…Or, in other words, birth control. I realize this might seem like a strange blog topic given the fact that I’m not exactly in need of preventing offspring right now.
But offspring-prevention aside, birth control is still an important issue to talk about. After all, plenty of women take hormonal birth control [pills, patches, etc.] for other reasons, such as to regulate hormones, to stabilize an irregular menstrual cycle, to improve acne, or to alleviate severe pre-menstrual symptoms. For women who have serious struggles with those issues, birth control can seem like a godsend. This would be a great solution, if birth control pills were benign.
Unfortunately, they are anything but benign.
Birth control [hormonal] work by putting a specific dose of hormones into a woman’s body each day, whether through ingestion [pills] or other methods [implanted rod, patches, injection, or vaginal ring]. Most pills include estrogen and progestin, although some contain only progestin [sometimes called “mini-pills”]. These two hormones work to prevent ovulation, and progestin also creates a cervical environment that [mostly] prevents sperm from entering the cervix. However, that’s not all that they do.
The thing is, the estrogen and progestin in contraceptives are synthetic. While synthetic hormones certainly have their place in some situations, such as patients with severe thyroid malfunction, introducing synthetic hormones into a healthy body on a consistent basis for a prolonged period is a horrible idea. First of all, synthetic hormones have different effects on the body than those it produces naturally. That would not necessarily be a reason to avoid hormonal contraceptives, except for that birth control pills/patches administer these synthetic hormones in such a way that manipulates the body’s natural functions. When the hormones from birth control flood a woman’s body with progestin and/or estrogen, they prevent a natural function of her reproductive system. It is only by overloading the body with these synthetic hormones that birth control is able to prevent ovulation, and therefore, pregnancy.
Ten minutes of research will be enough to convince you that, whether or not you choose to use hormonal contraceptives, the risks are more than trifling. You’re all big girls and boys, so you can do your own research, but here is a quick Cliff-Notes version of some of the top risks and side effects of hormonal birth control [source, source, & source]:
- blood clots
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
- menstrual problems, including excessive bleeding
- post-pill amenorrhea, both short- and long-term/permanent
- fertility struggles [This is a big issue. It’s not something that would bother me much, since I would much rather adopt than have biological children, but for the many women who desire to conceive later on, this should be a serious consideration.
- increased risk of liver tumors
- increased risk of cervical cancer
- increased risk of breast cancer
Keep in mind that I say all this as someone who was took birth control pills for a good 4 or 5 years. Although it was convenient, I don’t think it was worth the side effects I experienced while on it and the long-term risks to which I subjected myself. Given my experience and the research I’ve done, I would not recommend it as a first course of action for anyone.
There is also an ethical reason for why I am opposed to hormonal contraceptives. While the primary function of the pill, patch, etc. is to prevent ovulation, it has a secondary function to make it effective [91% of the time with normal use, according to the CDC]. If ovulation does occur in spite of contraceptive use, hormonal birth control will prevent any zygotes [fertilized eggs] from implanting in the uterine wall. In such an instance, hormonal birth control becomes abortive. This is a non-issue for those who don’t believe that life begins at conception [although I’d urge you to rethink that]. For me, it’s a matter of values. My convenience does not outweigh the chance of ending a life that has truly just barely begun.
For any men reading this, listen up. If you are doing the mattress-mambo with a woman who takes hormonal contraceptives, remember that it can be abortive. You share in the responsibility for potentially creating a life, so in you’re not also on board with aborting it, you’d better start rethinking things.
Of course, just because you’re not on the pill doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to becoming like the Duggar family from 19 Kids and Counting. There are plenty of other offspring-prevention protocols that do not involve risking synthetic hormones and moral dilemmas. My research on those methods has not been the most thorough [it’s not exactly a pressing need for me right now…], but I know the options include various methods of physical birth control as well as fertility tracking [which I understand to be much more reliable than previously thought, especially with the new technology available today]. For those women who take birth control to help with PMS, irregular cycles, acne, and other non-contraceptive purposes, there are a multitude of less-risky and more effective methods of treatment. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and birth control is usually nothing more than a Bandaid-fix that masks symptoms. Taking the time to find the root issue and actually heal it [through natural, alternative, or combined medicine, as well as lifestyle changes] is well worth the effort.
Birth control is a personal issue, as well as one with potentially long-standing consequences. I’d urge you, as always, to study on your own and make sure that whatever offspring-prevention protocol you choose is well-researched and will improve your quality of life rather than detract from it.
Now go forth and multiply!
Or, you know, not.