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The pill – a drug that we need to question

Were you busy and just wanted a quick reliable contraception? Did you go on it for skin or period problems? Were you in a relationship and pregnancy just wasn’t an option? Were other options for contraception just too hard or confusing?

Do you want to know more about how your body works? Do you worry about interfering with your fertility or your menstrual cycle? Do you want to know what the side-effects may be? Are you off the Pill and wondering why you can’t ovulate or fall pregnant?

So many questions about a so-called ‘safe’ drug that the overwhelming majority of women take at some stage in their lives.

The Pill is a unique drug in that it’s designed to interfere with one of your normal bodily functions, ovulation, and is the only prescription drug used long term that does so. Different to all other drugs, the Pill is taken by healthy young women whose only problem is their fertility. While it’s often used for menstrual issues and hormonal issues, the Pill was not initially designed to deal with these kinds of health issues.

Interesting to note that the initial Pill (back in the 1960’s) was considered ‘safe’ for long-term use. They were soon shown to be wrong; breast cancer, strokes, heart attacks, and the original high-dose Pills were then known to be problematic and unsafe. Now we are made to believe that the lower-dose Pills are ‘safe’ and ‘non-problematic’ but I seriously question that.

Is it ok that girls aren’t ovulating regularly after coming off the pill?

Is it ok that PCOS has risen dramatically in line with Pill usage?

Is it ok that women are flocking to IVF because they can’t fall pregnancy naturally?

As widespread use of the Pill crosses generations we see the signs of specific side-effects and general depletion of wellbeing accumulate.

Our rising infertility crisis is one such area to which the Pill has contributed. One in four Australian couples over the age of 35 are classified infertile – more than twice as many as there were in the 1970’s. This would also be due to having children later in life. We also note the huge rise in childhood allergies, diabetes and learning and behavioural problems.

Manufacturers hope to allay our fears by using language suggesting safety, naturalness and benefits of the Pill – like ‘mini-Pill’, ‘new generation’ and ‘low dose’. While current contraceptive pills are certainly lower in dose than those available in the 60’s and 70’s they’re still many times higher than our natural hormone levels. I have heard women being told that menstrual suppression or ‘skipping periods’ is more natural than regular cycling and will save us from some some disease states like ovarian cancer. I would strongly suggest that optimal health and well-being and nutrition would have a hugely greater affect on prevention of any cancer than the Pill!

Globally hormonal contraception is a multi-billion dollar industry. Whether the message comes via our doctor or directly from the pharmaceutical company, they will naturally want to show all the possible benefits of The Pill so they can sell more product. What they fail to tell you is all the side-effects that are very common. To be an effective contraception, The Pill induces a biochemical state of ‘infertility’ in the body. It does this by stopping ovulation and making cervical mucous impenetrable and the lining of the uterus unreceptive to implantation by an embryo. This raised hormonal state over a long period of time can lead to depression (women on The Pill are almost twice as likely to suffer depression), anxiety, mood swings, bloating, headaches, migraines, blood clots, weight gain, low libido and even gum disease.

Unfortunately most women only realise the effect The Pill has had on them when they come off it and are hoping to fall pregnant. Their cycle can fail to return and ovarian function and structure have altered. The most common endocrine condition affecting fertility these days is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. The classic symptoms of this condition are weight gain, failure to ovulate, infrequent periods, infertility, facial hair, acne, loss of hair from the head, reduced libido, exhaustion, depression, anxiety and a pre-disposition to diabetes.

Do a lot of these symptoms sound familiar?

Could there be a link between Pill usage and PCOS?

So for those on the pill for period pain, acne, irregular or heavy bleeding, or anything other than contraception, I would suggest you get into some natural medicine and get off the Pill pronto. The big question is, what are my options when I don’t want to fall pregnant? The most obvious choice is condoms but some couples look for other ways of managing their fertility. The most natural way is to to work out fertile and infertile times of the female cycle by using basal body temperature and looking for signs. To be honest, if there wasn’t so much money made from the Pill, there would be money spent in researching other natural forms of contraception. But as it stands, this isn’t the case.

By and large we women are not encouraged to positively engage with our bodies and their changing processes. For a long time many of the female reproductive processes have been medicalised. Menstruation, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause, Caesareans, hysterectomies, elective plastic surgery, breast implants, hormone replacement therapy, as well as the Pill of course. Much as we may joke about male ego’s and their relationship with their penis, we may also notice that men have more respect for the integrity of their bodies. Men generally don’t like going to the doctor and certainly don’t like to take ‘pills’.

Whatever the cause for this difference, perhaps we women can take a leaf from the blokes’ book of physical integrity. Instead of wishing for a male contraceptive pill that may interfere with their health, we can start to practise a healthy suspicion about any drug or device that interferes with our natural feminine process.

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