Women Taking The Pill More Likely to be Treated for Depression

Birth Control Pill Container (The Holy Kale)

Birth Control Pill Container (The Holy Kale)

Do you feel depressed? Are you on The Pill? There might be a correlation.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) followed 1M+ women ages 15-34, with average age of 24. The longitudinal study followed Danish women from 1995 to 2013 who had no prior history of depression. The average time between follow-ups was 6+ years.

Women who were on a combination of oral contraceptives were “23% more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant,” usually within the first six months after beginning the Pill’s regimen. But women on the progestin-only pills (a synthetic form of the progesterone hormone) were “34% more likely to take antidepressants or get a first diagnosis of depression” than women who didn’t take the hormonal contraceptive.

The risk primarily targets teenagers, and the risk inversely correlates with age (i.e. the risk decreases as one gets older).

It’s suggested that higher levels of progesterone may lower mood (which is controlled by estrogen). But researchers noted that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men within their lifetime, so the study’s findings are something to consider. It should be noted that the researchers have called for more follow-up studies to corroborate these findings.

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Which U.S State Has the Highest Maternal Mortality Rate?

Pregnant woman (SLO County)

Pregnant woman (SLO County)

You wouldn’t necessarily guess that *any* state in the U.S. has a high maternal mortality rate (i.e. mothers who die due to pregnancy- and birth-related complications), but one has that dubious honor. And that is the great state of Texas.

In the September issue of medical journal Obstretics and Gynecology, a report found the following:

The maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

Bet you didn’t expect that, right? (I certainly didn’t.) But how bad is it really?

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

Texas is part of the developed world, so the maternal mortality rate surge cannot be explained by “war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.” So what is it?

In recent years, Texas has severely decreased women’s access to spaces that offer medical services for reproductive health. In 2011, “the Texas state legislature cut $73.6M from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5M.” This measure resulted in 80 clinics closing across the state. Planned Parenthood clinics were also completely eliminated, which cut off access to reproductive health measures for lower-income women especially. Planned Parenthood had previously served 130K+ women across the state.

While Texas restored the family planning budget to its original level in 2013, the damage was already done: Many clinics are still struggling to provide the same level of care and service they provided before the cut. But Texas clinics are now offering free IUDs, so there’s some hope they’ll be flourishing soon.

 

 

 

California Will Now Offer Picking Up a Year’s Worth of Birth Control Pills in One Prescription

Birth control pills (Salon)

Birth control pills (Salon)

Once again, California blazes the way for the rest of the nation. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that states that women will be able to pick up a year’s supply of birth control pills at one time. Before this law passed, pharmacists were only able to dispense birth control in three-month supplies. (And I know I’ve had trouble with even that.)

Worried about if your insurance will cover it? No need: the new law also requires that the new year-at-once be covered in healthcare plans.

The new law goes into Jan. 1, 2017.

Texas Planned Parenthood Will Now Provide Low-Cost IUDs

IUD (NY Mag)

IUD (NY Mag)

It’s one small step forward, but it’s still a step for womankind. Earlier this month, the Greater Texas branch of Planned Parenthood announced that they would now offer intrauterine devices (or, as they’re more commonly known, IUDs) to women who would otherwise be unable to afford them. This benefit is due to a $2M donation from the Boone Family Foundation and the Harold Simmons Foundation, with each foundation donating $1M.

This isn’t the first time a large donation to Planned Parenthood has made more birth control options possible. Colorado also received a donation earmarked for providing free IUDs. The program resulted in a 42% drop in teenage abortions, and 40% drop in overall teen pregnancy rates.

Texas’ program will begin in September. The IUDs will be available on a sliding scale fee-basis for 1K women per year.

 

Planned Parenthood Endorses Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton (The Washington Times)

Hillary Clinton (The Washington Times)

Planned Parenthood has endorsed a candidate for the primary election: Hillary Clinton, the only woman running for the Democratic nomination. This is the first time in Planned Parenthood’s 100-year history that the organization has endorsed a candidate.

For this who’ve been living under a rock, Planned Parenthood provides a number of serves for womens’ reproductive health, including birth control, Pap smears and abortions.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that women’s issues will take up a prominent share of issues discussed leading up to this year’s election. Last week, Republicans in the Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Thankfully, they didn’t get very far, since President Obama vetoed it.

I hope this endorsement brings out women (and men!) to the polls who might not’ve voted otherwise come November.

 

How Has Colorado’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Dropped 40% Within 4 Years?

IUD (NY Mag)

IUD (NY Mag)

Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate has been getting some attention recently. But it’s not for the reason you think; it’s actually for the opposite reason.

From 2009 to 2013, Colorado reported a 40% decrease in teenage pregnancies, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Below is a graph that shows the decline:

Colorado's Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

Colorado’s Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

That seems insane, right? But there’s actually an interesting reason behind it.

In 2008, an anonymous donor (later revealed to be the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Warren Buffett’s late wife) gave a $23 gift to be parceled out over five years. The gift was to be used for “long-term contraception” for low-income teens and women. Over 30K intrauterine devices (IUDs) were purchased and implemented. This measure was rolled out in 68 clinics, as part of Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative.

The IUDs were found to be a very significant factor in the state’s teen pregnancy decline. The study released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that “the percentage of young women receiving IUDs and implants quadrupled in participating clinics,” and, in a complementary effect, the women receiving IUDs accounted for 75% of the state’s overall teen birth rate decline.

On a national scale, Colorado rose from having the “29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th.” This is significant as seven in 10 teen pregnancies in the state are unplanned.

The program expires this summer, and it’s unclear whether it will be renewed. But the numbers definitely speak for themselves in terms of effectiveness.

 

 

Dr. Carl Djerassi, Father of The Pill, Has Died

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Modern contraception pioneer Dr. Carl Djerassi died last Friday in San Francisco. He was 91 years old, and had suffered from complications of liver and bone cancer.

Often called the father of The Pill, Djerassi found an essential component of the now-common family planning product. In 1951, while working as a researcher at Syntex in Mexico City, he and two others successfully synthesized norethindrone, a progestin that later provided the base of the modern birth control pill. Djerassi and his team received a patent for their discovery.

Initially, the scientists thought that norethindrone would help fertility, but they soon realized that it served another purpose. The team knew that progesterone inhibited ovulation during pregnancy. They modified the progestin’s basic structure and added ethisterone, a compound thought to be devoid of medical value. (Warning: science-speak ahead.)

Djerassi’s team found that they could change the structure of progesterone to increase its potency eightfold. This progesterone analogue was strong enough to work when injected, but lost its potency when administered orally…Djerassi’s group made the same chemical modification in ethisterone that they had earlier made in progesterone.

(Interesting side note: At the time, Djerassi wasn’t researching anything to do with conception when he and his team made his famous discovery. He was actually looking for a compound that could be used to treat cancer. Happy accident, as they say.)

After five years of clinical trials, the birth control pill began reached the mass market, and cracked 1960s sexual norms wide open. (And we’re still feeling the effects of it today.)

This wasn’t his only big discovery: Djerassi also patented the first antihistamine, the drug that prevents allergy symptoms.

During his lifetime, Djerassi received 34 honorary doctorates. He was also the recipient of the National Medal of Science for chemistry in 1973, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1991. The two awards are the U.S.’s highest science and technology honors, respectively.

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Djerassi also wrote plays (some performed off-Broadway) and science-fiction, founded a company to control insect growth, and started an artists’ colony in his property in California.

Dr. Djerassi’s contributions to family planning were, and continue to be, a boon to women the world over, and his work will continue to hold great value for the coming generations.

Thank you, Dr. Djerassi. Thank you.