Monday, May 30, 2011

Thoughts on the Pill

Normally, I try to avoid writing articles that come across as "reasons why you should do such-and-such" or "reasons why you should not do such-and-such." I really don't like sounding preachy or prescriptive! So I've hesitated on writing anything on birth control pills, but at the same time have always wanted to put it out there for consideration. And so, with that in mind, please know that I am not writing "why YOU should not take birth control pills" - therefore, taking offense is not indicated. I am simply going to write down the reasons why I have chosen not to use birth control pills. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments (kind ones only, please!) on your thoughts.

I used birth control pills for about three years, starting about a year before I got married. And it happened in this way:

One day I had invited my then-fiance and his sister to come over to my house after church. They came over, but I never actually saw them, because on the way there I got hit with one of my not-uncommon waves of severe menstrual cramps, which had me lying on the upstairs bathroom floor curled in a fetal position for several hours. It was extremely embarrassing, to say the least! My fiance and future sister-in-law left after a while, before I could even say hello, but she called me up the next day and said "Girl, you need to get yourself on birth control pills!" And so I did! End of story. My menstrual cramps got a lot better, and I loved having predictable periods.

I didn't go off of the pill until we had been married for two years and wanted to start a family. After our baby (who was conceived less than two months after going off of the pill) was born, I asked our midwife if she could prescribe birth control pills for me. That's when my path started changing! First of all, she told me that as a CPM she did not have prescription privileges to prescribe birth control, and secondly, she asked me why I would want to go on birth control pills. I was rather puzzled, as I had considered birth control pills as a normal way of life, rather than anything optional or objectionable. However, I started to do some research. As a result, I have never gone back on the pill.

And so, without further ado....

Reasons Why I No Longer Use "The Pill"

(1) Life Ethics - This is a sticky one! But most of the research I found (try this article, straight from ACOG) indicates that the birth control pill acts in three ways to prevent babies: (1) by altering the composition of cervical fluid to make it inhospitable to sperm, (2) by preventing most ovulation, and (3) in case of break-through ovulation - i.e. a woman ovulates despite the efforts of the pill - by altering the lining of the uterus to make it impossible for a fertilized egg to implant, i.e. acting as an early-term abortion. For those of us, Christians and otherwise, who consider human life to be precious and sacred from the point of conception, this means that taking the pill is risking aborting our little ones. * Note: I am not attempting to start an abortion debate at this time on this blog, so if you disagree, please know that I already know that you disagree - let's leave it there!

(2) Economic - Having millions upon millions of dollars from birth control pills pouring into the pockets of pharmaceutical companies is not something that thrills me. The more I learn about pharmaceutical companies, the less and less I respect them and their motives. While I'm very grateful for life-saving drugs, I'm not that happy about continuing to fund them and some of their shadier activities through my continual participation.

(3) Environmental - Did you know that birth control pills are having a negative effect on the environment? That was a big surprise to me! But here's how it works: The synthetic hormones that are consumed when a woman takes birth control pills are continuously spilled out into her urine - and the hormone-contaminated urine of millions of women on the pill is now affecting wildlife. Here's a quote from an article on the environmental impact of the pill: 

"In 2003, a group of scientists in Washington state made headlines when they discovered that traces of synthetic estrogen in the state’s rivers had reduced the fertility of male fish. Hormonal birth control pills and patches were blamed. Two years later, a team of scientists funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found trout with both female and male characteristics. The culprit, again, was synthetic estrogen."

 Not horribly surprising once one thinks about it, but definitely disturbing.

(And a separate environmental issue would be the millions of pounds of waste that are dumped into landfills each year from birth control packaging and paperwork, besides all of the manufacturing waste that goes into their production.)

(4) Intimate Issues - *Ahem!* I'm blushing to write this, but I was surprised at how strongly my libido came back once I dropped off the pill. Being that I had gone on the pill before I was married, I hadn't noticed anything amiss until I got off the pill and noticed my interest in intimacy skyrocket!* Blush *

(5) How I Felt - This one is harder to describe, but when I went off the pill, I simply felt better. The way I described it at the time was that it felt like my body "relaxed" when I went off of the pill. It was a very definite feeling that surprised me, as again, I hadn't noticed anything change when I went on the pill (that I remember). But I definitely felt better when not taking the pill.

(6) Ideological - This is a vague one, so don't quote me. I simply don't like the ideology behind birth control pills - the subtle implication that a normal, healthy female's body is "broken" and must be "fixed" by drugs. That's bothered me for a long time, though I would be hard-put to explain it in detail.

(7) Ideological, part II - This one is even more vague, so definitely don't quote me! Again, I don't like the subtle implication that children are a curse that can be avoided by taking drugs. This is a complaint that can be - in various forms - levied against any form of birth control, so again, don't quote me. And my views on this subject are still under development. But I promised to write down everything!

(8) Health - There are definitely health risks to taking the pill (such as increased risk of conditions like stroke, heart disease, cancer, infertility, etc.) When I went on the pill, none of these was mentioned to me. At all. Just "okay, you want birth control, fine, here's your prescription."

