Control Yourself

During an ancestry.com binge I was shocked to discover that only two generations ago several members of my family tree had more than a dozen children. Yowza! Get a revolving door already!

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Grandma Lovisa lived in Värmland, Sweden in the mid-1800’s, where birth control was probably limited to makeshift cervical caps, homemade condoms and the dra ut method….aka the unreliable withdrawal-maneuver. Thankfully, her off-spring’s off-spring had a better handle on family planning due to the evolution of contraception.

Thousands of years of contraceptive creativity have been quite fascinating – I’m not saying the mule earwax suppository was a great idea, but it was a commendable effort.

And the Seed Sparing Award goes to… the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for giving us the condom. Ah yes, mummification, togas and gladiators are all ancient history, but to this day condoms are a staple amenity in hotels and public restrooms around the world.

So here we are thousands of years later, loads of creativity, blah blah blah – then why is birth control still such an enormous global issue? You’d think the uterus would have an off switch by now! It’s complicated.

 

 

The Big Picture

Let’s do a quick reality check: Overpopulation has resulted in the earth’s current laundry list of environmental and social problems. In case you didn’t notice, food, water and energy resources are swiftly being depleted because there are just too many human beings on this planet.

Managing reproduction in order to limit the number of children born is plain ol’ family planning, right? But family planning in developing countries requires access to the type of resources most of us take for granted.

Hundreds of years ago it was common for women like my Grandma Lovisa to give birth to a dozen children, but usually four of them would die before the age of five. They had large families and short lives. Maternal and infant mortality rates were extremely high. Due to advances in medicine, we now live longer in the developed world.

In the undeveloped world however, there are thousands of communities that don’t have access to clean water much less condoms. In addition to reproductive health services, these people need sanitary conditions, schools, medical providers and access to all sorts of supplies – including assistance on how to help themselves with family planning.

Over 222 million women are without access to any sort of contraception. No access to knowledge, no access to options, no access to any source or supply. Nothing. And if each one of those 222 million women gave birth to five children? That’s another 1.1 billion people. Booyah!

What the world needs now is more effective, affordable, accessible birth control. So next time you hear someone say that the topic of contraception is exclusively a religious or moral issue, tell them they are mistaken – it is an astronomically huge global environmental health issue. Period.

 

 

Protecting Planning

The current war being waged against The Planned Parenthood Organization is misinformed, misguided misanthropy. It’s hard watching politicians getting people’s panties in a bunch over the word abortion, while at the same time ignoring the fact that 90% of Planned Parenthood services are cancer screening, STD screening, STD treatment and contraception.

Hello? There are over 7.3 billion people on earth. There will be 9 billion by 2040 and 11 billion by 2050. How can anyone seriously think of defunding an organization like Planned Parenthood? Seriously? I stand with Planned Parenthood. We all should.

While U.S. politicians bicker and minimize the demand for publically funded family planning programs, there are philanthropic international organizations paying attention to humanity’s big picture. Non-governmental organizations like Population Services International (PSI), Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoekerung (DSW), and Population Action International (PAI) are committed to global awareness, public education and funding for reproductive health programs worldwide. This is hope!

My favorite of these organizations is The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. The Gates Institute plays a huge role in many of the policies, programs and current cutting-edge research promoting universal family planning and reproductive health. They are a big part of the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative, “to enable more women and girls in some of the world’s poorest countries to access contraceptive information, services, and supplies, without coercion or discrimination by 2020”…I think I love them.

It’s groups like PSI, DSW, PAI and The Gates Institute, along with many others, that are making this a better world for all of us.

 

 

So what about you?

What’s your personal population plan? Besides donations to these global organizations, how can you make a difference?

First: Push, nag and demand that your elected officials support sex-education, family planning programs and protect abortion rights. Speak out relentlessly. Do it now!

Second: Take a good honest look at your personal population plan. Whether you are a man or a woman – you need a plan. Whether you plan to have children, are done having children or have decided not to have children – you need a plan. In other words, if you’re doin’ it – you need a plan! Know your birth control options and decide what’s best for you.

 

 

Decisions, decisions

Once upon a time the cost of birth control was a significant factor when choosing your method. But, nowadays, under the Affordable Health Care Act, most insurers must cover one form of contraception in each of the eighteen methods listed by the FDA – with no out-of-pocket cost. Unless of course you work for a religious organization in which case, God help you. Literally.

Obviously the only good birth control is effective birth control. Amirite? Here is a comprehensive Sydology list and explanation of the ‘best’, the ‘meh’ and the ‘don’t-count-on-it’ choices.

 

BEST CHOICES

Abstinence: Yeah, right.

Female Sterilization: Consider it permanent.

Tubal Ligation Fallopian tubes are cut, cauterized, or clipped laparoscopically to block eggs passing from the ovaries to the uterus. *Note: The uterus may still be used for baby business using IVF.

 

Male Sterilization: Consider it permanent.

Vasectomy Vas deferens is cut, cauterized or clipped to block sperm from merging with ejaculate. Guys can freeze their sperm prior to the procedure. Old-school vasectomies are performed through a scrotal incision. No-scalpel vasectomies are pretty much the same thing but instead of cutting the scrotum, the procedure is done through a small puncture in the skin of the scrotum.

*Note: Reversal of sterilization is theoretically possible, but requires extensive procedures that are not always successful. Therefore, sterilization should only be considered as a permanent solution.

