Last week, Dr. Sophia Yen, co-founder and CEO of Pandia Health, was featured in an episode of Sex Ed with DB, a feminist podcast hosted by Danielle Bezalel, MPH. They discussed Dr. Yen’s path to Pandia Health and topics related to birth control. The Pandia team is thrilled that women are leading the way in promoting inclusive and medically-driven sex education — this critical information should be available and accessible to everyone.
That’s why Pandia offers telemedicine appointments with one of our expert birth control doctors for those living in CA, AZ, FL, TX, or WY. The first 50 people to use the code “sexedfree” will get their appointment for free!
Path to Medicine
Ever since the fourth grade, Dr. Yen knew she wanted to be a doctor. Her interest in medicine stemmed from her passions for adolescent rights, particularly their right to confidential care. As a sexually active college student, she realized the importance of having control over her own body as she was determined to attend medical school after graduation.
Initially, Dr. Yen thought she would be an OB/GYN because of the field’s focus on reproductive healthcare. However, she found that she didn’t have as strong an interest in the surgery that it required and she preferred to have a working schedule with more regular hours.
In pediatrics, she found that she loved the focus on preventative healthcare so she pursued a specialty in adolescent medicine. As an adolescent medicine specialist, her role involves stopping unintended consequences, like an unplanned pregnancy, before they happen by teaching safe sex practices.
Inspiration for Pandia Health
Six years ago, Dr. Yen gave a talk to an audience of physicians on why more women don’t take birth control. As she explained, the number one reason for not taking birth control was that the medication simply wasn’t there: The prescription may have expired, women didn’t have the time to go to the pharmacy every month or their insurance limited the days when they were allowed to pick up the medication.
Given the consequences of not taking birth control, developing a solution to this problem was critical. Dr. Yen teamed up with a friend and decided to try out the idea of shipping birth control to women continuously — that way, women would never have to worry about a lack of access to the medication.
In the early stages of the company, advertisements were run for free birth control delivery. Surprisingly, 60% of the women who responded to the ad didn’t have a birth control prescription; in the United States, a prescription is needed for birth control. It was clear to Dr. Yen that Pandia Health needed to find a way to help these women as well.
That finding led Pandia Health to incorporate asynchronous telemedicine for birth control prescriptions. Prospective patients would be given a questionnaire consisting of twenty questions about medical history, medications, and personal preferences that is similar to that which would be administered in a doctor’s office.
One of Pandia Health’s doctors would then review the questionnaire, write the prescription, send it to a partner pharmacy, and bill the insurance company. A few weeks later, the prescription would arrive at the woman’s door. For the other women who already have birth control prescriptions, they would simply supply the prescription information, and Pandia Health would send it to their pharmacy.
Pandia Health also offers everyone emergency contraception. While we aim to provide birth control to everyone where applicable, it’s smart to have emergency contraception on hand in case you or your friend runs out, or in the event of sexual assault.
Emergency contraception should be as normal as pads or tampons, and we believe everyone who needs it should have quick and easy access to it. In fact, research has shown that over one million unintended pregnancies per year could be prevented in the U.S. if everyone had emergency contraception when they needed it.
Emergency contraception should act like a fire extinguisher: it should always be in the corner of your house in the case of an emergency. You don’t want to have to scrabble when the condom pops to find a pharmacy that carries it. Even worse, some pharmacists may be anti-choice and could deny you access to the medication on the basis of their religious or personal beliefs. It’s paradoxical since emergency contraception actually prevents abortion, but the stigma surrounding it remains.
Many people don’t know that there are four types of emergency contraception, and the differences between them are important to understand. The most effective form is the copper IUD. While this option is more invasive and should only be used if you’re interested in having an IUD in the longer term, it is recommended in cases of sexual assault to minimize the chances of pregnancy.
Ella is the second most effective form, and its efficacy stays the same for the first five days after unprotected sex. Its efficacy is greater than that of Plan B at days three, four, and five after sex. Additionally, if your BMI is greater than 26, Plan B is as useful as water at preventing pregnancy; that means that for 60% of the U.S. population, pregnancy could still happen even with Plan B.
Luckily, awareness about this issue is increasing, in large part thanks to an episode of Shrill by Aidy Bryant, which discussed how emergency contraception has neglected heavier women. If you can’t get a copper IUD, Ella, or Plan B, then the next best option is to take multiple birth control pills as soon as possible 12 hours later.
