On one of my email lists, we’ve gotten into a discussion about various types of birth control. Although it’s not strictly about pregnancy, labor, or birth, most women after having a child will want some information about how to wait before having another child; some women don’t–“the more the merrier” philosophy. To each her own.
You may already know all of this; but in case you don’t, here you go:
When I was growing up, I knew that Catholics didn’t approve of birth control, but I was fuzzy on why. I figured it was because they thought that large families were mandated by the Bible or something. But when I was a pharmacy tech, I finally understood why they stood against birth control pills. I read a pharmacy magazine that contained a “Continuing Education” article on birth control pills. This was not too long after “mini pills” were released, so most of the information was on the typical standard-dose birth control pills. I learned that most birth control pills have a primary function of preventing ovulation (some–perhaps all–also will thicken the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to get to the egg, thus preventing conception); but that they have a secondary function of preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, should conception occur. This is why there is a difference between “birth control” and “contraception.” The actual, logical meaning of the term “contraception” is that it is a something that keeps conception from occurring. “Birth control” means that a birth does not take place, whether through contraception or abortion.
Many women are opposed to abortion on moral/religious/spiritual grounds, or would never consider having an abortion themselves even if they found themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Many women consider life to start at conception. Logically, therefore, deliberately preventing that fertilized egg–a conception–from implanting in the uterus would be a form of abortion–the prevention of a life from being born that otherwise would be born. (One pro-abortion woman on this list pointed out that it is known that some fertilized eggs naturally do not implant. That is true, but it does not change the argument nor alter the force of the argument.) If you are one of these women who consider keeping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus to be a form of abortion; and that abortion is taking an innocent life, then you may wish to continue reading further about the specific forms of birth control.
The main form of birth control, obviously, is “The Pill.” Actually, there are dozens of pills, and now there are “mini-pills.” These “mini pills” do not have the primary function of preventing ovulation, but will increase the cervical mucus viscosity; however, their main function is to keep the lining of the uterus too thin for the fertilized egg to implant. Taking synthetic hormones may cause other problems for the woman; and most of these hormones are not broken down to the body, and are instead excreted through the urine….into our water supply….which has who-knows-what effect on our population now. Water supplies have been tested and found that our drinking water does contain measurable quantities of hormones from birth control pills. Hormones in these pills are also in other forms (patches and rings), but the effect is the same. Shots such as Depo-Provera and implants such as Norplant will act in the same way, because the medication functions in the same way.
There are also IUDs. Mirena has a hormone that it releases; but otherwise it has the same function as other IUDs–pregnancy prevention through keeping the uterus irritated so that it can’t accept a fertilized egg. The hormone in Mirena may possibly prevent ovulation (although the website says this is not the way it works in most cases), or it may keep the uterus lining too thin to accept a fertilized egg, or it may prevent the sperm from getting to the egg. Since you don’t know which particular function worked this month, you may have allowed a conception while preventing a birth. If you believe that life begins at conception, and that keeping a conceived baby from being born is abortion, then you need to re-examine your method of birth control, to make sure that it aligns with your beliefs.
Of course, there are true “contraceptive” devices and methods–things that keep the sperm and egg from uniting, so that conception does not occur. The most common and familiar would be the condom. There are also spermicides of various sorts. Diaphragms are also an option. Methods of preventing pregnancy include “natural family planning”–basically, avoiding sex (or using a condom or other prevention) when you are most likely to be fertile. The least sophisticated of these is the “calendar” or “rhythm” method–since most women are fairly regular, noting what is most likely your fertile days (about 5 days before ovulation and for 24 hours afterwards) and being abstinent on those days. However, there can always be things that speed up or delay ovulation, so this method is fairly unreliable. There are other methods that take several factors into account, thus greatly improving the reliability and consistency of periodic abstinence (you can look up “natural family planning” online and find a lot of resources about true contraception. One method that I had not heard of until this discussion on my email list is the following which sounds most interesting: NaProTechnology. The woman who mentioned it is a practitioner of this method, and says that it takes your cycle one day at a time, so it can be used with irregular cycles, if a woman is coming off of birth control, perimenopause, etc.
No method is fool-proof. Hormones are convenient, but may technically cause abortions, and may cause problems with your future health (the risk of blood clots, especially if you smoke, is increased; and there is a possible increase in some types of cancers). Barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, spermicides) don’t have the down-side of hormonal problems, but are inconvenient (and you may be allergic to the spermicide or latex). Periodic abstinence requires extra vigilance and awareness of your cycle–which is not always a bad thing! Actually, I think the more knowledge you have about your own body, the better. Just as with anything else, there are benefits and risks–trade-offs–when doing anything, and you should fully research everything before you agree to anything.