Monday, September 16, 2013

Three Reasons to Avoid the Pill

Like most pharmaceutical products, the contraceptive pill has been touted as safe and effective for years, calling it "like a vitamin".  And, as with most drugs, doctors have been bribed and paid and encouraged in other ways by Big Pharma to prescribe it to patients.  And the drug companies profiting from this drug also had another ally: millions of feminists who touted the drug as giving freedom to women.

The problem is, the Pill is not completely safe.  And the problem is, while the Pill has "freed" up women to not get pregnant, it has also enslaved them to inadvertent abortion, bad health and infertility.  Is that really freedom?

'Birth control pills' photo (c) 2013, lookcatalog - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Abortion

There are three ways that the birth control pill works to prevent pregnancy.  The main way is to prevent ovulation.  The other two ways are to thicken cervical mucus so that it is harder for the sperm to reach the egg, and also to make the uterine lining an inhospitable environment for a fertilized egg.

The biggest concern with the Pill for a Christian stems from this last method.  In this way, the birth control pill can cause a spontaneous abortion, which is a grave consideration for Christian couples to take.  Some have argued that this is not a big concern because this is not the normal function of the pill, it usually prevents a pregnancy through the other methods listed above.  However, for anyone who stands against the murder of the unborn, if there is even a tiny chance of preventing your baby from living, this is a grave consideration to make before a holy God, before whom you will give an account of all your actions one day.

Though this point is the shortest in length, the moral implications are the most profound.  Don't ignore the possibility of abortion just because you will not know that it has happened (until you get to heaven and meet your child).  Do not ignore the possibility of abortion because many other couples you know are putting their head in the sand.  Please research this point extensively, as it could be a life or death decision.  I recommend that all Christian couples considering use of (or using) the birth control pill read Randy Alcorn's pamphlet "Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?".

Health

The pill has an adverse affect on women's health in several ways.

One effect that is becoming more well known of recent is the impact on gut health.  Birth control pills (especially when used for many years on end) cause a disruption in the normal bacterial balance of the gut, killing good bacteria and allowing bad bacteria to overpopulate.  There are more bacterial cells in the body (mostly in the digestive system) than there are human cells in your body by a ratio of about 10 to 1!  In fact, bacteria make up about 6 lb of body weight in the average person, and help with various functions of the body from digestion, immunity, psychological health and even growth.  Research into this area of the body is very new and there is a lot more that we will learn in the coming years.  But suffice it to say, messing with the bacterial balance of your body is a bad idea.  The noted autism researcher Dr. Campbell-McBride discourages women from using the birth control pill because of the likelihood that it contributes to autism through bacterial imbalance passed on from a mother to a newborn baby.

Another health concern with the birth control pill is the fact that the hormones that it contains are not bio-identical.  The reason that the hormones are not bio-identical is that if they were identical to the body, pharmaceutical companies could not patent their product or market it as unique (it all comes down to money.  Surprise, surprise.)  So they take the hormones of the body and change them in slight ways, so that they are still effective in preventing a pregnancy, but have been shown to not quite be compatible with the body.  This can be seen during pregnancy, for example.  If a woman takes artificial progesterone through the depo-provera pill, her baby is at higher risk for birth defects.  But taking bio-identical progesterone during pregnancy has not been shown to cause harm, and may even help towards having a healthier pregnancy.

Another consideration to make with the Pill is that the hormones from the Pill cannot be filtered out or destroyed from water, even with the strongest, best filter (not even by my beloved Berkey which gets pretty much everything else in the world out of water!).  My father-in-law, who is on the water board of a major midwestern city, was the first to alert us to this fact, that all of us are drinking in low-levels of birth control every day.  It should be noted that birth control pills are not the exclusive contributing factor, as industrial chemicals and farm use of hormones in livestock are also a cause of our estrogenic water.  What are the effects of this on the general public?  No one knows for sure, probably because there is no one who would benefit (financially) from this information.  But at least one study sees a correlational link to prostate cancer in men and another study has shown the hormones to cause a condition known as intersex in fish in affected waterways (which has lead to declining fish populations).  There are also theories that our estrogenic environment is contributing to the rise of precocious puberty, breast cancer and thyroid imbalances.  One Forbes op-ed even went so far as to say that women on the birth control pill should pay and extra $1,500 per year in pollution tax for the societal cost and environmental impact of that choice.  This is an extreme proposition, but goes to highlight that birth control pills are causing pollution, which should not be ignored.

Fertility

Have you ever wondered why there has been such a surge in women struggling with infertility in the past few years?  Doubtless there are a number of causes, such as the surge in estrogenic chemicals in our environment and water (for example almost all plastic, including the well-publicized chemical BPA).  But the Pill has contributed to this in a number of ways.

First of all, as noted above, the Pill does not use bio-identical hormones and may alter or affect the body's ability to conceive.  Many alternative health specialists recommend that women use an alternate form of birth control for 6 months after stopping use of the Pill to clear their body out from the artificial hormones which may have an effect on the pregnancy or baby.  In a similar stream, it may also take the body some time to start ovulating normally after extensive periods of unnatural suppression, especially as many women are now on the pill for 10, 15 or 20 years before trying to conceive.

Secondly, the Pill can mask fertility problems.  Some women start on the Pill when they are in their teens for the purpose of regulating their cycle.  The Pill regulates them for years, but never fixes their underlying reproductive health issues.  When they get to 30 or 35 years of age and want to have kids, they are eager to get pregnant but don't realize it may take years to fix the underlying issues that they have spent years (and lot of money) ignoring.  In some cases they may never be able to fix the underlying issues once they have reached this age.

