Entries in Birth Control (38)


CDC Says Percentage of Women Who Use Plan B Is Rising

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The use of emergency contraception, also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B, has more than doubled among American women in recent years according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a study that surveyed use of emergency contraception from 2006 to 2010, 11 percent of sexually active women have used emergency contraception at least once, up from 4 percent in 2002.

The morning-after pill, which helps to prevent pregnancy after sex, was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998, and initially required a prescription. Today, emergency contraception is available over the counter for adults.

According to the CDC study, use of the morning-after pill is highest among women aged 20 to 24. One in four women in that age range have used emergency contraception at least once.

The report is of particular note due to legislation from the Obama Administration that requires most employers to provide free coverage of contraception, including Plan B, to female employees. Some employers, including a number of religious institutions, have filed lawsuits aiming to prevent enforcement of that legislation.

Based on the CDC's data, education was a factor in the use of emergency contraception. 12 percent of women with at least a bachelor's degree reported having used the morning-after pill while 11 percent of women with just some college education reported using the pills. The report also showed that just 7 percent of women with a high school diploma or GED said they had ever used Plan B.

The lowest rate of emergency contraception use was in women without a high school diploma, just 6 percent of whom said they had ever used morning-after pills.

A separate CDC study learned that 99 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used at least one form of contraception during their lifetime, a number slightly higher than the previous study from 2002.

The most common reasons women gave for their use of emergency contraception were fear of method failure (45%) or having had unprotected sex (49%).

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Birth Control Sabotage a Growing Problem, Group Warns

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A leading group of physicians is speaking out against "birth control sabotage," in which a partner deliberately tries to control a woman's reproductive choices.

In a statement released Wednesday, Dr. Eve Espey of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that doctors should be more aware of this practice, which can result in women having unprotected sex at the whim of a partner, exposing them to pregnancy or a sexually-transmitted disease.

Espey acknowledged that "Most ob/gyns are probably unfamiliar with sexual and reproductive coercion as an entity and probably don't ask about it."

Birth control sabotage can include throwing away contraceptive pills, taking off a condom during sex and even coercing a woman through threats to carry out an unwanted pregnancy.

While research on the matter is not yet comprehensive, Espey pointed to at least one study of teenage girls on public assistance.  Of those who alleged domestic violence, two-thirds mentioned their partner sabotaged their birth control.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Doctors Push for Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In an attempt to lower the alarmingly high rate of unplanned pregnancy -- and the high cost associated with it -- an expert panel of doctors recommended on Tuesday that birth control pills be made available without a prescription.

Specifically, the committee said the potential benefits of over-the-counter birth control pills outweigh the danger, which includes a small risk of dangerous blood clots.

Nearly half of all pregnancies happen by accident, according to government data.  These pregnancies cost taxpayers an estimated $11.1 billion each year, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Committee on Gynecologic Practice.

The birth control pill, commonly called "the pill," is a formulation of hormones, usually progestin and estrogen, that helps prevent pregnancy mainly by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs.  Right now "the pill" is only available in the United States with a prescription, which the committee said poses a significant barrier.

"Access to and cost issues are common reasons why women do not use contraception or use it inconsistently," said Dr. Kavita Nanda, one of the physicians on the committee.

A survey from 2004, cited by the committee, found that almost half of all uninsured women and 40 percent of low-income women who were not using birth control pills, the patch or the ring, said they would more likely use the pill if it were available over the counter.

This same survey also found that more than two out of three women at risk of an unintended pregnancy would use their pharmacy if more methods of birth control were available over the counter.

The committee said that birth control pills are good options for these women, with efficacy ranging from 92 to 99 percent depending on use.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists fellow, who was not part of the committee, said oral contraceptives are also safe.  "We have over 50 years of experience with this method," he said.

There are still many steps that would have to occur for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendation to translate into the availability of birth control pills over the counter.  And not all doctors support the idea that birth control pills are safely sold without a prescription.

