Entries in Contraception (23)


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


Blood Clot Risk Higher in Non-Oral Contraceptives, Study Says

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Women who use non-oral hormonal contraceptives, like patches and vaginal rings, may be at higher risk of blood clots than those who take oral forms of birth control, according to a new Danish study published in the journal BMJ.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen analyzed national data from more than 1.6 million healthy women ages 15 to 49 who took various forms of birth control. They found that women who took birth control pills were at three times the risk of blood clots than those who did not use any type of hormonal birth control, but those who used other types of non-oral hormonal contraceptives were at a higher risk. Women who used skin patches were at eight times an increased risk of blood clots and those who used vaginal rings had a 6.5 percent increased risk.

Patches and vaginal rings continuously release hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy. The study suggests that some women talk with their doctor about switching from non-oral hormone contraceptives if they are already at high risk for blood clots.

People who are overweight, inactive, those who smoke and have a family history of blood clots are all at increased risk. Certain medical conditions also increase a person's risk.

"The important thing is that women are informed about the risk of VT for different product types," said Øjvind Lidegaard of the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the study. "Then I think they can decide themselves whether they want to continue of switch to another product. For young women, the most obvious alternative is a low-dose second-generation pill with levonorgestrel."

Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 10.7 million women in the U.S. use birth control pills.

But experts noted the limitations of the study, pointing out that the research did not account for excess fat and smoking habits, both recognized risk factors of blood clots.

Dr. Paula Hillard, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine, noted that the risk of venous thrombosis during pregnancy can be much higher than the numbers tallied in the study.

"The combined hormonal contraceptives, even those that the authors found to have an increased risk of venous thrombosis compared to other specific combination oral contraceptives, are associated with a higher risk than an individual would experience if she were pregnant," said Hillard. "Thus, preventing unintended pregnancy is health promoting."

While non-oral hormonal contraceptives did indeed show a higher risk of blood clots, Hillard said individuals must consider which option is best and most effective.

"The patch and the ring are methods that may be more effective at preventing pregnancy compared to methods that require daily use of a pill, which is difficult to take correctly and consistently day in and day out," said Hillard.

Of note, authors found that intrauterine devices, or IUDs, a T-shaped plastic or copper device that is placed in a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy, was not associated with blood clots. In fact, researchers said they were associated with a reduced risk and may have a protective effect against blood clots.

"Thus when discussing contraceptive options with women who might consider switching, the option of an IUD offers not only a method that is as effective as sterilization at preventing unintended pregnancy, and which lasts five or 10 years, but that also has a lower risk of venous thrombosis," said Hillard.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


IUDs Work Best for Emergency Contraceptive, Study Finds

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, have been shown to be the best and most reliable emergency contraceptive for women, according to a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction.

An IUD is a T-shaped plastic or copper device that is placed in a woman's uterus to prevent pregnancy.  They can be left in the womb between five and 10 years, depending on the brand, but they can also be used as a means of emergency contraceptive.  They should be inserted within five days of unprotected sex to properly protect, experts said.

The research showed that IUDs had a failure rate of less than one per 1,000, which was more effective than the morning-after pill, which had a failure rate of 1 to 2 percent.  The morning-after pill, or Plan B One-Step, is a pill that should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to avoid pregnancy.

"Emergency insertion of a copper IUD is extremely effective," said James Trussell, professor of public and international affairs at Princeton University and lead author of the study.  "We would hope [the findings] would encourage clinicians to talk with women about emergency insertion of a copper IUD during regular visits for later use, should the need arise."

The study analyzed data from 42 studies conducted in six different countries (China, Egypt, Italy, The Netherlands, U.S.A. and the U.K.) between 1979 and 2011.  They found that women became pregnant at a rate of 0.09 percent if they used an IUD, as opposed to the 1 to 2 percent pregnancy rate on the morning-after pill.

The research also found that using an IUD for emergency contraception worked just as effectively in women with higher body mass index, while the morning-after pill became less effective at preventing pregnancy in women with higher BMI.

"IUDs are certainly a highly effective form of emergency contraception," said Dr. Ranit Mishori, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Georgetown University.  "The study appears to confirm it, [but] I think not many women are aware that it is an effective option."

While the device is indeed better at preventing pregnancy, experts say that it is not necessarily the best option for everyone.

"Here are the problems: the IUD has to be inserted and most of the time, ordered," said Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.  "They are way overpriced in this country.  You can't just walk in my office and get an $800 IUD.  We have to get it authorized and ordered."

On the other hand, any woman over the age of 17 can buy Plan B One-Step at a pharmacy without a prescription.  Females under the age of 17 must have a prescription to obtain the product.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Male Birth Control Pill Coming Soon?