Last of all, the Pill encourages women to wait until the least fertile years of their life to have children.  It could be argued that this is the case with all birth control methods, which is true to some extent, but the birth control pill is the "easiest" method (which is probably why it is so widely used) and requires the least awareness to the fact that it is indeed suppressing fertility.   This has lead numerous women to ignore their ticking "biological clock" until sadly, its too late.  As one article put it,
"Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect." (source)
Alternatives
The thing that concerns me most about the Pill when it is used by Christian couples is the lack of thought that goes into it, which is my main motive for writing this article.  The Bible says that our lives will look very different from the rest of the world, which plays out even in the areas of birth control and childbearing.  Just because many Americans use the Pill and think it is quite normal, doesn't mean that its use should be normalized amoung Christians.  But too often we get our cues from the world and don't even consider the matter through a Biblical lens.  A Christian couple certainly needs to consider the possible abortifacient side of the Pill when considering if and what birth control method to use and, to a lesser extent, whether the health and fertility effects of the Pill are wise stewardship of the body.

I'm not in the camp that says that all birth control is bad or sinful (though I will be quick to add that it is overly relied upon in our culture of chasing affluence).  I think that it is something that should be approached with prayer and discernment and seeking the wise counsel of others.  The two methods that I would recommend are any kind of barrier method or natural family planning (which is highly effective as it has been refined and improved in recent years).  NFP has the added benefit of being very inexpensive, completely chemical-free (even barrier methods expose you to some plastic or latex and usually a chemical coating) and helps a women to understand her fertility better, which will be an added benefit when the couple decides to pursue pregnancy.

I welcome discussion over this topic, but please keep your comments factual, to the point and God-honoring.  Please avoid character attacks and emotional tirades.  I encourage you to read our comment policy.

Sources:
Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? By Randy Alcorn
The Better Baby Book (which I reviewed here) By Dr. Lana and Dave Asprey
Gut and Psychology Syndrome By Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Three Ways the Birth Control Pill Works
Waking Up from the Pill (originally published in the New York Magazine)
How Bacteria in our Bodies Protect our Health (originally published in Scientific American)
Prostate Cancer may be Linked to Birth Control Pill in Water Supply
Women on Contraceptive Pill Should Pay $1,500 Per Year More in Tax (Forbes)

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this! I tried birth control briefly after I got married, and it was horrible. The hormonal changes in my body were too much for me to handle and I actually hated having lessened cramping and period side effects. I felt very out of control of my body and what it was doing every month.

    I appreciate the section on suggesting length of time on the pill and infertility rates are related. I have thought that for years now, and I believe in my heart that we conceived Geoffrey so quickly (one time) with no complications because I havent been on birth control for years. I know infertility is a very personal and sensitive issue, and I want to be understanding and loving toward those that struggle with it.

    I am glad you are putting this idea out there, for our future. for the young women of this country to reconsider the choices and options out there.

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  2. I've been thinking a lot about this too, as my brother recently told me that my sister and I (both Christians...he not, nor are many of his friends) are the only, ONLY, women he knows who have gotten pregnant without fertility treatment of some kind. His circle of friends is generally older (mid to late 30s), and I've been thinking about the role birth control played in this.

    When my husband saw this blog up, he told me he doesn't want me to take birth control again (I took it for less than a year when we first got married and wasn't very happy with what it did to me - I bled every day for the first 6 weeks of marriage!). Anyway, I'm happy he thinks that :)

    My only critique of what you say is that family planning is extremely effective. I don't know what kind of birth control many of my friends use, but every single person I know who has used that as their birth control has gotten pregnant unexpectedly, and quickly (I think all of them were within 6 months of marriage). In theory, I know it should work, but it hasn't worked in practice for anyone I know.

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    1. Are you talking about natural family planning or the rhythm method? They are similar (but NFP much more accurate), so I just want to be clear.

      My two questions would be, were those women using the NFP techniques for at least 6 months before marriage? It takes a while to get used to your body. Also were they super consistent in checking their temps and fertility signs? Some people aren't very organized or consistent about this, which can be a downfall.

      But if they were doing everything right with NFP, thanks for the heads up. I do know families that it has worked for (not only when they were avoiding pregnancy but also when they were pursuing it), but again you have to be faithful with it. I also don't know the percent of effectiveness for it off of the top of my head, but I think it was above 90% when used correctly, but probably not as high as other forms which are closer to 98-99%

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  3. What would you say to a Christian woman with PCOS, who has tried years of clean eating, chemical-free environment, exercise (and no exercise - there's a theory about PCOS and not doing cardio...), etc. etc. and the only relief from the symptoms that can be found is the pill? I think the problem of women's health issues like increasing infertility et al. is so extensive and complex that making women feel bad about the hard choices we're forced to make isn't helping the conversation move forward.

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    1. Well, first I would say that I'm not a doctor so I can't speak to using a hormonal pill for PCOS. But it sounds like it has helped with your PCOS symptoms, which sounds like a good thing to me.

      Secondly, I would say that the issue you are referring to (PCOS) is different than using a hormonal pill for birth control. Most of the downsides I mentioned are in reference to it being used for birth control. I'm sorry if I made you "feel bad" for using hormonal pills to treat your PCOS, but that was not the intention of my writing. My intention is to address the majority of women who use it as their form of birth control.

      I would say that as far as birth control goes, I would recommend for someone in your situation to use a second type of birth control to be absolutely sure you are avoiding an accidental abortion, unless you have been diagnosed with infertility and feel that there is pretty much no chance of that happening. That is just my opinion, what I would do if I were in your situation.

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  4. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/01/02/pcos.aspx Maybe this could be a starting place of finding a therapy that helps w/ PCOS? I would search around on the site to see what natural things could help as well...

    Thanks Sarah for your post. It is important for women to know this, as many women don't realize how the pill works...

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