"I think that the risks far outweigh the benefits," said ABC News' senior medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton, who is also an obstetrician and gynecologist.

"Even though they're hormones ... they're at much higher doses than our body makes, and as such there can be side effects ranging from minor to life threatening," Ashton said.  She went on to list some of the side effects associated with birth control pills, including low risks of blood clot, stroke and heart attack.  "It's a full spectrum of things that really needs a medical provider in the picture."

Still, the committee noted in its recommendation that the risk of blood clots associated with birth control pills was low, with three to 10 women out of 10,000 taking the pill experiencing such a problem each year.  By comparison, past research has found that the risk of blood clots associated with being pregnant is five to 20 women out of 10,000 each year, while the risk of clots associated with having just given birth is 40 to 65 per 10,000.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Implantable Birth Control Known to Go Missing in Women's Bodies

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Implanted and embedded birth-control devices are among the latest contraceptives to hit the market.  Depending on a woman’s preference, the small, seemingly invisible pieces can be inserted in the uterus, or even lodged under the skin of the forearm.

Get it and forget it, say many companies and doctors who recommend the devices to busy women who might lose track of a daily pill.  But it’s possible -- although rare -- for the hormonal contraceptive device to go missing in a woman’s body, experts say.

It’s unclear how many times that has happened in the United States, but many women in the U.K. say they fear infertility after their under-the-skin implanted device, Implanon, got lost, according to an article in the U.K. Daily Mail.

Merck, the New Jersey-based manufacturer of Implanon, declined to go into detail about the device’s movement in a women’s body, instead citing warnings in the patient handout.

Its literature cites “problems of insertion and removal” as a potential risk of the device.

“Removal of the implant may be very difficult or impossible because the implant is not where it should be,” according to Merck’s patient handout on the device.

Dr. Alan Penzias, director of the fellowship program in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Boston IVF, said, “The most likely cause in cases where it was inserted correctly is migration within the deep fatty tissue of the upper arm.”

Although safe for women even if lost, they might not be able to conceive until the device is either located and removed, or until the hormone runs out, which can be up to a few years.

“There is no reason to think it would cause permanent infertility,” Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said.

“The 'worst-case' scenario would require a slightly more involved procedure to remove the device if it embeds itself more deeply than planned,” Penzias said.

The same can be true with intrauterine contraceptives, where the device might embed deeper than necessary.

“Infection is not a consequence since the device was placed under sterile conditions,” he said.

Streicher, who has never encountered such a case, said, “It is rare for any of these devices to migrate from their appropriate location and it won’t just show up at another random location.”

In rare cases, intrauterine devices can perforate the uterus and end up in the abdominal cavity, she said, but is unlikely to cause any complications if removed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scientists Closer to Birth Control Pill for Men?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Scientists may be one step closer to a birth control pill for men.

A drug dubbed JQ1 swiftly stunted sperm production in male mice, a new study found. And like the female birth control pill, its fertility-fighting effects were completely reversible.

"We have only observed full recovery of fertility in treated males," the researchers from Baylor College of Medicine wrote in their study, published Friday in the journal Cell. "We envision that our discoveries can be completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive."

JQ1 blocks a protein essential for sperm production in the testes. If the drug is proven to be safe and effective in humans, it could expand the prophylactic pool -- an exciting prospect at a time when over a third of U.S. pregnancies are unintended.

But some doctors say the idea of slashing sperm counts, even temporarily, can be scary for guys.

"Sperm-making is a pretty delicate thing, and people do seem to have a concept of that," Dr. Joseph Alukal, director of male reproductive health at New York University's Langone Medical Center, told ABC News in 2011. "How long did it take for women to get comfortable with the reversibility of the birth control pill? I'm not sure."

Nevertheless, Alukal said he thinks some men would welcome the option of a birth control pill.

"If you look at vasectomy, there are plenty of men in committed relationships who choose to take onus of reproductive planning on themselves," Alukal said. "I think the same sorts of people would choose to look into something like this."

