Will St. John’s Wort Affect Birth Control?

st-johns-wortHerbal remedies are very popular around the world. Many people prefer them to pharmaceuticals because they believe herbs can elicit positive results without serious side effects. However, plants produce a wide variety of chemicals at varying concentrations, and might have a number of effects on your body, both good and bad. Furthermore, since herbal supplements are not evaluated by the FDA for safety or effectiveness, consumers often don’t have ready access to evidence about herbal products. We can’t even be sure that they contain the ingredients that are listed on the label!


St. John’s wort might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, and might be unsafe during pregnancy.


One popular herb is St. John’s wort, or Hypericum perforatum. While the scientific evidence is mixed at best, many people believe that St. John’s wort can be used as an antidepressant. However, people often treat themselves with herbal supplements without guidance from a medical doctor or pharmacist — and without knowing whether or not these herbs are safe to use with any medications they might be taking.

Over the millennia, plants have evolved all sorts of powerful chemicals, such as toxins, to defend themselves against insects and other predators. For this reason, we can’t assume that plants only contain inert chemicals that won’t affect us or interact with the chemicals in other drugs and supplements we use. St. John’s wort, in fact, contains chemicals that interfere with other medications. It has been banned in France, and other countries require or are considering warning labels on St. John’s wort products so consumers can be aware of possible drug interactions. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Contraception: Contraceptive Patches

Ortho EvraIs there a topical birth control available, you ask? No contraceptive cream or ointment has been developed yet, but yes, there is a patch that can be applied to your skin that is almost 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.


Patches are easy to use, discreet, and provide excellent birth control.


It’s called a transdermal patch and there is only one available by prescription in the United States. The Ortho Evra patch (or the generic version, called Xulane) is a small, sticky plastic patch that you apply to your skin: one patch each week for three weeks and then no patch for one week before you start the cycle again. While you wear a patch, it releases both a progesterone hormone, norelgestromin, and an estrogen hormone, ethinyl estradiol. This hormone combination is absorbed through your skin and enters your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy, much like oral birth control pills. It is discreet and can be worn comfortably and confidently during bathing, showering, swimming, and exercising without fear of its falling off. As a matter of fact, the patch has been rigorously tested in many situations, and these studies have shown that when applied properly, the patch loosens or falls off less than 2 percent of the time.

Contraceptive patches come in boxes of three for each month. To use a patch, you open a packet and apply one patch to clean, dry, intact (not irritated or injured) skin. It is recommended to apply it to areas on the buttocks, abdomen, upper torso but not breasts, or outer part of upper arm. It should not be applied to areas where it could be rubbed off, such as under a bra strap. Most users apply the patch the first day of their period or the Sunday after the start of their period. When you initially start using the patch, you will need to use a back-up contraceptive method such as a condom for the first seven days. If you are switching to the patch from birth control pills or the vaginal ring, you apply your first patch on the day you would usually start your next pill pack of pills or insert your next vaginal ring. In that case you do not need to use a back-up method of birth control. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Contraception: Can I Use Birth Control to Skip a Period?

In 2003, the FDA approved Seasonale, an extended-cycle birth control pill. This pill, a combination of estrogen and progestin, is taken daily for 84 days followed by one week of inactive (placebo) pills, allowing a woman to have her period once every three months — four times per year.

Since that time, several other extended-cycle birth control pills have been marketed, including Lybrel, released in 2007, which offers women continuous contraception coverage with only one period per year.


Using birth control to skip periods doesn’t result in side effects quite this exaggerated.

Prior to Seasonale’s debut, certain types of birth control pills could be taken back to back, allowing users to have period-free weddings and honeymoons, or to treat certain conditions, such as endometriosis. But there was no consensus about how to use birth control pills this way, and no actual product marketed specifically for this type of use. Early studies on extended-cycle pills reported that users were highly satisfied using pills to have fewer periods — and wanted to continue using these pills to reduce periods after the study was completed.