Here in Arizona, our state treasurer Dean Martin's wife and baby died two years ago due to a "ruptured benign tumor in her liver known as an adenoma." When I asked Nursing Birth about this condition, she replied:

"The reason the ruptured ademoma would effect the term infant, is from blood loss. Maternal blood volume increases 45-50% in pregnancy, so a “benign” condition in a non-pregnant woman, can become a problem in a pregnant woman, if that condition is sensitive to blood volumes. The ruptured liver ademona could cause a catastrophic internal hemorrhage for the mom, thus causing hypovolemic shock in the infant. Very sad."

 When I researched "benign hepatocellular - i.e. liver - adenoma" I found to my surprise that:

"Ninety percent of hepatic adenomas arise in women aged 20–40, most of whom use oral contraceptives."


(9) The Wonderful Alternatives! - When I had to think of something else to do for birth control, I came across Natural Family Planning.... and I fell in love. We took an awesome four-month class through our local Catholic Church, and I learned so much about my body! It was like entering a whole new world! I learned why cervical fluid has such incredible variation (and on a more basic level, what cervical fluid actually is), why I had mid-cycle pain (mittelschmerz) that always freaked me out when I didn't know what was going on, how to tell when I was pre- and post-ovulatory, when I was fertile or non-fertile, what all of the monthly changes in my body were and what they meant (cervical fluid, cervical dilation/effacement/etc.), when my period was approaching.... It was and is beyond awesome! Even though I'm not currently temping (too much broken sleep), I still track my cycle through cervical fluid and mittelschmerz, and I can predict my period within one day. I simply love NFP - it has been such a blessing, and I never would have discovered it had I stayed on the pill. 

(10) Moods -When I asked DH what he didn't like about birth control pills, he immediately said "your moods!" - which made me remember (I had forgotten!) that I used to have absolutely horrendous PMS moods while on the pill, something that disappeared once I went off of the pill.

Well, that's all I can think of for now! What do you all think?

As always, the law of kindness is absolutely required on this blog - I love conversation, but not hate speech and comment wars. Any civil conversation and questions are welcomed; any rude or inflammatory comments or questions will be deleted immediately without comment.

Have an awesome Memorial Day, everyone!!


  1. Simply put, I agree with this entire post, and am so glad to hear someone say these things.
    Susan Peterson

  2. Thank you for this wonderful information - the same goes with Depo-Provera and the IUD. Regardless if one if "religious" or not - It's NOT nice to fool mother nature. And we pay for that - if not sooner than later.
    Many years ago I discovered NFP - it helped me get pregnant after a miscarriage and another year of trying.
    I wonder if a significant number of fertility problems could be resolved by this simple change in lifestyle.
    Kind regards to you.

  3. I have been looking for other alternatives for taking birth control pills for so long now! I absolutely hate them and have for years :( Sadly I didn't know there was anything else to be done for a long, long time. Finally when I found Natural Family Planning, it sounded SO hard and I couldn't understand it. Where is this class that you took about the NFP? Maybe it would help me better understand it to hear about it from an actual person. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Hoping there is a class near by I can take! Thank you so much for all of this great information :)

  4. Hi, Crystal!

    We took our NFP class at St. Timothy's in Mesa. Looking at the site, it seems that that is the only class location in Arizona right now, though you could definitely contact them to ask. It's worth the drive! Here is the website for the Couple to Couple League International:

    Also, I heard that very soon after we took our class (in 2007), they greatly simplified the method to make it even easier. We've been meaning to take a refresher course, but haven't yet. :)

    Hope this works for you - we really loved it!!

    And thanks, everyone, for the uplifting comments!!! :)

  5. I think for me the biggest reason for taking birth control was because I do love kids. I think every child is beautiful and deserving of the time and attention they need. Unfortunately, I don't have that financial attention to give or the time in which to raise a child. While I acknowledge that your ideology disagrees with mine, I think that ideologically the argument you're using in terms of children being a curse, isn't what the opposition is arguing. Thank you for an informative blog.

  6. I agree with this post. Glad to see some people care about these things.

  7. Random comment :P I have awful moods without the pill - you are lucky that they went away when you stopped taking it!

    Also, the more I think about it, the more I agree with your ideological issues with the pill (which seem to come up with other methods of birth control as well). I'm trying to figure out how to articulate my thoughts on that more clearly, though :)

  8. Hi there!
    I just found your blog and started reading away. I'm very interested in all of this this stuff because I am studying to be a nurse and was thinking of working in delivery. (Now that I know there are still midwifes in the US I'll have to be more thorough in checking that out!)

    But the main reason I'm commenting is because I really do want to be a mother. However, as I am studying to get my degree and as my boyfriend lives in another country (we visit each other once or twice a year) I am currently on the pill.
    I personally would be okay if I had a baby now but I know that that would not be the best thing for the child or for my future children because of our financial instability and the father being so far away.
    So...what I'm trying to get at is that I would love to not be on the pill- I didn't even know there was an alternative. However, before I make that jump I really need to know how reliable the NFP information would be for postponing getting pregnant (Or anything else for that matter).

    Thank you for your time!

  9. Hi, LeeAnn! Thanks for visiting!

    NFP, when used correctly, has the same accuracy rate as the pill, that is, 99%. However, that means that one has to know the rules well, follow them, and observe abstinence during fertile periods. If you choose to use something like a barrier method during fertile periods, that's fine, but the accuracy level will then drop to whatever the accuracy of that barrier method is (which is always going to be lower than the pill or abstinence during fertile times). I would recommend taking a class at a Catholic church or reading "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" to learn more about the method. Good luck!! :)


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