For centuries, the female body, especially the reproductive part, has mystified men. There was a time when a woman who was in a bad mood was deemed “hysterical.” Do you know what that means? It means people thought her womb was wandering around, causing her to be off-center. The Greeks would put nice-smelling spices between a woman’s legs to lure the womb back to its rightful place, assuming that this would help the woman calm down. Women have been diagnosed as mentally ill when really their problem was a hormonal imbalance or severe PMS syndromes. A woman’s pain has, in fact, for many years, become fuel for dismissal. “She’s just upset because it’s her time of the month.”

Now, even with medical science where it is, women are being told that they don’t really need birth control pills, or if they do need them it’s because they’re sluts. “Put an aspirin between your knees,” we’re being told. This might all be great fodder for conversation but for one super huge problem. It is men who are leading and participating in these conversations. Women are not invited.

Luckily, I have my own blog, and even though I’m just a woman, so far my ability to write seems to go over pretty well, so I thought I would use this real estate to toss a few facts out there. From a female perspective.

It’s all in a name

Much of the conversation going on right now is about “birth control pills” or “contraception.” Did you know that the same pills can also be referred to as hormone replacement therapy or HRT?

The Mayo Clinic defines HRT as follows: “Hormone replacement therapy — medications containing female hormones to replace the ones the body no longer makes after menopause.” The National Institute of Health notes that there are generally two groups of women who use HRT:

Generally, health care providers prescribe HRT for two groups of women:

  • Women going through menopause and who had already gone through it (called post-menopausal)—The natural levels of these hormones drop during menopause. This drop can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances. HRT may be used to help lessen some of these symptoms
  • Women with certain health conditions—In some cases, women’s bodies don’t make normal levels of the hormones because of a medical problems, such as premature ovarian failure. For these women, HRT replaces the hormones that their bodies should be making.

Women with severe PMS or menstrual symptoms like cramping, bloating, migraines, or severe mood swings use HRT to “even things out” a bit. Some women use HRT to regularize their cycles or to limit how heavy their flow is (men find this stuff yucky, so it’s probably not much of a surprise that this facet of the discussion has been getting left out).

What you will take away if you ban HRT pills
Here is what is REALLY being left out of the conversation. If a woman goes through “menopause” (or the ceasing of menstrual cycles) really early in her life because of any number of health conditions, her body has to survive much longer without the natural protection that Estrogen and other hormones give us. Estrogen helps us protect our vital organs like our heart. It helps us protect our bones. It helps us protect our emotional health. The Mayo Clinic notes:

Women who experience premature menopause or premature ovarian failure have a different set of health risks compared with women who reach menopause near the average age of about 50, including:

  • A lower risk of breast cancer
  • A higher risk of osteoporosis
  • A higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)

In addition, hormone therapy appears to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and CHD when started soon after menopause in young women. For women who reach menopause prematurely, the protective benefits of hormone therapy may outweigh the risks.

If we ban HRT because “women can keep their legs closed” then women who are at risk for truly serious health conditions caused by failure of their reproductive organs (or other complexities) will be left without a way to protect or help themselves.

In case you think this is hogwash

There’s a lot of political vitriol around this issue, which can cloud a lot of the intellectual facets of the conversation. However, for a lot of women, this is not a political issue at all. It’s a personal issue. It’s a matter of well-being. It’s a matter of wanting the right to live the healthiest, longest life possible.

It’s a personal issue to me.

Due to things nobody understands, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at the age of 14. By age 20, I was told I had the beginning stages of osteoporosis. There are millions and millions of women just like me. It’s not about sex. It’s not about babies. It’s not about politics. It’s about not wanting to experience crumbling bones and broken hips by age 40. It’s about not wanting to experience heart disease 30 years before what is deemed “acceptable.” It’s about our lives, folks.

This is not an easy post to write. It’s not something I would normally talk about. But my life and the lives of countless women – maybe women you know and love – are being attacked right now by men who do not understand what they are talking about.

This is not a political issue. This is a health issue. This is a personal issue.

Please stand with me and prevent this dangerous rhetoric from going any further.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuscanss/6055656173/ via Creative Commons