Thursday, 3 February 2011

It must be true, it was in the Times

From the "Dr Mark" column, on page 9, in the bodysoulhealth section of the Times on Tuesday 1st February 2011. The punchline comes at the end, and still amuses even though I have had a few days to reflect on the possibility that the claim made in the last sentence has some sort of basis in reality. However, there are at least two other points that are worthy of noting in addition to the punchline. Do try and spot them.
The doctor at my daughter's university has suggested that she switch from the contraceptive pill to a long-term implant because it is more effective. But I have been worried by recent reports of high failure rates. Is it really the better option?
There is no single best option for everyone - good contraceptive advice involves tailoring it to the individual - but there has recently been a move away from the Pill for younger women because of the high failure rate (if you put 20 teenagers on the Pill, at least one will get pregnant every year).
Implanon (or Nexplanon as it is now called) has a number of advantages over the combined pill: it can't be forgotten, it is not affected by other medicines, or by sickness and diarrhoea, and it doesn't contain any oestrogen (the hormone associated with health problems such as blood clots and breast cancer).
As to recent publicity involving failure rates, I am afraid these were blown out of all proportion. No contraceptive is 100 per cent effective, but Implanon is as close as you can get. Even taking into consideration recent failures (often due to incorrect insertion), it is on a par with, if not better than, sterilisation.
At the time of media coverage of the legal cases with regard to Implanon, I recall hearing a representative of the legal team who had represented women successfully claiming against their medical service providers being very careful to say that the successful claims were all based on evidence of incorrect insertion.

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