these tests are necessary for or have any relation to being on the pill.

According to the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, only your blood pressure and a close look at your medical history are required for a doctor to decide if you are fit to be on the pill.

Yet according to a study by the University of California San Francisco about 1/3 of doctors always require these tests before prescribing it, and 44% "regularly" require the tests before getting out the prescription pad.  It seems like this is just out of habit, not necessity.  The tests have no connection to birth control.  They just became associated because many women get them at the same time as getting their prescription at their yearly appointment out of ease.  Some have even made the assumption that doctors perform these exams just to be paid more by insurance companies and medicare.

I am so floored and appalled by this.  A full pelvic exam and pap smear can be emotionally damaging (especially for young women), as well as painful for some.  Pap smears also have a high rate of false positives, which can be even more stressful, and lead to unnecessary biopsies and further procedures (though again, this means the doctors make more money).  Women aren't given any literature on the pros and cons of doing these exams, and they aren't even asked if they want to do them.  It is forced.

Of course, we all want to be healthy and safe, but we also deserve to know the facts and make the best decision for ourselves from there.  Any patient should have a choice in what exams they are subjected to.  I should be able to make a decision regarding my own body.

This just makes it another step harder for women to have access to birth control, which is not at all okay.  If it were me, I'd make the pill over the counter, but I know that probably won't happen any time soon.  So if it has to be prescribed, at least make it easier to get that way.  Doctors are basically holding the pill hostage by making patients agree to these invasive exams.

Some teens and young adults are so uncomfortable with having this type of internal exam that they won't do it, even if it means no birth control.  We shouldn't be punishing women for making a smart and responsible decision to go on the pill.  So we continue in this country with our high rates of teen pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, and abortions.  And this is all for what?...so doctors can make more money? or because that's how its always been? or just because? I am ashamed.

Next time you go to your doctor, ask why these tests are necessary and how often you need them and see what they say.

Resources:
Time: Are Doctors' Exams a Barrier to Birth Control?
Types of Doctors That Can Prescribe Birth Control

1 comment:

  1. The guidelines about pap testing should be changed, given new recommendations from large doctor societies. Here's a CNN Q&A on the matter, which provides a nice set of guidelines: http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/14/health/brawley-cervical-cancer-screenings/index.html

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