In a coordinated pushback against the Obama administration, 43 Catholic institutions filed a dozen lawsuits in federal courts across the country on Monday, charging that new federal rules requiring most religious employers to provide health insurance that includes birth-control services violates their fundamental right to religious freedom.
Yes, this lawsuit directly contradicts what the Bible says about free will and ultimately these organizations are more concerned with saving money than saving the souls of the damned. Ironically, around 98% of Catholics use contraception, so this is much more of an issue of male Catholic leadership’s attempt to control it’s women than religious freedom. If these organizations win their lawsuits, whether you agree with the lawsuits or not, we should all be thanking the Catholic Church for limiting our access to birth control and ultimately lowering our risk of cervical and breast cancers (even if that wasn’t their intention we’ll pretend it was)!
The truth is that forms of birth control have existed since ancient times. Long before the invention of the Pill, both men and women used various herbal, barrier and timing methods to alter their chances of conception.
But never before in history could women achieve this feat simply by popping a pill in the morning. And that is what made the Pill so revolutionary … and at the same time so dangerous.
Birth control pills are rarely, if ever, necessary or beneficial. In exchange for the convenience of preventing pregnancy (which you can do naturally just as well, and I’ll explain how below), you are putting yourself at risk of:
- Cancer: Women who take birth control pills increase their risk of cervical and breast cancers, and possibly liver cancer as well.
- Fatal blood clots: All birth control pills increase your risk of blood clots and subsequent stroke. And if your prescription contains the synthetic hormone desogestrel, your risk of fatal blood clots nearly doubles!
- Thinner bones: Women who take birth control pills have lower bone mineral density (BMD) than women who have never used oral contraceptives.
- Impaired muscle gains: A recent study found that oral contraceptive use impairs muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.
- Long-term sexual dysfunction: The Pill may interfere with a protein that keeps testosterone unavailable, leading to long-term sexual dysfunction including decreased desire and arousal.
- Heart disease: Long-term use of birth control pills may increase plaque artery buildups in your body that may raise your risk of heart disease.
These are the more serious, chronic health risks. On top of these, many women also report awful more immediate side effects including:
- Migraines and nausea
- Weight gain and mood changes
- Irregular bleeding or spotting
- Breast tenderness
- Yeast overgrowth and infection
Excellent Natural Birth Control Methods
Many women take the Pill because they’re unaware of the other effective birth control methods out there. The following options, which include both natural family planning and barrier methods, are effective ways to prevent pregnancy without damaging your health.
- Male condoms: Condoms have a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly. A water-based lubricant will increase the effectiveness; do not use an oil-based lubricant, however, as they break the latex.
- Female condoms: These thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside the vagina before sex are 95 percent effective. Female condoms are less likely to tear than male condoms.
- Diaphragm: Diaphragms, which must be fitted by a doctor, act as a barrier to sperm. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, they are 92 to 98 percent effective.
- Cervical cap: This heavy rubber cap fits tightly against the cervix and can be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness above 91 percent.
- Cervical sponges: The sponge, made of polyurethane foam, is moistened with water and inserted into the vagina prior to sex. It works as a barrier between sperm and the cervix, both trapping and absorbing sperm and releasing a spermicide to kill them. It can be left in for up to 24 hours at a time. When used correctly, the sponge is about 89-91 percent effective.
Many people are familiar with these barrier methods, and less familiar with natural family planning (NFP) tools, which a woman uses to track when she is ovulating, and then avoid sex during that time (or does so only using a back-up barrier method). Many women feel empowered by NFP because it allows them to get in touch with their fertility cycle.
Some of the most popular methods include:
- Calendar Method: Abstention from sex during the week the woman is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. The calendar method doesn’t work very well for couples who use it by itself (about a 75 percent success rate), but it can be effective when combined with the temperature and mucus methods described below.
- The Temperature Method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation.
Illness or lack of sleep can change your body temperature and make this method unreliable by itself, but when it is combined with the mucus method, it can be an accurate way of assessing fertility. The two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.
- The Mucus Method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of vaginal discharge, which reflect rising levels of estrogen in your body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed.
There are many alternatives to the Pill out there, and my advice to women is to avoid all birth control pills like the plague. Instead, I encourage you to become actively involved in fertility awareness, and embrace natural family planning or barrier methods that will not interfere with your hormones and health.
Some excellent reading to get you started on this path include:
- The Ovulation Method: Natural Family Planning, by John J. Billings
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health, by Toni Weschler
- Honoring Our Cycles: A Natural Family Planning Workbook, by Katie Singer