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Kan.) -- Thanks to a team of doctors at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, a birth control pill for men will soon attempt to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The male version of birth control would contain a drug called H2-gamendazole, which stops sperm cells from developing in the testes.  Doctors say the drug wouldn't affect men's libido and if they decide to stop taking the pill, men would regain fertility within weeks.

The drug so far has been tested on monkeys, mice, rabbits and rats.  Doctors found that in rats the results were "100 percent effective and 100 percent reversible," according to the Detroit Free Press.

The male birth control pill comes at a time when condom use is on the rise.  In 1982, only 52 percent of women reported having sex with a partner who used a condom -- that number rose to 96 percent in 2006.

Still, men shouldn't get too excited.  The pill, after receiving approval, wouldn't be on shelves for another 10 years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cancer Risk Among Women Taking Contraceptives Measured in Study

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(JOHANNESBURG) -- Women who have used injectable or oral birth control in the past are at a significantly higher relative risk of invasive breast cancer, but they are at significantly lower risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study based on black women in South Africa. As more time passed after a woman stopped using the contraceptives, her increased risk diminished.

The study, published in PLoS Medicine, pulled self-reported data from 5,702 participants with newly diagnosed invasive breast, cervical, ovarian or endometrial cancers.  There were 1,492 women in the study who served as controls. They had other types of cancers, including colon, rectal and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which are not influenced by contraceptive use.

Among the participants, 26 percent of women had used injectable hormones and 20 percent had used pills. After adjusting for confounding factors, including age, education, smoking and number of sexual partners, researchers found women were 1.7 times more likely to develop breast cancer and 1.4 times more likely to get cervical cancer than women who had never taken the contraceptives.

About 50 percent of women with breast cancer had used oral or injectable contraceptives whereas 26 percent of women with ovarian cancer had used the contraceptives and 17 percent with endometrial cancer had used them.

In women who had used birth control pills or injectable contraceptives, the cancer risk diminished with time after a woman’s last use of the birth control, the authors wrote.

Injectable contraceptives are very common among black women in South Africa, the authors noted. In the U.S., birth control pills are a more commonly used form of female contraceptive.

Hormone medications are among the most commonly prescribed and taken medications in the world. About nine percent of women ages 15 to 49 took oral contraceptive pills and four percent used injectable contraceptives or implants in 2007, according to a 2009 United Nations report. Combined injectable contraceptives provide a monthly dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy in the same way that oral contraceptives do. Brand names include Cyclofem and Novafem.

But despite the numbers, Dr. Diane Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at University of Missouri -Kansas City, said women should not necessarily be deterred from using oral or injectable hormones, in South Africa or anywhere else.

The authors of the study in South Africa did not return ABC News’ requests for comment.

“The very large benefit of contraceptives for women of reproductive age in preventing maternal deaths due to childbearing are largely overlooked by this study,” said Harper. "Any increased risk of breast or cervical cancer due to short-term use of contraceptives must be weighed by the quality of the data coming from the self-reports, by the large number of deaths prevented during childbearing, and by the multiple factors in addition to hormone exposure that play into pre-menopausal versus post-menopausal breast cancer and cervical [cancer].”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boyfriends' Money Affects Teen Girls' Condom Use

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Teen girls whose primary source of spending money comes from their boyfriends are less likely to use condoms, according to a new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine obtained data from an HIV prevention study that included 715 African-American teen girls in the Atlanta area.

Almost a quarter of the females, ages 15 to 22, attending family-planning centers said their primary source of spending money was from their boyfriends, rather than from their parents, grandmothers or jobs.  The teens were 10 percent more likely not to have used condoms in the previous 60 days.

Few girls reported using other methods of contraception, researchers said. Also, girls whose boyfriends owned cars were also about 50 percent more likely not to use condoms than those whose boyfriends did not own cars.

"After matching the groups on over 75 characteristics, the teens whose primary source of spending money was their boyfriend were still 50 percent more likely not to use condoms, and they were less likely to respond to the HIV prevention intervention," said Janet Rosenbaum, lead author of the study and research faculty at the Maryland Population Research Center in College Park.

Women with less relationship bargaining power -- and hence limited ability to insist on safe sex -- are particularly at risk of condom non-use, the authors wrote.

In a way, these girls are trading unsafe sex for money, Rosenbaum said, even though most of them reported being in long-term and monogamous relationships.

"Medical interventions alone will not cure or solve the problem of nonuse of condoms," said Dr. Paula Hillard, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford School of Medicine.  "We need societal changes and changes in the messages we provide to adolescent girls. ...We need to provide alternative messages about power and self-efficacy that will counter the tendency to succumb to coercive relationships and unsafe sex."

To counter these societal norms, Rosenbaum said clinicians must consider teens' economic circumstances when conducting safe sex interventions.

