#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, May 20th, 2024 – Advocating for birth control

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic division leader Christina Prevett discusses the benefits of birth control and when we should be thinking more positively about these medications and methods

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes or check out the full show notes on our blog at www.ptonice.com/blog.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION

INTRODUCTION
Hey everybody, Alan here. Currently I have the pleasure of serving as their Chief Operating Officer here at ICE. Before we jump into today’s episode of the PTI Nice Daily Show, let’s give a shout out to our sponsor Jane, a clinic management software and EMR. Whether you’re just starting to do your research or you’ve been contemplating switching your software for a while now, the Jane team understands that this process can feel intimidating. That’s why their goal is to provide you with the onboarding resources you need to make your switch as smooth as possible. Jane offers personalized calls to set up your account, a free date import, and a variety of online resources to get you up and running quickly once you switch. And if you need a helping hand along the way, you’ll have access to unlimited phone, email, and chat support included in your Jane subscription. If you’re interested in learning more, you want to book a one-on-one demo, you can head on over to jane.app.switch. And if you decide to make the switch, don’t forget to use the code ICEPT1MO at signup to receive a one-month free grace period on your new Jane account.

CHRISTINA PREVETT
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the PT on Ice Daily Show. My name is Christina Prevett. I am one of the lead faculty in our pelvic divisions. And I am coming to you from a hotel room. I’m about to get back after teaching MMOA Live here this weekend. So you got my hotel version of today’s podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about advocating for birth control. And so this might be a bit of a hot take hot topic, because in the allied health or birth provider space, there has been a lot of anti birth control messaging. And so I want to kind of play devil’s advocate a little bit. and speak to some of the potential pros of birth control, and then really try and loop this into why it is so important, especially as healthcare providers, that we become more nuanced in our approach, right? It is so easy with social media for us to be thinking in 30 to 60 second snippets. But one of the reasons why I love the podcast is that we’re able to kind of dive into nuance a little bit more. So firstly, the development of the oral contraceptive pill was one of the big revolutionary medical marvels that allowed women to have reproductive choice in a lot of ways, right? The idea behind oral contraceptives was that females could have some, you know, obviously when they’re having intercourse, but like they were able to prevent unwanted pregnancies and that gave them some sense of control in a lot of ways. So the development of oral contraceptives outside of barrier methods was truly such an amazing medical advancement that paved the way for a lot in reproductive healthcare. With the use of exogenous hormones, what we have also seen with the use of oral contraceptives is that it has been used in the management of different gynecological conditions. So here’s where we get to messaging numero uno. When people take birth control, they aren’t actually balancing their hormones. Something is doing it for them and it is a band-aid and it’s making all your sex hormones go down. This is the messaging. So we shouldn’t be giving people birth control because it’s not fixing the problem. So let’s talk about an argument where that works, and let’s talk about an argument where it doesn’t. Okay, so in our pelvic division, we talk a lot about relative energy deficiency in sport. This is for individuals with primary or secondary amenorrhea, where because they are not fueling their body appropriately, their body goes into battery saver mode, which means that they are not doing any bodily processes that require excesses of energy out like energy out because they don’t have enough energy coming in, which can include pregnancy. And so we suppress the HPT access to prevent ourselves from ovulating because right now we’re not taking in enough fuel for our body to function. We’re definitely not taking in enough fuel to support a pregnancy. In those circumstances where individuals are not getting their period because of under fueling, sometimes birth control can be recommended and The argument can be made that. we’re not getting at the root cause for the hormonal imbalance, because you need to have that fuel to the root cause, and we should see a hormonal re-regulation, and reds from the literature that we have right now is reversible, right? So that makes sense, right? If individuals are highly active, they’re in low energy availability, and they’re not screening for root causes of issues with hormone status, and we give birth control as a knee-jerk reaction without doing the proper investigations, I can see where that argument of it’s exogenously balancing your hormones would work. But here’s where it doesn’t. Okay, here’s where it doesn’t. So birth control is also used as a frontline treatment for a lot of fertility-impacting conditions or gynecological conditions, such as PCOS, endometriosis, and fibroids, right? PCOS, is a androgen excess and it is a chronic disease. It is a chronic