Normally, we try to keep the tone here at Red Tent Sisters positive and optimistic, but given the news this week about Yaz and Yasmin, frankly, we’re feeling a little fed up. If you haven’t heard, this week the CBC revealed Health Canada documents indicating a suspected connection between the birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin and the deaths of 23 women. The women all experienced blood clots, a known side effect of hormonal contraception. While we were devastated to hear about the tragic deaths of these women, frankly we were also not surprised. Between our own experiences and Amy’s clinical practice, we’re all too familiar with the side effects and risks associated with the pill.
When we first heard the news on Tuesday, we hoped that this tragedy might finally lead to a constructive, candid conversation about the pros and cons of hormonal birth control. Instead, although there has been extensive coverage by various media, the same one-sided rhetoric we’ve been hearing for years continues. A physician on CBC stated “The pill is safe. Women shouldn’t worry.” Um, aren’t we discussing 23 deaths that are associated with the pill? Is it too much to ask that they validate the experiences of these women (and the countless others who experience a wide range of side effects) by acknowledging that in fact the pill has very real risks associated with it? Similarly, in a Globe and Mail article, a Health Canada representative was quoted as saying, “At this time, it is Health Canada’s view that the benefits of Yaz and Yasmin continue to outweigh the risks.” Given all the other contraceptive methods available (including birth control pills that have a lower chance of blood clots), wouldn’t it have been helpful if they suggested that women consider for themselves if the benefit outweighs the risk?
At Red Tent Sisters, we’re always advocating for informed consent. Our preference for contraception is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) known as Justisse – an all-natural approach to managing your fertility with an efficacy rate of over 99% with perfect use. However, we also recognize that this isn’t the right choice for every woman. For instance, at this point in her life, Kim has chosen to use the copper IUD. Every form of contraception has pros and cons, and every woman has to decide for herself what factors are the most important – efficacy, convenience, physical/emotional side effects. However, in our experience, too often these pros and cons are not made evident to women. Kim certainly wasn’t warned about the potential risk of mood disorders when she first went on the pill, something that would have been helpful to know when she started experiencing depressive episodes (which went away when she went off the pill). Similarly, women aren’t informed that it can take up to a year to return to normal cycling after being on hormonal birth control, which leads many women to experience distress when they start trying to conceive. Not only are side-effects glossed over, but it is common for more natural alternatives to simply be ignored. For instance, on the same CBC show, they listed alternatives to the pill and completely neglected to mention Fertility Awareness Methods as an option. Not all women will choose it for themself, but they deserve to know it exists.
While we’ve been disappointed by the dismissive nature of the media coverage so far, we are grateful to the many women who’ve bravely shared their experiences on blogs, social media and in the comment section of some of the mainstream news reports. Our hope is that those stories will help other women feel safe to speak up about their own concerns, and feel empowered to make the choice that is right for them.
Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters and ecosex.ca, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.