"Teens may act unwisely in order to meet their material needs and wants," Rosenbaum said.  "Interventions and clinicians may need to concentrate not just on safe sex behavior but also on helping teens to evaluate their needs versus wants."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Packaging Error Leads to Second Birth Control Pill Recall in a Month

FDA(NEW YORK) -- Less than one month after Pfizer recalled nearly one million packages of faulty birth control pills, Glenmark Generics has recalled its version of the oral contraceptives because of a packaging error that landed the pills in the wrong order.

The India-based drug company has warned that seven lots of norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol tablets distributed to U.S. pharmacies between Sept. 21 and Dec. 30, 2011 “could leave women without adequate contraception, and at risk for unintended pregnancy.

“Select blisters were rotated 180 degrees within the card, reversing the weekly tablet orientation and making the lot number and expiry date visible only on the outer pouch,” the company said in a statement released Friday, explaining the packaging error.

The correct packaging aligns 28 tablets in four rows, with the white tablets containing norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol in the top row and light green placebo tablets in the bottom row.

The affected lot numbers are 04110101, 04110106, 04110107, 04110114, 04110124, 04110129 and 04110134.

“Patients who have the affected product should notify their physician and return the product to the pharmacy” and “begin using a nonhormonal form of contraception immediately,” the company said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


HHS Secretary Addresses Contraceptive Mandate, Drug Shortages

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The president’s controversial contraceptive mandate and ongoing national drug shortages were just two of the off-budget topics presented to embattled Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Wednesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, both expressed criticism and concern about the contraceptive mandate.  Hatch questioned whether Sebelius had consulted with any Catholic bishops on the matter prior to last week’s reversal on the mandate that would require religious employers to cover certain preventable health services, such as contraception.

“I did not,” she said, adding that the president has, “spoken to the bishops on several occasions,” but she was unsure if it was about the compromise in the requirement.

The comprimise touted by the administration after a firestorm erupted over the mandate did little to quell the controversy. This week, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops rejected the Obama administration's compromise on birth control coverage and said they would continue to fight President Obama's plan to force employees of Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions to provide free contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans for their employees. 

Hatch also pressed her on whether HHS had conducted or requested any, “analysis of the constitutional or statutory religious freedom issues” surrounding the mandate.  Sebelius replied that she never spoke to anyone, but that HHS did, “look at a whole host of legal issues.”

Pressing the issue, Hatch asked if HHS consulted anyone at the Justice Department, to which Sebelius said “no.”

“I think you’ve got it very wrong the first try,” Grassley said, before turning his attention to whistle-blower protection.  “You have a lot more work to do.”

But it wasn’t all negative surrounding the mandate.  Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., commended the “reasonable position” HHS has taken.

“I think that it adequately protects religious liberty and it at the same time protects the right of women to obtain contraceptive services when they choose to,” Bingaman said.

The recent drug shortages making headlines across the nation were also a topic of discussion.

Citing a 3-year-old in his district who can’t get her leukemia medication, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., questioned why the government can’t, “fix this and stop playing catch-up ball.”

“The FDA did announce yesterday that they feel that in the next two weeks the leukemia drug shortage will indeed be resolved,” Sebelius said. “It’s resolved because what we can do at the FDA is accelerate alternatives, if we have notification.”

Sebelius cited a “market glitch” as the main cause of the problem.

“The market capacity for drugs has not increased,” she said.  “Currently, we have the same manufacturing capacity and drug marketers choosing which line of drugs to produce at which time.”

A bill currently pending in the House and Senate would make it a requirement for drug companies to notify the government of an impending shortage -- a process Sebelius said was “key” for the government’s role in preventing shortages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Contraception Accommodation: Catholic Health Association, Planned Parenthood Pleased

Michael Matisse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senior administration officials are pleased with the initial response to President Obama’s pending announcement on an “accommodation” for religious organizations regarding a new rule that would require employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

Though they’re on opposite sides of the birth control and abortion debate, both Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued statements Friday morning applauding the compromise, which allows religious organizations to keep contraception out of its coverage while requiring the insurance companies to step in and offer contraceptive coverage to female employees.

“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions,” Keehan said. “The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished."

"The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable, but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy,” she continued.

Richards said in a statement:

“In the face of a misleading and outrageous assault on women’s health, the Obama administration has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring all women will have access to birth control coverage, with no costly co-pays, no additional hurdles, and no matter where they work. We believe the compliance mechanism does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits. However we will be vigilant in holding the administration and the institutions accountable for a rigorous, fair and consistent implementation of the policy, which does not compromise the essential principles of access to care. The individual rights and liberties of all women and all employees in accessing basic preventive health care is our fundamental concern. Planned Parenthood continues to believe that those institutions who serve the broad public, employ the broad public, and receive taxpayer dollars, should be required to follow the same rules as everyone else, including providing birth control coverage and information. As a trusted health care provider to one in five women, Planned Parenthood’s priority is increasing access to preventive health care. This birth control coverage benefit does just that.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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