DEC 02, 2021 5:43 PM PST

Senate Bill 8 Increases Demand for Birth Control

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass

Since enforcing Senate Bill 8 for stricter abortion laws, Texas has seen an increased demand for birth control. Also known as the "heartbeat bill," this senate bill bans abortion once a fetus's heartbeat becomes detectable - at approximately 6 weeks – and allows anyone to sue abortion providers. The only exceptions for abortion under this bill are medical emergencies.

Critics are concerned because this bill does not make exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or pregnancies where the fetus has genetic defects. They're also worried that this bill will devastate mostly women of lower socioeconomic status who require more time to save for an abortion since Medicaid and most private insurers don't cover abortion. With good reason, more women in Texas are proactively looking to doctors for birth control options.

Hormonal birth control works primarily through the action of progesterone. It increases levels of progesterone to mimic hormonal changes you would see in pregnancy. Increased levels of progesterone provide feedback to the hypothalamus to decrease release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which in turn decreases secretion of follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones to prevent ovulation. Progesterone also alters cervical mucus and the endometrial lining to prevent conception. Some prescription birth controls also contain estrogen to prevent breakthrough bleeding that occurs from elevated progesterone levels. Hormonal birth control is available as pills, patches, and vaginal rings with failure rates of 1% with perfect use and 7% to 9% with typical use.

Increased requests, in particular, have been for long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs. These have a very low failure rate – better than that of surgical sterilization – at less than 1% These include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants placed under the skin (subdermal implants). Subdermal implants contain progesterone only. IUDs can be hormonal or non-hormonal. Since there's no exposure to synthetic hormones, the non-hormonal copper IUD has fewer side effects. It can be effective for up to 10 years and works because copper ions kill sperm. Associated side effects include cramping and heavier menstrual bleeding.

Side effects of hormonal birth control methods include an increased incidence of breast cancer, with some studies estimating the increased risk to be as high as 20%. However, they are thought to reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colon cancer. Other side effects include lighter periods, breakthrough bleeding, absence of a period, nausea, breast tenderness, irritability, headaches, and reduced symptoms of PMS. Hormonal contraceptives are not recommended for women with high blood pressure or in women over 35 who have migraines or smoke or for any woman who has a history of stroke, blood clots, or breast cancer.

Sources: Medscape, StatPearls, The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Dept of Justice, UT Austin, Planned Parenthood

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
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