Since when did we all become gynecologists?
Jackie O'Brien | Wednesday, March 6, 2019
“Aren’t you worried you’re going to get breast cancer?”
Every single woman who has consulted with her doctor and chosen birth control for her health, lifestyle or both has been asked this question before. By friends, partners and family members.
But honestly, since when did we all begin to think we’re all gynecologists?
It is time to dispel the myth that a woman’s healthcare choice is anyone’s business but her’s and her doctor’s.
Birth control is a controlled medication, meaning it must be prescribed by a licensed medical professional, commonly a gynecologist, general doctor, nurse and sometimes a pharmacist, in order for a woman to gain access to it. Therefore, we can all rest assured that the women in our lives who choose to be on birth control have had a discussion with their doctor and considered the risks, side effects and benefits of different hormonal dosages and options.
And I would hope that we could all agree that our medical professionals know much more about the risks associated with birth control than a google-educated opponent who doesn’t even use it.
But to ease the concern of those who truly believe that my choice to be on birth control is any of their business, here are some statistics:
A study from the University of Copenhagen in March 2018, using a sample size of 1.8 million women and studying them for over a decade, found hormonal birth control use contributes to, at most, one extra case of breast cancer for every 7,690 women who choose to use hormonal contraception. According to science, then, using hormonal contraception for an extended period of time increases your risk of developing breast cancer by .013 percent. One tenth of a percent. Furthermore, birth control has been proven to reduce a women’s risk of several other types of cancers including ovarian cancer.
Conversely, drinking alcohol increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by a much higher rate: 15 percent for women who have more than three drinks a week, compared to those who have none at all. But I’ve never heard a woman lectured for increasing her risk of breast cancer because of her drinking habits?
Now, I doubt any of that will change anyone’s mind, because the real issue here isn’t concern for a woman’s health, but the fight to control her life, her choices and her body. If you are one of those people who would lecture me or question my health choices, using breast cancer as a justification, then statistics are lost on you anyway. The debate clearly goes much deeper than that.
Birth control has become the battleground for the fight over women’s liberty. The discussion, rather than focusing on science, and respecting the right for women to dictate their life choices, has devolved into a never-ending cycle of myth, rumor and judgement.
A woman’s right to make her own health decisions with the consult of her doctor or another medical profession should never fall into question. We have all been subject to a fear campaign of the risks associated with birth control, the primary intent of which is to make women constantly question their health and wellbeing, rather than to help them make informed decisions about their health.
It’s unfortunate that allowing women ready access to birth control is still even up for debate. Despite the countless and numerous ways in which birth control has improved millions of women’s lives, some people still feel the need to restrict a person’s personal choice because of their own convictions.
Bottom line: We know what we’re signing up for, and our decisions should not be questioned by those who have no real conception of what it means to be a woman on hormonal contraception. And in the end, it’s no one’s business. No one is camped outside of bars protesting the distribution of alcohol under the guise of a woman’s breast health. No one questions the health choices of a woman drinking responsibly.
So let’s stop acting like we’re all gynecologists and experts, and begin to listen with empathy. Listen to our doctors and health professionals, listen to women who have concerns, and listen to and respect the women in our lives who have made educated personal health choices.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.