But some women are wary, saying they might not count on the male contraceptive pill alone.

"If I were dating around, though, there's no way I would trust someone that I'd been on just a few dates with [to take the pill]," 24-year-old Amy McCarthy told ABC News in 2011. "I think for most men it just wouldn't be a thought that crossed their mind -- they're worried about getting HIV or gonorrhea, not having a screaming baby."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Free Birth Control Day: Few Will Get Co-Pay Free Contraception

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday is a big day for birth control.  Under President Obama's health care reform, private insurance companies have to start providing contraception for free on Aug. 1.  That means no more co-pays for birth control.

But while the law goes into effect, only a tiny fraction of the 97 million American women between the ages of 18 and 64 will be able to snag any co-pay free contraception.

First, only women with private insurance plans will be affected.  About 65 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 -- those that are old enough to be adults but too young enough to qualify for Medicare -- have private health insurance, which they get from their employer or pay for out of pocket, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That means the 19 million women between the ages of 18 and 64 who are uninsured will still have to pay for contraception out of pocket.

The 17 million women on Medicaid also may not feel the effects.  Each state gets to decide whether their Medicaid plans will provide at no cost the contraception and seven other women's health services that are covered under the no-cost-sharing law taking effect on Wednesday.

While the federal government provides cost incentives for states that drop contraception co-pays for Medicaid enrollees, states are not required to.  Some Medicaid programs already provide these services for free.

Even for the 57 million women that have private health insurance, if their plan has not changed since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010, it can be grandfathered in and does not have to adhere to the co-pay free rules.

The administration estimates that by 2013 about half of large employer insurance plans and about one-third of small employer plans will still fall under this grandfather clause and therefore not be required to provide free contraception.

Women whose plans have changed may not see their co-pay free benefits go into effect for almost a year, depending on when their most recent plan started.  The law stipulates that any plan starting on or after Aug. 1 has to offer birth control along with seven other women's health services for free.

So if your plan started on July 1, you may have to pay co-pays for nearly a year until your new plan begins on July 1, 2013, although some insurances plans have said they will implement the law early.

Women who get their insurance through their religiously-affiliated employer will have to keep paying those contraception co-pays for the next year as well.

The Obama administration gave religiously-affiliated employers, such as some universities and hospitals, a one-year exemption to the free birth control requirement after many raised religious objections to paying for something they consider a sin.

Those religious organizations still have to provide insurance that offers the seven other services cited in the women's health rule taking effect on Wednesday at no cost to employees.  Those co-pay free services include: a yearly well-woman doctors visit, HPV testing, gestational diabetes testing for pregnant women, counseling for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV screening and counseling, breast pumps and domestic violence counseling.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Democrats Celebrate Co-Pay Free Birth Control

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While Democrats on Capitol Hill were celebrating a new Obamacare contraception provision, Republicans were calling again to repeal the landmark health reform law.

The new rule goes into effect Wednesday that will require employers to cover contraception without a co-pay, among other things, all affecting women.

HHS Secretary appeared with Senate Democratic women on Capitol Hill and declared Aug. 1 a, “new day for women’s health in America.”

“No woman should have to choose between seeing her doctor and putting food on the table for her family,” Sebelius said. “And now many women won’t have to make that difficult choice any longer.”

Previously some insurance companies did not cover some preventive services for women at all under their health plans, while some women had to pay deductibles or co-pays for the care they needed. But now all insurance policies will be required to cover new preventive care without charging women anything out of pocket.

The eight new prevention-related services are: “well-woman” visits, gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases, domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling, FDA-approved contraceptive methods and contraceptive education and counseling, breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling, HPV DNA testing for women 30 or older, Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women and HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

“The top killers of women will now no longer go undetected,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said at the press conference Tuesday, “the kind of support services that we need to be healthy, good mothers and to be able to have our family life -- we’ll be able to do it.”

The Obama administration estimates that 47 million women will now be able to get preventative services that they could not before this rule went into effect.