disease. It is a chronic disease that has no cure. So there is no cure to be able to balance your hormones naturally with PCOS. Does health promotion potentially help with becoming more regular with your menstrual cycle? Does it help with bringing you to a more regular cycle where you may be more ovulatory with PCOS? Yes. Are you going to change to a, within normal levels, your androgen access? Probably not. So guess what? The birth control pill is being used to bring androgen load down, right? And that is how we treat chronic diseases, right? I don’t give a person, oh, I’m not, I’m not a physician, but physicians don’t give a person a blood pressure med and we get mad at the physician for giving them a blood pressure med because they’re treating the symptom of the high blood pressure, but they’re not getting to the root cause of the issue, which is cardiovascular disease, right? These medications are given specifically to manage the symptoms. which is the exact same logic that we are seeing with individuals with gynecological conditions. We are not giving oral contraceptives in order to balance their hormones because they are chronic diseases, right? Outside of excision for endometriosis and fibroids, where we may see a reduction in symptoms, that is not a guarantee. And the only known cure for true 100% cure for endometriosis and fibroids is a hysterectomy. So if we have individuals with a high amount of symptom burden, heck yes, we are going to treat the symptoms, right? And so we can use oral contraceptives to treat those symptoms, right? If I wanted to pull this into our physiotherapy logic, that would be like saying, well, this person has a disc bulge on MRI. If we can’t fix the disc bulge and get it back in that spinal alignment, then all of our interventions for pain don’t matter because we’re not fixing the root cause, right? So, but, PT we say you are not your image like we’re not just going to treat you mechanically we’re gonna treat how you’re feeling within your own body and yet we flip that in our health care providers spaces when we talk about birth control and we make women with heavy menstrual bleeding with heavy periods with individuals who are suffering from fatigue and lethargy because they have anemia we have cyclical pain that could be treated with oral contraceptives and we make them feel bad that they’re using it or make them feel fear that they shouldn’t be using this because they should be able to balance their hormones regularly and so inadvertently in an attempt to help we’re kind of gaslighting them, right? And, and I, I mean this in a very, like, I want to have a fruitful conversation about this because I have seen this messaging over and over and over again. And when individuals have gynecological conditions, birth control can be a management strategy. Should it be a knee-jerk reaction for everybody without the need for further investigation or evaluation? No. Are individuals oftentimes dismissed with birth control because they’re not actively trying to get pregnant? Yes. Do some people not tolerate certain types of oral contraceptives or different types of birth control methods? Absolutely. But it is a trial of treatment that has some evidence to back it up. and it can be helpful in some circumstances with some individuals. So having this knee-jerk reaction and saying, well, it’s not getting to the root cause or it’s not balancing our hormones in the background of a chronic disease with no cure, we are missing the mark on our messaging. And so many of our clients come to us as pelvic PTs and they trust our opinions. And we are trying to lock shields with physicians, not battle with swords. And we need to be mindful of that, that by being very dismissive or not getting to the nuanced approach to contraceptive care or using birth control methods, we are not doing ourselves any favors and we’re not helping our clients by not getting into the nuance of it. So the first argument that we see a lot is you aren’t balancing your hormones, like it’s doing something for you. It’s taking your HPG access and bringing it down to nothing, right? That’s not always the case and not always the method of oral contraceptives. It can blunt the HPG access, but it doesn’t make it go down to zero. And then the secondary piece that individuals have fear on when thinking about oral contraceptives is future fertility. So, There was a cross-sectional study that said that almost 70% of females surveyed were worried about long-term fertility because of oral contraceptive use. We do not have evidence. We actually have multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses that actually demonstrate that there are no changes in fertility upon cessation of long-term birth control utilization. All right, let me repeat. We do not have evidence that being on birth control negatively impacts future fertility. It does not. What we see is that using hormonal, non-hormonal IUDs, oral contraceptives and patches, the rates of live pregnancy or positive pregnancy rate for contraceptive versus non-contraceptive users in age-matched cohorts appears to be the same. where we can kind of get into this bias, this selection bias, is based on the reason for individuals going on birth control. So if you were a person who went on oral contraceptives in order to prevent pregnancy, but you did not have any fertility related concerns, and that wasn’t a factor in your prescription, once you stop taking oral contraceptives, maybe after a couple months things will kind of re-regulate, you should have no future impacts on your fertility. Where