Even if you weren’t around during the 1960’s, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the birth control revolution that took place when the birth control pill was first introduced during the early part of that decade. Before that time, women had to rely on a staggering variety of homemade birth control methods with varying degrees of effectiveness or more invasive measures like the IUD (Intrauterine device) or sterilization. IUD’s work by affecting the way sperm move – effectively preventing them from joining with an egg. Most birth control pills contain two hormones (estrogen and progestin) that work by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. In other words, they prevent ovulation. These same hormones thicken a woman’s cervical mucus which, in turn, blocks sperm from reaching any rogue eggs. Women were ecstatic! Finally, they could protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies by taking a small pill once a day. In addition to the simplicity of their use, birth control pills have an effectiveness rate near 99 % when used correctly. More great news!
Given the popularity of birth control pills, manufacturers starting looking for even better and easier ways to deliver their product. The idea of having to take a pill every day became outdated as women started to demand even simpler methods. Manufacturers listened and we began to see products like Depo–Provera. Depo-Provera works in much the same way as birth control pills, but it is delivered in a shot and lasts for three months. During the 1980’s we saw Norplant introduced in the United States. Again, Norplant operated by releasing hormones into a woman’s system, but this time the delivery method was the implantation of small rods into a woman’s arm. More recently, a new version (Implanon) has taken Norplant’s place. Before we wrap up the hormonal methods, we can’t forget the patch. Again, the patch (Ortho Evra) operates on the same principle as the pills but is delivered through a patch warn on the arm.
Given all the different birth control options, it seems as though woman may no longer need to worry about birth control right? WRONG! Unfortunately, almost every method mentioned above has come under attack for potentially fatal side effects. Starting with the Dalkon Shield lawsuits in 1974 (and eventual removal from the market) and continuing through the present with the Yaz controversy, birth control manufacturers have been plagued with product liability issues.
Complaints poured in by the thousands back in the early 1970’s that the Dalkon Shield was causing septic spontaneous abortions, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and even deaths. Next, we had the Norplant fiasco. Woman weren’t properly warned of possible bleeding and difficulty in removal. Norplant was ultimately recalled in 2000 due to concerns that the hormone delivery system of certain lots were defective and therefore contraception would not be guaranteed. Now, we hear commercials every day about Yaz. Yaz is all over the internet and the news. Claims are being made that it has been inappropriately advertised and improperly manufactured. Additionally, there are women that have made claims that they suffered blood clots as a result of taking Yaz. Clearly, the Yaz storm is still brewing. It may be years before we know whether any of the claims are grounded in fact. What does appear to be clear is that while the advent of birth control pills 50 years ago may have been a revolution for women, it was also the beginning of a nightmare. While pharmaceutical companies scramble to garner their share of the billion dollar industry, who is watching out for all the women who are depending on these products and assuming they are safe? The FDA? In theory, yes, but as we have seen in the past we can’t always depend on them. After all, they approved the Dalkon Shield and Norplant. While the FDA may be a good first line of defense against defective products, it is incumbent on women to do their research. Consult with your health care provider before deciding on a method of birth control. Make sure you know what the possible side effects are and the contraindications (a condition or factor that increases your risk for using a particular product or drug). Lastly, if you feel that you have suffered injuries as a result of using a birth control method, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. For more information, contact the law offices of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit us at www.ledgerlaw.com.