Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Pill: my perspective

Today I'm going to talk about one more difficult issue, something that has an impact on the lives of women all around the world.

The Pill was launched in the early 1960-s, and the number of its users grew rapidly. It
is often associated with "liberation" of women – a glorious journey from the dark pit of patriarchal society to the bliss of free sex - free from worries about unplanned pregnancy. This is called "reproductive control".

The Pill is supposed to be perfectly safe. Every doctor will tell you that. If you press about something specific, for example breast cancer, you will probably hear something elusive, like "a direct link between the two things hasn't been confirmed", or "the risk is insignificant". What does it mean? That there is no official guideline to mention the numerous studies that have found a link between the Pill and increased risk of breast cancer, strokes, heart attack and blood clots.

A friend of my mother, a perfectly healthy young woman, had two children in only two years. Feeling exhausted from two pregnancies in a row, she decided to go on the Pill for a while. Not because she didn't want to have children anymore – she just felt she needed a break. She had been on the Pill for a year, and then stopped. Her third child was born only five years later, after a series of painful and exhausting fertility treatments. She and her husband decided they will not be able to stand something like this again. They do not have any more children. Their dream of having a large family had been shattered.

… The family I told about is a very religious one; before making the decision about taking the Pill, they consulted both their doctor and their spiritual leader. They were told that the Pill is safe and that using it for a while is justified – for the well-being of their family and the mother's health. How they wish now they had trusted God's plan for their family!

In an unofficial gathering, a family friend of theirs, a doctor, told her the following: "it's a good thing you had two children before going on the Pill."
No doctor will ever tell you that when you come to get a prescription.

I wonder if someone ever thinks of the individual circumstances that lead a woman to using the Pill. I will tell you my story.

Those of you who have read my post, "Reclaiming the Gift of Chastity", might already have a hint of what kind of state I had been in when I decided to start taking the Pill. I was young, insecure, in an unstable, uncommitted relationship, frightened to death by the prospect of unplanned pregnancy, knowing I will not be supported if it happens, knowing for sure it would mean being a single mother. I was desperate not to get pregnant.

Our society, while encouraging – or at least not condemning – teenage sex and premarital sex, is horribly unsupportive to the unfortunate girls and women who suffer the logical outcome of this: a high rate of unplanned pregnancies. Most of them are told, "Oh, bad luck", and are pressured to "get rid of the inconvenience".

I did not ask about possible health complications. I didn't bother to find out if the Pill is safe for me with my family history of thrombosis (the doctor didn't ask about that, either. Only much later I found out how great was the risk I subjected myself to. It is known that the Pill is unsafe for smokers, but did the doctor ask about it? No. I don't smoke, but there's no way he could know). The only risk I cared about was the risk of pregnancy. I knew about the case of Mom's friend, who lost her ability to conceive normally after taking the Pill, but you know what – I didn't care about that either! Do you want to know what went on inside my head? "Better never have children than become pregnant now!"

I could say many words to describe the way I felt at that time. However, "liberated" or "free" or "protected" would not be on that list.

Fortunately, the period when I had been on the Pill didn't last too long. After my life took a turn for the better and I got rid of my abusive relationship and dangerous attitudes, I decided I will never take that crap again.

But I know women who started taking the Pill when they were teenagers, 8 or 10 years ago. I know a young woman who was 15 when she started taking the Pill. She is 22 now, and is not going to have children before she is 30. Until then, she is planning to continue using the Pill. Did anyone really check the possible risks of such long-term use, initiated at a time when the reproductive system isn't fully formed?

I'm not a researcher and I can't come up with answers. I can only raise questions – questions that never get satisfactory reply when I ask them. I will not go into an ethical debate right now, I'm concentrating on medicine. So far, no one was able to convince me that using the Pill is completely safe. Another point to be aware of is that doctors, when prescribing a medicine to children or teens, don't often stop to consider the possible harmful effects to this specific age group, or how the optimal dosage might be different. A dose of hormones that is harmless to a grown woman might have a different effect on a teenage girl.


