We take a look at the contraceptive options available in Australia.
Yasmin and Yaz controversy
There have been reports of serious adverse health effects and even deaths around the world as a result of Yasmin and Yaz (and their generic doppleganger) use. According to Canada's CBC News, these birth control pills have been contributors to the deaths of 23 women in that country. A class action has been filed against Bayer, the manufacturer of the pills, in Canada, alleging that the company failed to adequately warn patients and doctors of the pills’ association with increased risk of stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, gall bladder disease and/or removal when compared to other oral contraceptives. There are also reports of thousands of lawsuits against Bayer in the US.
Australia's Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers have announced that they are investigating the potential for a class action for women who use the contraceptives here. According to the firm, "The ingredient in question is the hormone Drospirenone. Pharmaceutical company Bayer, the maker of Yasmin and Yaz, may have misrepresented the risks of harm arising from using either of these tablets. Around 200,000 Australian women are believed to be using Yasmin and Yaz, which is now the subject of a number of class actions worldwide."
Australian women who believe they may have been adversely affected by Yasmin or Yaz can now register for the potential class action. For more on contraceptive pills, head to CHOICE's review of contraceptive pills.
Contraception options go beyond the pill
In the June issue of CHOICE in 1963, CHOICE heralded the arrival of the oral contraceptive pill to Australia. “The ‘pill’ – one of the most effective methods of birth control – is now available in Australia on the prescription of a doctor,” we wrote.
For the princely sum of 15 shillings, we offered our members a copy of The Consumers’ Union Report on Family Planning, “prepared for the use solely of doctors, clinics, social workers and married couples who are seeking such information on the advice of their doctors”.
Seven years later, in CHOICE August 1970, we argued that “[the pill] is effective – more effective than any other common method of contraception – [and] easy to use.”
Half a century has passed since the pill hit our shores, yet it is still the most popular method of contraception. But what was true then is not true now. In practice, the pill is less effective than a large number of products now available on the market – the implant, IUDs and the injection all have higher efficacy rates. So why aren’t more people using alternatives to the pill?
“Women tend to stick to the same contraceptive they start with, but their contraceptive needs are likely to change over the course of their reproductive life,” says Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director of Family Planning NSW and spokesperson for Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia. “What suits someone at 18 is different to what suits someone who is postnatal and/or in her 40s [or] 50s.
“There’s a lack of awareness and information about newer options. People may discount methods and think they’re unsuitable when in fact they may be suitable.”
In a report on current contraceptive management in Australian general practice, published in the Medical Journal of Australia in July this year, the authors wrote: “While contraception and reproductive health are core aspects of general practice, in Australia little is known about contraceptive management by GPs, what occurs during a contraceptive consultation, and how this affects contraceptive use and reproductive health outcomes.”