President Obama recently asked all employers, other than houses of worship, to pay for free contraception for all their female employees. There was much opposition from religious institutions like hospitals that follow Roman Catholic beliefs and are pro-choice. I don’t want to get into a pro-choice/pro-life debate here. What I’d like these institutions to understand is that there are numerous uses for birth control other than preventing pregnancy.
Birth control can help to stabilize someone’s hormones that are out of whack. It can help make a woman more “regular” for those who have irregular or no periods due to stress, low body weight and excessive exercise. In some cases, birth control can treat endometriosis, a condition that causes severe cramps or pelvic pain. Most of these women take birth controls continuously to avoid having their periods, which has not been shown to negatively effect a woman’s health, or have a period four times a year when using contraceptions like Seasonale.
Birth control also helps to lighten heavy periods by reducing the amount of bleeding and length of time the period sticks around. Another added benefit is that women who have lighter or less frequent periods are less likely to experience anemia, or low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
One of the other conditions many women deal with is cysts that form on their ovaries. There are two main types of ovarian cysts; follicular cysts, which develop throughout the menstruation cycle and usually burst right around ovulation, and usually go away in one to three months, or corpus luteum cysts, which are normal, but can sometimes cause bleeding and cause the ovary to twist. Blood flow is stopped to the ovary when it twists and this can cause nausea and lack of conciousness.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is a very serious condition that can be helped with birth control pills. PCOS causes many little cysts that usually do not cause pain, but the imbalance of hormones can lead to acne, irregular periods, insulin resistance, weight gain and excessive hair growth. Once on birth control, hormones stabilize and these symptoms usually improve, although acne improvement may take months.
Birth control can also help stabilize the effects of hormones before periods begin like during PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) and with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Symptoms of PMS and PMDD include mood swings, depression, insomnia or excessive tiredness and symptoms are more severe in cases of PMDD.
Though I understand and respect the choice of some employers who do not want to provide contraception to their employees due to their beliefs, I think they may want to reconsider because of all the other benefits it can provide. Regulating a women’s period may result in less time lost with sick calls and lower women’s overall health costs. It could be a win-win for both the employer and employee.