Imagine a 12-year-old girl being prescribed oral contraceptive pills by a licensed doctor. Picture this same pre-teen having her menstrual cycle for seven days every two weeks. That’s what happened to recent college grad Sasha Brown. As a result of abnormal periods and debilitating cramps, she became dehydrated, anemic and exhausted. It was then that her pediatrician decided to prescribe Aviane—medication which contains female hormones to prevent ovulation—to regulate her cycle and cystic acne. Brown experienced this for more than five years. It wasn’t until 2009—after numerous fainting spells, countless doctors and tons of ER visits—that Brown was diagnosed with Stage 2 endometriosis.
“No treatment is ideal for everyone, but the pill has kept the condition from completely ravaging my body, for the most part. I feel much better off taking the pill, than not,” Brown said.
Brown’s body has gone through a lot. Her symptoms mimicked appendicitis. She had blood in her stool. Her abdomen appeared swollen and bloated. She had nickel-sized blood clots and she would become dizzy.
“The dizziness seemed to be caused by not eating or drinking enough, and I would faint every few months from excruciating pain during my cycle. I also noticed that I would typically have diarrhea and constipation during my menstrual cycle,” Brown said.
According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, endometriosis “is still a fairly ‘unknown’ illness, despite the fact that it is one of the most common gynecological problems. It often takes a long time before it is diagnosed.” Tissue, which grows inside the uterus, starts to grow outside the uterus in endometriosis cases typically for women between 13 and 50. Symptoms for the condition vary. Women may suffer from chronic pain in the lower back and pelvis, painful menstrual cycles, intestinal pain, painful bowel movements or painful urination during menstrual periods, pain during or after sex, and fatigue. Reports indicate that endometriosis may be linked to frequent yeast infections, autoimmune diseases like lupus or hypothyroidism, allergies, asthma and certain cancers.
While Brown credits the pill with her helping to sustain a better quality of life, the majority of the country is still very ignorant about the birth control pill and its uses. It didn’t help that things heated nearly two months ago when conservatives questioned whether or not the birth control pill should be covered by insurance providers. The talk has died down, but there’s no resolution. Women are being left sit on the side lines while they make some very tough decisions. Imagine a woman having to choose between being healthy or becoming a mother. More than one million women use the pill for other reasons than to prevent pregnancy a 2011 Gattachmer Institute report found. In addition, the report found that the pill helps to relieve extreme menstrual pain, “which is experienced by up to 40 percent of all adult women and can lead to absences from work and school.” What some people may not know is that more 80 percent of teens who use the pill do so to deal with pain in addition to pregnancy prevention. But one third of those teens use the pill strictly to relieve pain. Despite being properly diagnosed and having surgery, Brown said that she still battles symptoms.
“The pill itself can make you very nauseous. My hormones are not completely stable. For instance, my thyroid levels were out of whack from the hormonal changes my body undergoes,” Brown said.
She will continue to take the pill daily until she is ready to start a family, as recommended by her gynecologist. More than five million women in the United States suffer from endometriosis. A chance for developing the condition increases if a woman has never had children, has a family history of endometriosis or if an infection caused damage to cells in the pelvis.
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