Health19 Jan 2010 12:31 am
The ovary is the ovum-producing reproductive organ of the vertebrate female reproductive system. Human females have pair of almond-sized ovaries, located directly above the fallopian tubes, which flank each side of the uterus. Baby girls are actually born with approximately one million immature ovarian follicles, but do not begin ovulating until puberty. Every month, barring physical complications or pregnancy, the lining of a woman’s uterus thickens in preparation for fertilization. A mature egg is then released from one of her ovaries, pushed down the fallopian tube and becomes available to be fertilized in a process called ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs about 12–14 days before the start of the menstrual period. An egg lives between 12-24 hours after it is released from the ovary, and if no fertilization occurs, it disintegrates and is shed along with the uterine lining during menstruation.
Developed as a means of preventing pregnancy by suppressing ovulation, the birth control pill (BCP) became available to the American public in the early 1960s. Made out of synthetic hormones that mimic the mechanisms of estrogen and progestin in the body, the birth control pill works by ‘tricking’ the body into thinking it’s pregnant. Even though the pill gave women unprecedented control over their bodies (if taken as indicated, the pill is nearly 100% effective), the doses of hormones in the original pill were extremely high, which led to significant side effects, including nausea, pronounced weight gain, blurred vision, depression and even a few instances of blood clot induced strokes. Moreover, doctors were initially dismissive of their patient’s complaints, and it wasn’t until the side effects of the pill began to garner negative publicity in the 1970s that the pharmaceutical companies took action and lowered the high dosages of hormone.
Nowadays, women can choose between a wide assortment of brands and different hormonal combinations to determine which pill works best for then. In fact, the market has become so competitive that pharmaceutical companies now market pills that offer additional benefits, such as Yasmin (which contains potassium), Yaz (which helps control PMS) and new extended-cycle pills such as Seasonale, which reduce the number of yearly menstrual cycles to four periods a year.
Despite the inarguable improvements that have been made to the BCP since its debut, many women taking the pill still experience side effects of varying severity, including irregular bleeding and spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain, bloating, lowered libido and mood swings. Moreover, the BCP does not protect women against STDs, including HIV. However, the success of the women’s rights movement would have been impossible (or extremely unlikely) without the invention of the BCP, which gave women the freedom to control when (and if) they had children and allowed them the liberty of decoupling sex from procreation.
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