The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Effectiveness of low-dose birth control debated

With the approach of Valentine’s Day, love appears at every turn. Walk into the grocery store and roses and chocolates are there to be purchased for that special someone.

Yet in the romantic atmosphere, an important but quiet discussion about birth control guidelines is being debated by the Food and Drug Administration.

The potential for new guidelines brings up the question about the effectiveness of what is called “low-dose” birth control pills.

The Advisory Committee met last month to discuss the effectiveness of newer birth control pills.

Newer forms of birth control pills have less estrogen and progestin. Since the inception of the birth control pill in 1960, the reasons for a person to use it have changed somewhat.

Part of the cause of the use of lower hormone levels is because the side effects are diminished and people are now requesting the pill not only for birth control, but to regulate menstruation or help clear up acne.

The Advisory Committee found that pregnancy rates have climbed in the last decade with the new birth control pills.

The Committee met to address whether there should be a cut off rate of pregnancy that is acceptable to still approve a potential new birth control pill.

The Pearl Index is the primary way that pregnancy rates are calculated with birth control pills. This rate consists of an average rate of failure, or pregnancy, per 100 women within one year.

The acceptable level of efficacy of the Pearl Index has been 1.5 failures, which became the acceptable rate in 1975. Evidence has shown in the last decade that newer birth control pills have a failure rate of two, which exceeds prior criteria.

The Advisory Committee attributed the increase in pregnancy rates to a number of potential factors.

These factors include lower dosages of estrogen and progestin, people not taking the pill according to instructions, and even the improvement of pregnancy detection.

They also acknowledged that the subjects in the studies did not necessarily represent the general population, as the study excluded women who had a body mass index of more than 35 percent, smoked and were between 30 and 35 years old, or had a previous blood clot incident.

The Klotz Student Health Center has no statistics as to how much birth control is distributed to students, or the effectiveness of the birth control.

Amy Reichbach, a health educator who conducts pregnancy and birth control counseling, said there are no hard facts as to the causes of pregnancy in students.

“Anecdotally, either (students) were using condoms or they weren’t using anything. That’s 20 to 25 percent of the time (what) I can tie these pregnancies to,” Reichbach said.

Data presented to the Advisory Committee that came from the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed that the highest rates of unintended pregnancies were among women 15 to 24 years of age. More information showed that 50 percent of young women would not use their birth control pills correctly during a pill cycle.

In August 2006, the FDA approved Plan B as an emergency contraceptive available to women over the age of 18 without a prescription. It is available at the Klotz Student Health Center.

Reichbach and Kristal Gordon of the Student Pharmacy said they both felt that Plan B was not being used as an alternative birth control.

Reichbach said that while the Health Center informs students of birth control and emergency contraception options, many students express surprise at the availability of emergency contraception.

“You can’t always tie unwanted pregnancies to the hormone level,” Reichbach said.

She said there is more likelihood that if a person is unhappy with their birth control, they will be less compliant, and that can be a factor in pregnancy risk.

The Klotz Student Health Center is currently revamping its services in regards to sexual health, tailoring them to CSUN students’ needs, which may be necessary if the FDA approves an increased failure rate of newer birth control pills.

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