you can have downstream fertility related issues is based on the reason for being on those oral contraceptives. So if you are on oral contraceptives for heavy bleeding or cyclical related pain, or hirsutism or clinical androgenism as a consequence of PCOS, we know that PCOS, endometriosis and fibroids can negatively impact your fertility and increase your chance of infertility. So in those situations, because we were treating the symptoms of your condition, we do not have the capacity outside of excision and endometriosis and fibroids to cure these conditions, that downstream fertility consequence is still going to be present upon removing your birth control method or upon removing oral contraceptive use. So it is not the pill itself, it is some of the reasons why you were on the pill that can negatively impact future fertility. And so I have now been talking for about 11 or 12 minutes on the nuance of birth control. The final thing that I will say is it is hysterical to me that the clinicians who are absolutely adamant against birth control for reproductive age individuals, are big advocates for using topical estrogens and hormone replacement therapies, menopausal hormone therapies, for individuals going through the menopausal window, because they are treating the symptoms of menopause, right? We are not trying to fix a person’s hormones. We aren’t gaslighting them and saying, oh, well, you know, this is your natural aging consequences, so you’re just gonna deal with your menopausal symptoms. No, we’re at the forefront advocating for topical estrogens and the use of exogenous hormones to be able to help individuals at the end of their reproductive window. So then why are we telling individuals with chronic diseases like PCOS that we can’t or shouldn’t use, that we should be fearful of using oral contraceptives in their reproductive window when they do not want to be pregnant? Right, and we know that it is a chronic disease that has no cure, and we make them feel bad for treating the symptoms with these exogenous hormones. So we just need to be so careful in our profession about how we are catching onto these trends. I always talk about the fact that I am scrunchy, not crunchy. I am a huge advocate in holistic care. And I think that holistic care can come alongside Western medicine in an evidence-informed way. All of my research is in health promotion, which means that I am in the science-based crunchy. So we just need to be mindful about not having this knee-jerk reaction and saying that birth control is bad. That is the messaging that I’m seeing. And that is absolutely not true. In the messaging, the logic in the messaging is flawed. When we’re thinking about gynecological conditions, many of them are chronic conditions that do not have 100% curative rate. PCOS is a chronic disease with no cure. Endometriosis and fibroids can have excision, but the only thing that’s going to guarantee that you are not gonna have another growth is a hysterectomy, which is not obviously a viable option for individuals who wanna get pregnant. And therefore, using oral contraceptives for managing signs and symptoms of those conditions is a evidence-informed utilization or medication that people can do. That does not mean that it is for everybody. That does not mean that people can self-select. It’s okay for them to self-select away from it. We just wanna make sure that they’re getting the right information about what it is and what it isn’t. Birth control does not impact your future fertility. We now have multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses that pending normal reproductive status, normal fertility rates, that we have no infertility-related conditions that there is no difference in conception rates once getting off birth control. And then we are huge advocates for the use of supplemental hormones through menopausal hormone therapy at the end of a person’s reproductive window. All right, that was my rant for the day. I hope you guys found that helpful. I really just wanna get into the nuance of this, right? Like we wanna make sure that we are being mindful of our messaging and we are not, inadvertently shaming people or making them fearful or Gaslighting them and saying you don’t need birth control you can use all these natural methods When we don’t have the same effectiveness data in some of those health promotion technology or health promotion interventions

SUMMARY
All right You probably wonder why we’re deep diving into this. This is because of level two, right? We have a huge role, right? We are doing level two right now for our pelvic course, and we are trying to do fitness-forward pelvic PT in a variety of different conditions. Fertility, baseline fertility, infertility-related conditions, and our role coming alongside those who are going through assisted reproductive technologies is in our curriculum. So we are in the weeds of that research and talking about the ways that we can be involved in rehab. And then if you guys are interested in seeing us live, we have two courses going June 1st and June 2nd. I am in Highland, Michigan, and Alexis is up in Alaska with Heather. And then June 8th and 9th, I’m in Mineola, New York. I’m near New York City at Garden City CrossFit. So if you are hoping to jump into a pelvic live course, I hope that I can see you at the beginning of June. Otherwise, have a really wonderful week, everybody. Hopefully I won’t be so nasally and sick the next time I’m on the podcast. One can only hope. And have a really wonderful week.

OUTRO
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