Another cautionary tale about artificial hormones

It’s up to you if you want to go on birth control or not. There are other options, although most of the require you to be more in-tune with your cycle than most women are accustomed to (unless they are actively trying to conceive).

When I was first pregnant, and the midwife was taking my medical history, she asked if I had ever been on birth control; when I said, “no,” she quickly and enthusiastically replied, “Oh, good!” I’d never given it much thought before — I don’t like to take medicine, and prefer to avoid drugs unless they are necessary, so I never took birth control pills. Now I see that there are many reasons why that is a good idea.

Here is an article about Johnson & Johnson’s multi-million dollar payment to settle lawsuits about adverse reactions from their birth-control patch. These adverse reactions included heart attack, strokes, and blood clots.

Hearing stories like this doesn’t make me feel any more comfortable about using hormonal birth control. Especially when my cousin developed a blood clot from her birth control pills, and was even hospitalized for a time. (This happened well over 10 years ago — I think she had her hysterectomy about 10 years ago, and her only child — conceived when she went off of her birth control pills because of the clot — was several years old at the time.) So, if genetics has anything to do with risk of developing a clot, then I’m that much better off by totally avoiding it.


3 Responses

  1. Kathy,

    It’s important to keep in mind, and to inform women, that the maternal death rate from birth control is far less than the maternal death rate from pregnancy.

  2. I’ll let you tell them that.

    It’s not really “maternal death” from birth control, though, but I tried to find stats — a bit difficult, since they weren’t usually said in the X/100,000 annual rate, like MMR is. Several studies said that oral contraceptives were associated with higher rates of some types of cancer and lower rates of other types of cancer. One study said that the increased mortality noted in users of oral contraceptives (not just cancer, but other conditions as well) ceased 10 years after they stopped using. Several studies noted that the risk of death was higher in smokers, especially in those that smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day, as well as in those over the age of 35.

    There are alternatives to birth control, including spermicide, condoms, “the rhythm method,” “natural family planning,” sterilization, etc. The article I linked to even included a quote about why use Ortho-Evra if there were other forms of birth control (pills were under consideration) that were just as effective without the increased risk from the patch. I personally extrapolate that to why use any birth-control pills if there are effective alternatives. Obviously, not everybody is going to want to check their cervical mucus and other signs of fertility several times a month, others aren’t going to want to use condoms, others won’t want to be sterilized; but these are all alternatives that if used properly can be effective forms of birth control, and nearly as effective if not equally effective as birth-control pills (or patches, or whatever), without the risks associated with birth-control pills. I’ve heard numerous stories of women who accidentally got pregnant even when taking their pills every day (although more commonly when they forgot), because they did not take them consistently at the same time of day — apparently, they were extremely fertile or sensitive to the medicine. For some women, birth control pills (or patches, or rings) will be the best form of contraception for them, and that’s fine. Since I’ve found an alternative that works well for me, without the risks of birth-control pills and patches, I see no reason to get on artificial hormones, especially with my first cousin having the potentially life-threatening blood clot in her leg because of it. Still, had she died, it wouldn’t have been “maternal mortality” because she had never been pregnant, much less in the previous 42 days or year. Her COD probably would have been the blood clot, and the BCPs might not have even been implicated, though they started the chain reaction.

  3. First of all, I want to tell you that I’ve had a refreshing time discovering and browsing your blog these days I’ve been sick with the flu. Though I imagine we don’t see eye-to-eye on every birth-related issue, still it is great to read someone with whom I can relate a little better than most natural childbirth advocates. I just don’t fall into the “usual” natural childbirth fanatic category (yet I am very passionate!). And I’m thinking on several things, you probably don’t either.

    Second, good way to answer Dr. T.

    Third, I wanted to let you know my experience with not using birth control (for your anecdotal evidence:).

    I have never used any form of B.C. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and have 3 beautiful girls. Though it may seem like a little much, I wanted to throw out the other option of . . . not doing anything to prevent pregnancy at all. . . (gasp!) Of course, my husband and I chose this because we had a problem with using hormone-altering birth control and decided we would trust God with our reproduction. I do not assume the majority of people would entertain the thought of using this option, but it is an option, nonetheless, and we are prepared to deal with the “consequences” of its “failure” :).

    We have never tried or tried not to get pregnant (not even noticing what day of the month it was, or postponing sex, etc.). We just do what we want when we want and that has resulted in 3 children in six years.

    Yes, they are close, but I love how very obviously God has shown His hand on our childbearing. We didn’t get pregnant until we had been married for 14 months. Then, just like that, we were pregnant; having done nothing differently.

    Okay, it gets more interesting: Despite exclusive breastfeeding, I get my period back (no doubt about it being my period–none of this non-ovulatory spotting here) right away after giving birth. (5 weeks after #1, 4 weeks after #2 and a few months after #3–I’m finally turning into a usual woman!:)

    So, by strictly scientific standards (i.e. if you ovulate and are sexually active, you can get pregnant), I should have had my seventh baby a few months ago. Yet I have three, and the closest gap is 17 months.

    Just wanted to throw that out there. I understand that this option is very extreme, but (so far:) we love it!

    I have a few contraception-related questions and you seem to be quite adept at geting information. Would you mind contacting me, and I will ask you privately? I understand if you are too busy. (How do you do it, anyway?)


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