Friday, February 5, 2010

Women: Did You Know?

After careful consideration and lots of encouragement from a friend (who will remain nameless unless I receive flack about this post...then I'm going to link to her blog and tell you that she made me do it!) I have decided to share some of my findings and personal feelings about a touchy subject. I'm mostly writing about this because I don't think women are fully aware of this (I know I wasn't) and while I realize I'm not an expert, I certainly wanted to put this out there so other women could read what I have found.

With that being goes...

The month before Josh and I were married, I scheduled an appointment with my family physician so he could meet with me and prescribe a birth control method that I thought would work for me. At that point, I was not fully aware of all the options, and I didn't give it much thought. I was really only familiar with the pill, and that's what I asked him to prescribe to me. There wasn't much said at this appointment, I really just wanted the prescription and then I'd be on my way out the door! I already had my yearly exam, so I was good to go.

At some point I remember my cousin Leslie asking me if I had given Natural Family Planning (NFP) any thought. She discussed it with me and didn't come across as pushy at all. I wasn't really interested in it at the time because I guess I just thought everyone used the pill. Even notable Christian authors and radio talk-show hosts weren't against it.

My upbringing - both at home and at church - did not give me any indication that there was anything wrong with chemical birth control methods. So between the years of 2001 - 2003, I took the pill until we decided we'd like to start "trying" to have a baby. I conceived within a month of going off of it.

I then went back on the pill after I had Caleb until the fall of 2005 when we decided to start "trying" to have another. I conceived again within a month of going off of it. And I used the term "trying" loosely. We just weren't preventing.

Then after having Sarah...for some reason...I just felt like I shouldn't go back on it at all. I just started thinking about how it works, even though I actually had no idea how it worked. I don't like being ignorant about something, especially something that effects my body, so I realized I needed to be more aware of what I was doing. So I started researching.

I had no idea there were so many books and other material pertaining to this subject.

Here is one of the first things I read that made my heart sink:

According to multiple references throughout The Physician's Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills:

1. inhibiting ovulation (the primary mechanism),

2. thickening the cervical mucus, thereby making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg, and

3. thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.

The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive. [1]

Abortive? How could that be? Why was I never told that? Is it just because I didn't ask, "Will I be ending a potential pregnancy if I take this?"

Then I started wondering about other forms of birth control. What about an IUD? Well, that wasn't any different:

Some forms of contraception, specifically the intrauterine device (IUD), Norplant, and certain low-dose oral contraceptives, often do not prevent conception but prevent implantation of an already fertilized ovum. The result is an early abortion, the killing of an already conceived individual. Tragically, many women are not told this by their physicians, and therefore do not make an informed choice about which contraceptive to use. [1]

Even if you go to the Mirena's website and click on FAQ's - How does Mirena work? it says "Makes the lining in your uterus thin" women realize what that means? It means an already fertilized egg cannot implant.

But if we as women are convinced that we're just not creating life, we keep using these chemical birth control methods. The fact of the matter is, however, that many times we MAY HAVE created life and didn't now it. What a devastating thought.

There is so much information out there about this. We need to be informed.

And I just want to make it clear that I did ask a local OB/GYN about is part of the email response I received:

"It all depends on if you consider a fertilized egg which hasn’t implanted, (therefore not producing any hormones/preg test for mom) is really a pregnancy and thus an abortion or not. Fertilized eggs that don’t implant very likely happen quite frequently with God/Mother Nature in charge, we don’t know because until they implant, there is no way we can know."

And since I do believe that a fertilized egg is life, because I believe that life begins at conception (defined as the fusion of gametes -egg and sperm - to produce a new organism) then I believe that these chemical options are not options for me.

Of course there are methods to prevent pregnancy that are non-chemical. NFP, male or female condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap, or sterilization. For some, none of the "barrier" methods I mentioned are ok and neither is sterilization. I wrestle with this often.

There. I did it. I wrote about a topic that just might be as difficult to discuss as my Santa post! But in all honesty, I pray that you will seek out the information that you need to BE SURE about this topic.

This blogger has some amazing insight. Thanks, Mrs. Haid, for sending me her page.

*Edit* Because someone asked me a question in the comment section, I wanted to include my answer here:

From what I have read, the three you mention [The Patch, The Nuva Ring, and The Shot] list the same "mechanisms" as I listed for the birth control pill. They have have a "last line of defense" of keeping the uterus thin, therefore preventing a fertilized egg from implanting. I do not believe that any chemical birth control 100% of the time keeps an egg and sperm from meeting.

[1]Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to ProChoice Arguments (Multnomah Publishers: Sisters, OR: 1992, 1994)


Mrs. Haid said...

I can't wait to post a formal discussion on this on my blog! Great research Chrissy!

And way to ask the hard question: is this little pill that seems so magical and easy really kind of dangerous and evil to unborn babies? That's a really UNmodern question to ask!

