As the political debate about access to birth control rages on in the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has hosted a summit to improve women’s access to birth control and other family planning services worldwide.
The goal of their campaign is to improve the health of women and their families by giving women access to a tool that can literally save their lives.
While birth control has recently been pilloried as a dangerous pill that provides women with access to sex free of consequences, the reality is that access to birth control provides a wide array of benefits to women. Healthy women have better mental health, and better mental health for women means a healthier society for everyone.
Birth control is a valuable tool for treating a variety of health conditions ranging from relatively minor to severe. Doctors frequently prescribe birth control to treat both PMS and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a more serious form of PMS that can radically alter a woman’s mood and overall sense of well-being.
Birth control can help mitigate the symptoms of endometriosis. It is also implicated in reducing the risks of some forms of cancer. Fewer ovulatory cycles are associated with a lowered risk of both uterine and ovarian cancer, and women taking most forms of birth control do not ovulate.
When women feel better physically, they feel better emotionally as well. Good health is correlated with higher self-esteem and more resilience to stress.
Increased Gender Equality
The ability to control when and where a woman has children is strongly correlated with gender equality. Women who have control over their fertility are less likely to be trapped in abusive marriages by pregnancy. They are less likely to have the need to provide for children, and are more likely to be better able to control their working lives.
They are less likely to feel like their opportunities in life are limited by their sexual relationships with men. Countries with ready access to birth control and other family planning services have higher rates of gender equality.
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