As Democrats came to Senate floor Tuesday morning to give speech after speech touting the benefits of this new rule, Senate Republicans called for a repeal vote of the entire health care law.

“I think it would be appropriate to have a vote on the repeal of Obamacare,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. He suggested that offering an amendment during the the pendency of a cybersecurity bill would be better.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., shot down the idea quickly noting that the health care repeal vote should not be included in an unrelated bill that is focused on cybersecurity.

“I think we should understand that I don’t think a woman getting contraception has a thing to do with shutting down the power grids in America or the financial services in America or our water systems or our sewer systems,” Reid said.

Reid hit a personal note, touting the new health care rule that goes into effect Wednesday, in speaking about his wife who last year was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

“A person that is able to have a mammogram -- it is lifesaving,” Reid said. “She had a mammogram in December, and in August discovered a lump in her breast, and think what would have happened if she had waited a year because she couldn’t afford that mammogram. Frankly, the thought of it is very hard for me to comprehend because even though she had that mammogram in December, she found she was in stage 3 of breast cancer and it has been very difficult. But what if she had waited an extra year? Many people wait a lot longer than an extra year.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Birth Control Linked to Heart Attack, Stroke

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The decision to use birth control is one that most women face at some point, and today many options exist to help women control whether and when they get pregnant.  But some of these approaches may carry risks -- it has long been known that certain kinds of birth control can increase the risk of clots in the legs and lungs.

Now, a new study by Danish researchers suggests that hormonal contraception also increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke in women.

The overall risk remains low, but the new study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that these hormonal approaches do indeed boost stroke and heart attack risk in the women who take them.

In the study, researchers looked at more than 1.6 million women over a period of 15 years and tracked all the contraceptive measures they took -- including the pill, the vaginal ring, intrauterine device, subcutaneous implants, skin patches and intramuscular injections, commonly called the "Depo shot."

Women who had already had a stroke or heart attack or who had a clotting disorder were not included in the study, and the researchers also accounted for women who smoked -- a known risk factor for some types of clots.

What they found was that although the absolute risk of stroke and heart attacks associated with the use of contraception was low, the chances of these problems occurring was 0.9 to 1.7 times higher on estrogen at a low dose.  These risks increased to a factor of 1.3 to 2.3 when a higher dose of estrogen was used.

Not all birth control methods contain estrogen, and it was found that progestin-only products, such as the IUD, did not significantly change the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

While many women taking hormonal birth control may worry about the prospect of having a heart attack or stroke, Dr. Lauren Streicher at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago said that "pregnancy is far more likely to cause an MI or stroke than hormonal contraception."  This, she said, is because hormone levels naturally change in a woman's body during pregnancy, increasing the risk of clots.

Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, agreed, adding that the normal risks associated with pregnancy must be considered alongside those of taking hormonal contraception.

"You throw in ectopic pregnancy and its associated complications and the pill looks good," he said.

Doctors agree that women should talk with their physicians to carefully consider all risks before starting any medication -- and birth control is no exception.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Birth Control: New Research Gives Boost to IUD Effectiveness

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twenty-seven-year-old Julie Vonder Haar of St. Louis describes herself as a smart and responsible person, but like many women, she found it difficult to remember taking her birth control pills while juggling four jobs. That was until she discovered the IUD.

"Having it and not having to worry about it, taking that off my plate helped immensely," she said.

As it turns out, Vonder Haar's choice may not only be more convenient but more effective as well. Long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices and progestin implants can prevent unwanted pregnancy up to 20 times better than birth control pills, patches and vaginal rings, according to a study from Washington University School of Medicine, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Of the 3 million unwanted pregnancies in the United States, almost half of those are due to incorrect use of the most commonly prescribed forms of birth control -- pills, patches and rings.