Pandia Health and Accessibility
The beauty of Pandia Health is that we bring birth control to anyone as long as they have internet access and a mailbox. At a pharmacy, you could be slut-shamed or run into someone you’d rather not know about your medications. We are hopeful that, in the future, women will be free to talk about their birth control prescriptions without feeling shame but until we make progress against the stigma surrounding sexuality, confidential care is essential.
To that end, we provide a discreet package: it’s a white bubble mailer with a stanford UPS sticker, so no one has to know it contains birth control — it could easily be a package from Etsy! We can also send your prescription to any address, so if you don’t feel safe at home it could go to an aunt, close friend, or trusted teacher.
In terms of accessibility, we also understand that not everyone has insurance to rely on, especially during the pandemic when many have lost their jobs and their insurance as a result. If you do lose your insurance and are unable to secure another job that provides it, your state should have a Title X family planning clinic that can provide you with free birth control.
At Pandia Health, birth control pill packs cost only $15 without insurance, as long as you are able to use the generic form of the medication and don’t require a specific brand. That equates to the price of two coffees, and it comes out to fifteen cents per day!
We also have a Pandia Health birth control fund, which provides funding for telemedicine appointments and prescriptions for those who can’t afford them. If you are able to donate, please do; donations are tax deductible so this is also a great socially conscious activity for organizations.
In July of this year, The Atlantic published the article “No One Has to Get Their Period Anymore,” which featured the #PeriodsOptional campaign led by Dr. Yen. As an adolescent medicine specialist with teenagers, Dr. Yen has been focused on increasing awareness about the safety and benefits of skipping periods.
These benefits include decreased risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancer and anemia, reduced landfill waste, and better performance at school and in sports. The only reason people with uteri bleed every month is to get pregnant which is simply unnecessary for the majority of us who don’t currently want children. For more information, you can watch Dr. Yen’s TEDx Berkeley talk.
Birth Control Side Effects
While 95% of patients have positive experiences with birth control, some do have side effects that must be addressed. For instance, there are eight different progesterones so there may be one that works well for you even if another one doesn’t. For those experiencing side effects, we also recommend that you take a monophasic pill which regularizes the amount of hormones your body receives.
Fortunately, two to three new progesterones have recently become available, including Annovera, which has 3mg of estrogen. If you’re under 30 years old, you need at least 30mg of estrogen to avoid fractures later in life because you’re still building up bone density at that age, so we don’t usually recommend it; for those over 30 who have had reactions to other types of pills, Annovera is a game-changer.
Notably, all IUDs with hormones contain the same progesterone, which is levonorgestrel. Since this hormone can have undesirable side effects, it’s important to research IUDs with other types of hormones. With the copper IUD, the main side effects are increased blood and cramps, which don’t typically improve over time; this can be completely fine if your periods are mild, and if you can’t tolerate hormones. But if you have more severe period symptoms, with heavy bleeding and painful cramps, the copper IUD might make them worse.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has opened minds to telemedicine, it’s important for patients to know how to differentiate between the companies that are intended for profit and the companies that are founded and led by physicians. As a physician, Dr. Yen is required to provide informed consent on all options that are available to patients, which is, unfortunately, not the case for all telemedicine companies.
When you’re choosing your telemedicine platform, make sure that the list of doctors is provided, along with their first and last names and education, so that you know who is caring for you. This is your health, so you have every right to be picky about your provider.
Future of Pandia Health
While the current goal of Pandia Health is to increase access to birth control, our mission is much broader than that. We want to make women’s lives easier, no matter the obstacles they’re facing or at what stage of life they are in. That’s why Dr. Yen chose the name Pandia — pan means every, and dia means day. We’re starting with birth control, but we want to expand with women as they grow.
For example, as an adolescent medicine specialist, Dr. Yen is interested in seeing how Pandia Health can support patients with acne; farther down the line, we aspire to provide accessible treatment for menopause. Overall, Pandia Health is guided by the goal of gaining the trust of women and to help them as best we can. We will always treat our customers how Dr. Yen would treat her daughters and her family, which means what is best for your health, even if it’s not the best for our bottom line.
Pandia Health delivers your birth control for FREE no matter what state you live in and can write you a new prescription if you live in AZ, CA, FL, TX, or WY! We also take care of transferring existing prescriptions if you need. Sign up for the birth control delivery brand that women trust most and get that #PandiaPeaceofMind 🙂
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.