Coffee Wife said...

Hello! Please excuse this totally off-topic comment! I need your help. Over the past couple of weeks I've been blogging about some serious issues and slowly but surely I've become locked out of my own blog. Now I cannot get logged on - even when I log in to post comments on someone else's blog. So I'm posting this comment on the blogs I haunt in the hopes that some of you can help by praying for me. There's no explanation and no one can fix the problem so I'm asking for prayers!! Please feel free to post prayers at my blog in the comments so that maybe the word will get out - since I can't post I can't ask for help on my own blog! (And I can't spend all day going from blog to blog asking for help - I live on a busy farm haha!)

Thanks so much for your help and please forgive me for coming here and begging for help when you are busy blogging about your own stuff. God bless! -Michelle Therese

Anna S said...

Hi Michelle,
I have said a prayer for you yesterday, upon a request you published on your blog; hmm... I wonder if this belongs to the same issue you described in your previous posts. I will pray for you, of course.

Candy said...

I wonder about the side affects to the pill too..there are a lot of women and teens on it and who knows really what the risks are.

I had a few doctors recommend to me about taking the pill for my endometreosis pain but I wont because I dont like taking medications generally because just about everything upsets my stomach.

Good post! More women should think and parents think too before putting their kids on it.

:) Candy

Anna S said...

I think the reasons why doctors like - I don't have another word - putting women and girls on the Pill are:

1. It's convenient. Once a woman is on the Pill, the only thing her doctor has to do is write a prescription once in a while and do a routine check-up once a year.

2. It's difficult to prove there's a link between taking the Pill and serious long-term effects, and therefore the doctors who prescribe it are pretty much safe. In the case of infertility I mentioned in my post, the woman and her husband tried to complain, but were told: "well, you have no PROOF it was really because of the Pill".

Tracy said...

This is SUCH an important topic. So many women do not realize what the pill can REALLY do! Did you know that the pill changes the lining of the uterus? This is why your flow is lighter when on the pill. This also means that a conceived child might not be able to implant correctly into the lining of the womb, causing the baby to be aborted! This is a great website explaining the pill-

Anna S said...

Indeed, I know that while doctors and the manufacturers of the Pill claim that it only works by preventing ovulation (as if that's a good thing!! It screws up our entire system!), it can be, in fact, an abortifacient.

Christie Belle said...

Oh my, what a good post to come back to! I am in such agreement with you on this subject, unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. I just took my last pill yesterday. I am dreading what is to come. The last time I tried going off of the pill, I suffered horrible headaches, like never before. Migraines accompanied by numbness, confusion, and nausea/vomiting. The culprit, the lack of the hormones in my system. Once I get all of this junk out of my system, I am NEVER putting another one of those pills into my body. I just wish I would have known all of the nasty side effects before I went on them to help with irregular periods.

Jordin said...

I have PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome). Apparently, one of the medicines that "really helps" is the Pill. :(

Matt and I have chosen to let God control our family size when we're married, so the Pill was totally out of the question until I was diagnosed with PCOS in October. The doctor put me on it and I HATED it. I was nauseated and felt so tired. I told my doctor and he said, "Well, the symptoms you're feeling are normal; the Pill actually tricks your body into thinking it's pregnant." Well, I stopped taking those pills THAT DAY. Anything that "tricks" my body into thinking that it has a precious life inside--well that just seems WRONG. It's like playing God or something.

That link Tracy shared was so interesting, and very scary. I wish all women would read that. Unfortunately, like you, Anna, my doctor never shared ANY of that info before prescribing me the pills.

Anna S said...

My periods were irregular too, and I was tricked into believing that's something abnormal and dangerous, while in fact many women have irregular periods throughout their entire lives - after all, our body is not a machine and may be effected by nutrition, stress, mood swings, medical conditions and many more...

