Letter 35: Letter from Reagan
Reading your story stirred a number of emotions that I cannot begin to describe. As a teenager, I went to my primary care provider to obtain a birth control prescription. At the time, I did not think anything of the experience. After mentioning to my PCP that I wished to start the pill, I was given a prescription with no explanation of the medication; I was only told that it was a combined hormonal birth control pill that I would need to take daily. My one question to the provider was “will I gain weight?” Her only answer: no. She did not take additional time to explain any potential adverse events that could occur. The same is true for many of my friends.
Now, after reading your story, I recognize this unsettling pattern.
Hormonal birth control of all forms has become so common that most women are expected to have a prescription. As a result, I think providers assume that risks of starting birth control are widely understood and extra counseling with patients is not necessary. This is certainly what happened to me. Looking at the sheer number of available birth control options, it is astonishing that physicians do not place more emphasis on having conversations with patients to decide on the best option. We trust our physicians to provide the best medical guidance and explain the pros and cons to medications and procedures.
I have so many questions. Why is it that physicians are seemingly unable to fully understand and explain the risk associated with certain forms of birth control? Why are patients the ones expected to address potential side effects before starting the medication? Why did the FDA continue to support drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives despite evidence of serious adverse events? Why do the FDA and physicians seem to be okay that the majority of women and girls are unable to recognize side effects of hormonal birth control?
As an aspiring health professional with an interest in reproductive health, I will always
remember your story. You deserved better. All of the women who trust the FDA deserve better. Regulatory agencies are created to protect against harm: it is time for them to do just that. I thank you and your family for fighting relentlessly to make sure we are protected. You have saved lives.
University of Wisconsin-Madison '21