Mom of Many said...

What a wonderful post! It's well written and well researched. I hold the unpopular belief that birth control either ends (such as the pill) or prevents (prevents) a baby from being brought into this world. After my first miscarriage, I wondered if the birth control pill that I had been using for 4 years had done something to my body. I think some women take the pill out of convience, not realizing or thinking about what it is actually doing to their bodies.

Julie the Army Wife said...

Thank you for posting this. When we were engaged I went to get the pill but couldn't bring myself to ever take it. We have used some form of NFP or FAM ever since we got married.
Our main reasons are because of the chemicals in my body but I also don't like that it could do what you said in #3. Just doesn't sit too well with me.

It does seem like in the Christian world I was very much a minority and almost everyone I know has been on the pill at some time.

GapGirl said...

Oh my goodness, thank you. This too has been brought to my attention in the last few months. Early in my marriage I had the IUD. Oh how I regret it. I just prayed and prayed that God would forgive me for however many babies were lost because of my selfishness. THANK YOU for blogging about this. Its such a touchy subject but it needs to be heard, especially in the christian community!!!!

Jessica said...

Good post Chrissy! And yes, I'm sure it is a touchy subject. I'm not quite sure where my husband and I are on this topic. I would love to go with more Natural Family Planning, which is how we ended up pregnant with Isabel...we had an oops! =) I was totally ready, but he wasn't. Gives us much to think about...

Ashley said...

Great info Chrissy - I think it's important that women are educated as well. I have a few questions that, if you so feel inclined, could further research for me (as I'm swamped with paperwork for the boys)...

1. How do The Patch, The Nuvo Ring, and The Shot work?

2. Are there ANY BC's that prevent the egg and sperm from every connecting? Anything besides NFP?

Thanks Chrissy! :0)

Chrissy said...

From what I have read, the three you mention list the same "mechanisms" as I listed for the birth control pill. They have have a "last line of defense" of keeping the uterus thin, therefore preventing a fertilized egg from implanting. I do not believe that any chemical birth control 100% of the time keeps an egg and sperm from meeting.

Jaimee M said...

Well I have lots of knowledge in this area and know that it is a very personal choice for women. For some it is dangerous to conceive, for some it is to emotionally painful to conceive, whatever the reason some women need birth control. On the other hand I have seen many, many women get pregnant after having their tubes tied, with an IUD in place, or while "on the pill". So my take on this is that if you are comfortable taking/using some form of birth control possibly God has led you to this decision, he does however have the ultimate power to produce a child. So, I think your post is awesome with all the information it is providing.

Kelley said...

Well said, Chrissy!

Yes, the patch, nuva ring etc all have the "back up" method built in. There are so many other, more healthy options available for women that don't risk an early abortion. Yes, with these methods (condom, diaphragm, NFP, even sterilization), if there is fertilization, the baby will implant and thrive, but how many of us would choose to abort a fertilized egg if someone could tell us that there was one? Maybe lots of us??

And then you get the issue of sex as an entitlement instead of a gift... which is what MY post is turning into!

Confessions From A Working Mom said...

This is a tough post... I appreciate you for doing so much great research, and for being so honest.

I was the pill for years before we started to try for our first. I blame the lingering affects of the pill for delaying my ovulation and leading to an early miscarriage.

After having my daughter, I chose to go onto an IUD-- I knew about the information you mentioned (I can't even stand to use the actual terms), but I willfully ignored it. I just can't bare to think that I might be pregnant and what the IUD could do if that were the case. However, my friend who is a doctor (and who first told me about what you mentioned about an IUD) said that the copper IUD actually works BEST by killing the sperm before it fertilizes the egg. Maybe she was just trying to make me feel better; but it's something I choose to believe. The alternative is too terrifying.

Confessions From A Working Mom

Mrs. Haid said...

My OB also said the Mirena was best at killing the sperm and was a lesser of two evils when considering the pill vs. IUD.

But... I didn't realize how expensive it is! WOW. Yeah, babies are expensive to and what not, but I just thought BC pills were so much cheaper.

Mindy said...

I've heard bits and pieces about this before... but I didn't need to hear much before I quickly decided I am not taking birth control when I'm married. For this reason and more!

e said...

Well, I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to this issue so I'm choosing not to enter into the dreaded pro-life/choice issue.

Instead, I'm going to say, "Good for you!" You did a lot of research and made a great choice for you based on what you believe. I think that's awesome! Also, you enlightened some women about a subject which, while touchy, is very important. And women, no matter what side of the fence they're on, should always be educated.


Amy said...