Jordin, I think our doctors are often - how shall I put it? - criminally irresponsible. Often, people don't ask questions. And if they do, they are easily convinced by the doctor's authority. They just seem so... superior. We must remember our doctors are just part of the health system, and our health system is under a major influence of politics and interests, including those of powerful pharmaceutical companies who are, of course, interested in promoting their product.

Emily said...

Amen, thank you for posting this. I have married friends who started off taking the Pill but now have stopped because they didn't like it messing with their bodies. I mean, honestly, who wants to dump a load of hormones in their bodies? I know I certainly don't. One type of the Pill can also act as abortive - as in it prevents the fertilised egg from implanting itself in the womb and therefore kills off the very beginning of a life.

I think it is shocking and incredibly worrying how easily the Pill is just prescribed to pretty much anyone these days. We are going to end up with a very messed-up generation in my opinion - more so than we do now.

In His care, Emily

Anna S said...

I certainly agree with you, and I think it's disturbing how people are getting so little information about something that can affect their health so dramatically. It's ironic how people must get blood tests to get a prescription of vitamins - but girls often get a prescription for the Pill without any tests at all, and without too much questioning.

Buffy said...

I quite agree.

(BTW, hello coffee wife fancy meeting you here.)

My sister was on the pill most of her adult life and then she just switched to HRT when she hit the menopause. I dread to think what all that hormone manipulation could have done to her body.

I've never been on the pill and never will be.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this thread.

About 5 years ago I was on the pill. My husband and I had 4 precious children and wanted to wait a while before having another one. Now though thinking back I think it was more so pressure from everyone else to not concieve. For some reason not many appreciate large families these days... Anyway, the time came that we were ready for another child and I discontinued my daily pill routine. Only a month later I was pregnant. I was very excited, as always, to find out about this new life growing inside. Then one morning, at about 6-7 weeks along, disaster struck. I woke up in a pool of blood. Frantic, I woke my husband and we rushed to the doctors office. There, the ultrasound confirmed what I already knew. There was a tiny indention on my uterine wall where the tiny baby had been. While having my urine and blood pressure tested a nurse questioned me about simple things, then one thing that I will never forget she said to me. I was guilting myself and couldn't figure out what went wrong. She asked me if I had been on any sort of birth control. "Yes" I said to her. I was then informed of the uterine thinning properties of the pill and how it makes your uterus a hostile environment for a new fetus. I have had to deal with guilt over that for years now. Never knowing if it was my fault or not. But one thing that I do have clarity on now is that I neve take a doctor's word for granted. It is my body and I am ultimately responsible for what goes into it and the side effects. There is so much information out there. I only wish that someone had loved me enough to share the truth with me. Since then, my husband and I have had 3 more children. Thankfully all have been born without incident which I thank the Lord for.

Ladies please, ask questions, even if the doctors make you feel stupid. It's worth it.


Anna S said...

I would like to thank the anonymous lady for sharing her story with us! I understand this is very personal. And I'm so sorry about what happened to you. May God's blessings be with you.

And yes, we must never, never trust our doctors blindly when it comes to things like these. After publishing this, I received loads of emails from ladies who shared their horrible experience with the Pill. It certainly seems there are many victims to the silence policy when it comes to speaking about dangers of the Pill.

Anonymous said...

I've just been researching on methods of birth control. The more I learn about the process, the more I'm wary of taking or doing anything unnatural to mess with my body. It's not control, it's manipulating a body that God has designed for a purpose! There are several natural ways to be in touch with your body and trust in God's design and plan for your family. I think that's the healthiest way to do it.

Anna S said...

Andi Chan,

Could you tell more about the methods you've been researching?

Anonymous said...

I e-mailed you too, but here's a good website on "Natural Family Planning" in case any one was interested. It's a method that requires knowledge of your own fertility signs, and knowing when you are fertile. Also, it goes into depth about "ecological breastfeeding" and how it naturally spaces children. Just goes to show God's design in every little detail! I'm not married yet, but hope to be someday, so these things interest me!