Blog Post

Are Women Fed Up With the Pill?

An article appearing in Vogue UK says that side-effects of synthetic hormones are making more and more young women turn away from the pill and toward natural family methods that once used to be passed off as the old-fashioned “rhythm method.”

Lottie Winter, Beauty and Lifestyle Associate of British Vogue, says that the dawn of the information age where everyone has access to health information that was once difficult to find is causing cracks to form in the feminist revolution’s holy grail – birth control pills.

As a result, younger women are turning away from the pill in droves.

“ . . . [A]n NHS study found that the number of women in contact with sexual and reproductive health services who used user-dependent contraception, including the pill, had dropped by more than 13 percent between 2005 and 2015."

Side effects such as mood swings and weight gain are turning women off, she reports. “In an age where we're all obsessed with health and well-being, young women simply don't want to settle for so many symptoms.”

She interviewed a 26 year-old radio presenter named Abbie who went vegan a few years ago and has become much more aware of what she’s putting in her body.

"At the same time, I was still taking the pill and it started to feel incongruent with my new lifestyle,” Abbie said. “It was only apt that I started looking for an alternative method of contraception."

She ultimately submitted to the growing cultural backlash against hormonal contraceptives and decided, as so many other women have, to reclaim autonomy over her body by getting off the pill.

Other young women said they got off the pill because it was making them depressed but instead of doctors associating this with the pill, they prescribe anti-depressants.

Credible research has linked depression to hormonal contraceptives with one study finding that over a 13 year period, women taking combined oral contraceptives were 23 percent more likely to be treated for depression. Women on the progestogen-only pill (known as the mini pill) were 34 percent more likely to be treated for it.

“Teens taking the combined pill were discovered to be at greatest risk, with an 80 per cent increased likelihood of being prescribed antidepressants,” Winters reports. “And yet governing bodies and health professionals are quick to lay blame at social media's door for the atmospheric rise in mental-health issues, suggesting a ‘digital detox’ as a possible cure.”

"It's incredibly frustrating," said Holly Grigg-Spall, author of the book Sweetening the Pill (also a forthcoming documentary). "Doctors make their own preconceived judgements on what form of contraception a woman should be on, rather than listening to the facts and the reality of her experience.

"The medical community thinks that the benefits of reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancies and the improved control over things like heavy bleeding outweigh the risk of potentially serious side effects and mental-health issues - but the reality is that there could be thousands of women who are experiencing depression, totally unnecessarily, as a result of their contraception. They deserve to be taken seriously."

Natural Cycles app

The pharmaceutical industry is attempting to create versions of the pill that are more closely matched to a women’s biochemistry by using bio-identical versions of hormones. The problem is that these versions are far more expensive to produce and also contain a synthetic hormone called dienogest.

"The reality of modern medicine is that pharmaceutical companies have to have an economic incentive to research new products," Dr Jane Dickson, vice-president of the faculty of sexual and reproductive healthcare at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told Winters.

"Bio-identical hormones are far, far more expensive than synthetic versions and, unlike during the menopause, when only a small amount is needed to replace the body's natural levels, contraception requires much higher doses to effectively put the reproductive organs to sleep."

As a result, women are taking matters into their own hands.

For example, Dr. Elina Berglund, a particle physicist, relied on her knowledge of statistical analysis to develop an algorithm that is remarkably similar to the old rhythm methods and enables women to accurately predict ovulation through body temperature to determine when they are fertile. Called Natural Cycles, she developed an app which has since been recognized as a medical contraceptive device. It works by determining the body’s basal temperature, which is the lowest and more stable temperature within a 24 hour period and usually registers first thing in the morning.

This temperature is then recorded in the app and the algorithm creates a pattern of “green days” when a woman is fertle and a pattern of low risk “red days.”

“According to an independent study published in The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, the rate of ‘false’ green days within the fertile window when used correctly was found to be less than 0.5 per cent. Just to put that in context, male condoms are 98 per cent effective, and the figure for the pill is greater than 99 per cent - making the app apparently as effective as the pill (if not more so),” Winters reports.

Women are also turning to other forms of artificial contraception, such as IUDs and implants, many of which also have their share of problems.

For example, Essure, an implantable permanent birth control method has led to the death of at least four women and causes pain so severe that many women report becoming suicidal. There are over 15,000 adverse events reported in the U.S. and the sale of the device has been temporarily suspended in the European Union.

More than 1,000 women are currently suing Merck, the manufacturer of a vaginal ring known as Nuva Ring, after suffering blood clots caused by the hormones it releases into the bloodstream.

Lawsuits are also piling up against Bayer for its IUD Mirena which has also caused significant adverse effects in women.

Even though it is heartening to learn of so many women turning away from the pill and toward more natural methods of regulating birth, the work is not yet completed. We who call ourselves Women of Grace need to pray for a conversion of heart in our peers so that they might realize the beauty of their complete femininity – which includes their fertility – in order to protect themselves against the secularization of our culture and its blatant disregard for the dignity of human life.

“Like the Blessed Mother, you and I have a choice,” writes Johnnette Benkovic in her book, Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life. “We can say ‘yes’ to God’s request, or we can say ‘no’. And, just like Mary’s response, our answer has eternal consequences, both in our lives and in the lives of others. . . . [B]ecause the spiritual needs of our day are so great, all of heaven is holding its breath waiting for our response.”

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