Thank you for posting this. I never realized this. I went on the pill in my teenage years to help with my menstrual cycle. I was on and off the pill for about 10 years. I went off the pill in 2006 and got pregnant with our DD almost right away. After DD, I went back on due to painful menstrual cycle. Now I am suffering from a lack of ovulating and can not currently get pregnant. I am diagnosed with PCOS, but can't help but wonder if it is due to the pill. I was on the pill that delayed my periods and just had them 4 times per year. I hope my DD does not chose to take the pill and I hope she does not have painful menstrual cycles like I did (and still do - when I have one). Sorry if this is TMI.
Thanks for writing this. I had only recently became aware of these facts and can not believe that I wasn't aware of this.

Ness said...

Thank you for posting this. I just recently read that the abortive percentage for the IUD and "mini pills" are 100% and the "regular" BC pills are considered 50%. I am so upset, as I have the mirena and have been praying for God to speak to my husband about taking it out. I am having depression, pains, pregnancy symptoms which I suspect to be cysts or ectopic pregnancy, I have started working out 5-6 times a week, for almost 3 months now, eating less, and drinking more water, and I have gained 4 lbs, and lost absolutely nothing. I would appreciate prayers... Thank you again!!! :) God Bless you

Ness said...

ps I have the Mirena and it does the same thing to the uterus as the others do..I have other friends who have and are taking theirs out because of problems with thyroid going up, and swelling of the legs, and fogginess of the brain (not thinking clearly) Mrs Haid, don't do it ismy advice.

Trisha said...

I was ignorant of all this stuff too. I used the pill for a while when we were first married. Went off it and endured over 2 years ttc and fertility treatments. This is one of my big 3 topics I really regret not doing my research on - for so many reasons.

I really understand how nerve wracking the idea of an unexpected pregnancy can be. We have had 2 babies that have required assistance from fertility docs to be conceived, we also have had one baby conceived on our first try, one conceived on the first month we decided not to prevent, and one conceived when we got sloppy with our nfp (unfortunately we lost him to mc though). We are using FAM now and I will admit that I get a little freaked out sometimes that we might accidently get pregnant. But I have to balance that in my mind with the fact that as shocking/challenging as it would be for me to get pregnant now, we would love that baby and that God would work it all out for us. But for me, the greater issue I would have is using chemical birth control now knowing how it works in your body.

Good for you for putting the information out there.

anna said...

Hi there! I came over from the BlogFrog (you commented on my IUD thread).
I was just wondering if you did any research on ParaGard, a non-hormonal IUD. I don't think many people realize that there is a non-hormonal IUD out there, and was wondering if you would add that to your list of barrier methods.

Chrissy said...

No, it is not a barrier method. While ParaGard my be non hormonal, it still has abortive mechanisms as mentioned below:

According to the manufacturers, how the ParaGard T 380A prevents pregnancy is not completely understood. Several theories have been suggested, as multiple birth control mechanisms may affect the ovum, sperm, and fertilized egg. Clinical studies with copper-bearing IUDs suggest that fertilization is prevented by killing sperm. However, it is also known that the ParaGard IUD does not prevent ovulation. Some sperm may in fact reach the egg, resulting in fertilization. When fertilization does occur, ParaGard is thought to act as birth control by *preventing the embryo from implanting in the uterus*

Heidi @ Indy Photography said...

So great to read this in print. It NEEDS to be discussed at every single dr visit, but unfortunately it NEVER is.

Thanks for making this public for those who were unaware.

Also, as a note on your last comment....people get pregnant all the time when on b.c. so it's obvious that it doesn't work 100% of the time.

Bethany said...

I linked to you again, Chrissy!

Heather said...

So glad you are engaging women in this conversation -it is an important one! I myself contracepted for all the wrong reasons from age 12-19! then on-again-off-again until I was 25! I was never told by my OBGYN of the #3 aspect of BC, but was told of risks to my health (although the doc said that it was so rare I won't need to worry! UGH!) I feel betrayed by the pro-contraception docs. I was seeing because my health and well being was at stake! Also contraception hurts women emotionally, it creates low-self esteem/depression because contraception leads to objectification of women - it offers a temporary and false sense of security of "I won't get pregnant" but with this, in the recesses of a woman's subconscious is the nagging feeling of "I am an object" used for "his" pleasure there is something missing emotionally when we contracept. Separating the marriage act from the well spring of life does have ramifications. Look at the divorce rate after contraception became the norm -enough said. NFP seems to be the logical answer to this - The use of NFP makes communication necessary, it (communication)is a must because you'll need to discuss each month if you do or do not want a baby, also your husband will need to communicate with you in regards to your "chart" as to where you are in your cycle(the pill is 100% the woman usually very little discussion on adding to the family vs. not) Although it is VERY effective method the couple is always open to life. Last - I want to say I am not perfect it was very scary for me to go off the pill - I dreaded it - a lot of tears were shed! However, God is working on this pitiful housewife and it is through His mercy and love that I am able to go on and I know I could not be at this point of peace (if you want to call it that I do have 5 kids) if it were not for His grace! PS - we have obviously not been avoiding babies! But I do know folks that have and NFP was successful!

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