Our country is obsessed with birth control.
While many would want you to believe that it is only the Catholics and fundamentalist Christians that are obsessed with birth control (obsessed with getting others to stop taking it), the truth is our whole country is obsessed with it in one way or another. Contraception is considered a basic, fundamental right of women right up there with food, water, and shelter. To be against contraception is considered the equivalent to hating women and promoting unwanted children. It is now illegal in most cases for employers to refuse contraceptive coverage to their employees, since this “constitutes a serious erosion of reproductive rights and impedes women’s access to critical health care.” So… that’s kind of a big deal.
Since access to contraception is considered by our country to be essential to women’s rights, health, and equality, that can make it very awkward for someone like me who thinks contraception is actually detrimental to women’s rights, health, and equality.
Gasp. How can I even hold my head up when I believe something like that?
Well it really comes down to a very basic question – the question of, is contraception actually good for women?
It does not take more than a quick google search to find out that no, artificial contraception is not good for women.
Now, let me state that I do believe that the ability to make intelligent and free choices regarding fertility, family planning, and reproductive health is essential to women’s rights, health, and equality (if you think I’m lying, just take a minute to explore my website and look at what I do for a living); I just simply disagree that birth control is the right way to provide that.
But I’ll get into that more later.
For now I just want to justify my statement that artificial contraception is not good for women by looking at some of the side effects of birth control pills – side effects which range from moderately annoying to life threatening. (I’ll go into the side effects of other types of artificial contraception in future posts!)
On the “less-dangerous” end of the spectrum, birth control pills often cause nausea, headaches, intermenstrual bleeding, and mood swings – sometimes even clinical depression. I personally know plenty of women who felt increased anger, confusion, fogginess, anxiety, and depression while on birth control pills – and for whom the symptoms lessened or even disappeared completely once discontinuing the pills. Even though thousands of women complain about negative emotional and psychological effects of birth control pills, very few studies have been done to explore the relationship between depression and hormonal birth control (most doctors tell women that any emotional side effects they experience while on the Pill are “all in your head”). One of the few studies that has been done was done at an Australian university in 2005 and discovered that Pill-users had a depression rating of 17.6 compared to 9.8 in non-users.
There’s an interesting article by Jill Foster on “How the Pill Messes with Women’s Minds” in which she explores several studies and interviews several women who experienced such low bouts with depression while on hormonal contraception that their work, self-esteem and even relationships with their boyfriends or husbands were severely challenged. They suffered with depression for months and some even for years before finally realizing that the problem was their birth control. Another author from the Guardian muses regarding the same subject, “I’ve taken the combined pill Ovranette since I was 16, when I was prescribed it to help manage period pain. As an adolescent, I was already pretty hormonal and moody. But did the pill make it worse? As a young, twentysomething doctor, I was diagnosed with depression and took Prozac for a while… Bouts of depression have occasionally threatened to sink my relationship with my now-husband….there must be other women out there who have had similar experiences – and who have never been warned about these potentially incredibly damaging side-effects of such a routinely dished-out contraceptive pill.”
This is separate from the findings that hormonal birth control decreases women’s libido and sex drive, sometimes all together. A 2011 study from Indiana University found that women using hormonal contraception “experienced less arousal, fewer orgasms, difficulties with lubrication, decreased pleasure and less frequent sex” than women who were not using hormonal contraception. But even in spite of the findings, the people who conducted it are still pushing hormonal contraception.
These are just some of the side effects of hormonal contraception. They don’t even include the life-threatening effects which, according to Planned Parenthood, are “heart attack, stroke, having a blood clot in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain, or developing high blood pressure, liver tumors, gallstones, or yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).” What really gets me about these warnings from Planned Parenthood and other organizations like them are that they go out of their way trying to convince women that these side effects are extremely rare. But how rare are they, really? One hormonal contraceptive that is still on the market is Ortho Evra, a birth control patch that has been known to kill at least 20 women. Over 4000 complaints over 6 years had been filed against Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest maker of healthcare products, by women “who suffered blood clots, heart attacks or strokes” after using the patch. Similar findings abound for almost every hormonal contraceptive on the market.
My point with all of this is that the emotional, psychological, and health risks of hormonal contraception seem to negate any claims it can have to being “essential healthcare for women” or “finally making women equal with men.” In reality it seems like a cruel trick to keep women feeling sick, tired, and not themselves – and also to keep them from having what truly is essential to their empowerment as women, which is knowledge of the workings of their own body. The female body alone provides all of the information that any woman needs in order to successfully avoid or achieve pregnancy. Not only does the information provided by a woman’s body tell her when she is or isn’t fertile, it also gives her enormous health information regarding hormonal fluctuations in her body and a host of other potential abnormalities in her system. There is absolutely no reason for women to be forced to rely on an employer, doctor, insurance company or anyone else for birth control that will also make her sick when she can learn for herself how to interpret the signs of her body and plan her family with absolutely no medical side effects.
Even one death by birth control is too many when there is another option out there that is completely natural, holistic, and effective. Tons of myths exist about natural family planning and hopefully through my work and blog I will be able to disband some of them.
If you as a woman are interested in learning about a method of family planning that works with your body rather than against it, that has no medical side effects, no risk of death, does not alter your hormones in a way that could cause depression, and that will enable you to plan your family without being dependent on anybody else to provide you with birth control, please contact me and we can set up a time to discuss your other options. It is information you deserve to know.