In 1957, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first birth-control pills, it wasn’t for birth control. The contraceptives won approval as a treatment for severe menstrual disorders; temporary infertility was a side effect. Funny, women across the country suddenly started complaining in droves about severe menstrual disorders.
As religiously-affiliated organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, continue to complain about federal policies that would require that health insurance cover family planning (President Obama worked out a compromise deal under which the insurance companies would absorb the cost, but the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still sees this as undue interference), one issue hasn’t come up much: What about when birth control isn’t for birth control?
Since the 1950s, medicine has found many uses for what are still generally called oral contraceptives, although they now come in other forms such as implants and patches. At the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver this year, a researcher outlined the medical advantages for certain women. (Note: The pill also is linked to medical risks.)
It appears to be protective against endometrial and ovarian cancer, and the longer women take it, the greater the benefit in this regard.