 

Intrauterine Device (IUD): T-shaped plastic device inserted into uterus. Easy placement done in the doctor’s office. Lasts five to ten years.

Non-Hormonal Copper Contains copper which is toxic to sperm. Awesome hormone free choice!

Hormonal Contains levonorgestrel which inhibits sperm’s ability to penetrate the egg.

 

Implant: Flexible tiny plastic rod placed under the skin of the inner upperarm that releases progestin. Lasts three years.

 

MEH CHOICES

The meh group is made up of one barrier method and a bunch of hormones – they are meh because efficacy is dependent on proper use every time.

Cervical BarrierDiaphragms and cervical caps should be inserted with spermicide before intercourse and left in place for at least six hours after intercourse. They once needed to be fitted, until the one-size-fits-all Cayca diaphragm became available last spring.

Hormones: Basically prevent ovulation. They come with side effects like weight gain, acne, depression, anxiety, mood swings…just saying – be prepared. If you are at risk for developing blood clots, look for a different option.

Injection Lasts three months, must be repeated on time.

Patch Lasts one week, must be changed on time every week.

Ring Lasts three weeks, take it out for the fourth week. Repeat the cycle with a new ring. If taken out for sex, must be reinserted within three hours.

Pill Should be taken at the same time every day to be most effective.

 

DON’T-COUNT-ON-IT CHOICES

Sorry, but the rhythm-method, withdrawal-method, sponges and condoms pale in birth control dependability when compared to these best choices.

*Condoms should ALWAYS be used to reduce risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

 

For more information visit bedsider.org – an amazing resource with a super comprehensive website.

 

 

Improving Access

What once required a prescription may soon be available over the counter! Studies show that easy access to contraception covered by insurance is expected to lower the rate of unwanted pregnancies by 25%. Makes sense. If it’s easy to get, women will use it.

California is in the lead on the better-access path. California State Senate Bill 493: Pharmacy Law was passed in California back in 2013, and should be fully implemented by the end of this year. The law allows pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception like the ring, patch or pill to females over eighteen years old – a practice that has been common in other countries for years. The law could also allow a year’s supply to be provided at one time.

The pill has no risk of addiction or toxicity, with low risk of serious side effects. (You can’t even say that about aspirin.) So pharmacists plan to use a simple checklist to assess for contraindications before prescribing. Check out freethepill.org for more information.

It certainly seems like it’s time for over the counter hormonal contraception to happen – it’s the refreshingly exciting direction being taken by some lawmakers at both state and federal levels. United States Senate Bill 1438 Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act was introduced a few months ago and is currently being considered by the Senate Finance Committee. TBC….

 

 

What’s to Come

The inevitable future of birth control is outrageously exciting. There are even a few upcoming options for the boyz!

Vasalgel: One-shot non-hormonal polymer injected into the vas deferens to block sperm for ten years. Reversible with a second injection to flush out the polymer. Commonly referred to as RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance). Developed by Parsemus Foundation. Currently in clinical trials, should be available by 2018. Oh boy! This.Is.Fantastic.

“Clean Sheets” Pill: Exactly what it sounds like; a hormonal pill for a guy that produces a sperm-free orgasm. Bonus: Absence of ejaculate decreases male-to-partner transmission of HIV. It appears to work, but policymakers don’t think guys will go for it – so why waste the money on research and development? Still very much in the decision making stage. Also developed by Parsemus Foundation. Hmm. Will it happen?

MicroCHIP: Tiny microchip implanted under the skin of the buttock, abdomen or upperarm that secretes hormones via remote control for females. OMG! It’s an on/off switch! Turn it on for birth control and off for babymaking. Lasts sixteen years. Developed by Microchips Biotech with funding from The Gates Foundation. Slotted for pre-clinical testing, expected to be available by 2018.

Multi Purpose Technology (MPT): Diaphragm and intravaginal ring that release two drugs – the hormone Levonorgestrel (LNG) and the anti-viral Tenofovir (TFV). These devices are supposed to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases – including herpes and HIV. Lasts 90 days. Developed by Conrad. Currently in clinical trails. No projected release date. I really hope this happens – it would be a global game changer!

 

 

 

Grandma Lovisa lived in a world populated by a mere 1 billion people in the 1800’s. Today China alone has over 1.3 billion people. India has over 1.2 billion….and counting.

The future is looking…crowded. Some suggested unthinkable solutions include: elimination with disease by withholding immunizations; space colonization for those ready to move to Mars; and a worldwide one child policy. How very ‘hunger games-esque’. Yeah, so let’s get moving with this global family planning thingy. M’kay?

The Gates Institute has the right idea for the future, “a world where population-based science and evidence are discovered, developed and translated to improve the lives of all through universal and equitable access to family planning and reproductive health”. Good stuff. Rest assured, if Bill and Melinda are doin’ it – they have a plan. Do you?

Grandma Lovisa didn’t have a plan but, if given an option, I imagine Lovisa would have been an IUD kind of girl – after all it is the most popular form of birth control in Sweden. Also she probably would not have had a dozen kids, and I am quite sure that together we would stand with planned parenthood – along with many branches of my family tree.

“The real hope of the world lies in putting as painstaking thought into the business of mating as we do into other big businesses.” – Margaret Sanger

Har en lycklig sund allt!