Can skipping periods be beneficial or harmful? Is this a lifestyle choice that’s not “natural”? How many “normal” periods do you need in a lifetime? Continue reading

Let’s Talk Contraception: IUDs, a Choice for Teens

IUD in handIntrauterine devices, commonly known as IUDs, have been around for almost 50 years. They are terrific at preventing unwanted pregnancy and have high rates of satisfaction among users. Yet fewer than 6 percent of women in the United States used IUDs from 2006 to 2008, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Why are they not a first choice of contraception or used more than they are?


There are hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs available: Skyla, Mirena, and Paragard.


A bit of history: Even though the concept of IUDs has been around since the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the Dalkon Shield was marketed in the ’60s and ’70s that IUDs were more widely used. However, due to design flaws in the shield, many users experienced bad infections and a few people died. The Dalkon Shield was taken off the market and the bad reputation of IUDs remained seared in the minds of the public. Today, newer IUDs are much improved — with a better design and fewer problems, fewer than 1 percent of users have serious complications. But still they remain underused and misunderstood, according to some health experts.

Recently, studies have shown that IUDs are an excellent choice for teens who usually want a long-term method of birth control that is easy to use and easily reversible. As a matter of fact, ACOG states that IUDs are the most effective reversible contraceptives available and are safe, reliable, and cost-effective for most users, including teens.

Other methods of birth control, like the Pill, rely on consistent use, which can be difficult for some users to comply with. This problem is eliminated with the use of an IUD, which can prevent pregnancy for years. Once inserted in the uterus by a health care provider, you don’t need to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 16: Blood Tests to Screen for Ovarian Cancer

repro systemWelcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.


September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.


Ovarian cancer can strike anyone with ovaries, although it is most common in people who are more than 55 years old. It starts when certain mutations in ovarian cells start to proliferate, resulting in tumor growth. (Some types of ovarian cancer can originate in the fallopian tubes, but most ovarian cancers arise from the cells that cover the surface of the ovary.) If a cancerous cell breaks away, it might set up camp elsewhere in the body, resulting in the cancer’s spread. It can be a serious condition, affecting around one out of 71 ovary-wielding individuals.

What causes ovarian cancer?

If you learned about the reproductive system in school, you probably remember that ovulation involves the release of an egg from an ovary. What your teacher probably didn’t tell you is that the process of ovulation is actually rather violent. An egg does not exit the ovary through a preexisting “doorway” and shuttle down the fallopian tube to make its way to the uterus. Nope, when an egg is “released,” it actually bursts through the ovary itself.

OH YEAHUnfortunately, during ovulation, the egg perforates the ovary, creating a lot of tissue damage. The ovary needs to repair itself, sort of like how bricklayers will need to be hired to fix that mess left by the Kool Aid man. Because ovarian cells are so often replicating themselves during the repair process, there are more chances for an error to occur. Cells that divide frequently, like ovarian cells, are more prone to becoming cancerous. Continue reading

12th and Delaware and the Crisis of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”

twelfth_and_delawareThe documentary film 12th and Delaware covers the story of two clinics adjacent to one another in Fort Pierce, Florida. On one corner, sits an abortion clinic. On the other, what’s commonly called a “crisis pregnancy center” (abbreviated as CPC).

It is not happenstance alone that caused these clinics to share an intersection.

The abortion clinic was in business first. When the building across the street went up for sale, it was purchased by the organizers of crisis pregnancy center (CPC) in order to divert the abortion clinic patients to their clinic to dissuade them from terminating their pregnancies.

If you’re not familiar with the services offered by a CPC, I’ll give you some background. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • The “40 Days For Life” campaign menaces and intimidates women seeking medical care (RH Reality Check)
  • Tea Party advocates for small government- unless it concern’s a woman’s womb (Examiner)
  • Glenn Beck believes a woman’s right to choose is comparable to slavery (Media Matters)
  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wants to limit women’s access to birth control under the new health reform law (RH Reality Check)
  • New Missouri Law says abortion providers must tell patients life begins at conception (Huff Po)
  • Voting pro-choice is more important than ever! Read up on the potential consequences of an anti-choice congress (NARAL)