An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small copper or hormonal implant that is placed in the uterus. The insertion can be done in a doctor's office, and it works for 10 years to prevent pregnancy. Bayer's brand-name IUD Mirena, approved in 2009, is one such device. A progestin implant, meanwhile, is inserted in the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for up to three years. Merck's Nexplanon is the only such implant currently available in the U.S.

Once in place, these devices prevent unwanted pregnancy as effectively as sterilization, but unlike permanent sterilization, when a woman wants to become pregnant she simply has the device removed.

So why aren't more women using long-acting reversible contraception -- and specifically IUDs?

Cost could be one reason. Since it is not covered by many insurance plans, women might find themselves forking out $700 to buy an IUD and have it inserted. Compare this to $10 to $20 per month for birth control pills, which are generally covered by insurance. Over the long term, however, IUDs are cost-effective; when you break the cost down over a five year period, IUDs cost about $11 a month, the same as birth control pills.

Still, for Vonder Haar, cost was a big factor.

"There was no way I could have gotten the Mirena before the study because I couldn't afford the cost up front," she said.

Dr. Jeff Peipert, one of the study authors and vice chair for clinical research at Washington University, said this big initial cost discourages women, since insurance usually does not cover this type of birth control. In the study he conducted, women were allowed to choose which birth control they wanted, free of charge.

"A major surprise was that many people chose long-acting reversible contraceptive (IUD) when barriers were lifted," Peipert said. "Around 75 percent of women chose a long-acting reversible contraceptive; the hormonal IUD was the most popular."

Women's health experts also said myths surrounding IUDs may keep many women from using this option.

"Many patients have heard bad things about IUDs, such as they cause infertility or infections," said Dr. Kevin Ault, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Careful medical research over the past decade shows these fears are not true."

Dr. Lauren F. Streicher, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said some women may have also heard that if they have not yet had children they should not opt for an IUD. While this is untrue, she does recommend having a doctor who is experienced place IUDs in these women as placement can be technically difficult.

And then there is the fact that many women may not know what an IUD is, or that such an option exists. IUDs are not nearly as highly advertised as birth control pills, doctors said -- at least not yet. But as more studies like this most recent one emerge, Streicher said, more women may shift to IUDs in the years to come.

"Very clearly, contraception that is not user-dependent is going to have the lowest failure rates," Streicher said. "Half of unintended pregnancies every year are not 'no contraception,' they are 'failed contraception' such as missed pills, etc."

Vonder Haar, a participant in the study, has now had an IUD for three years, and she said she is grateful to the study for giving her the opportunity to use this method of birth control.

"I have recommended this to everyone," she said. "It has made such a difference; I think every girl should be able to have access to this."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Startling Birth Control Ad for Pets

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Parents of teens know that at that certain age they can’t avoid having the dreaded “sex talk” with their kids, but what about with their pets?  What if pet owners started thinking of their pets as their teens when it comes to avoiding pregnancy?

That’s the dramatic, but humorous, approach taken in a new series of public service announcements and advertisements produced by the Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals.

In the spots, voiced by NCIS: Los Angeles actress Linda Hunt and Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet, parents appear to be reacting to their kids’ promiscuity, only to have the kids replaced by their pets.  In other words, once you start thinking of your pets as your kids, it’s a lot easier to think of what needs to be done to keep them from delivering offspring.

Called “Prevent more. Fix at month four,” the campaign is the first national effort to educate pet owners on when, not just why, they should spay and neuter, according to the Society.

“We felt it was important to present the messaging in an attention-getting way that didn’t make people feel guilty or sad,” Amber Ayers, the society’s senior marketing and creative manager, told ABC News. “When we looked at the research, most people planned on spaying or neutering their pets, but there was just a lot of confusion about when to do so and this leads to the ‘oops’ litter. ”

The Utah-based non-profit says it hopes the ads will grow into a “cultural movement.”

“We are hoping to maintain long-term traction by shifting the mindset of our country,” said Ayers.  “It will become commonplace to fix your pet at four months, reducing the number of pets that enter, and ultimately never leave our shelters. ”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio