Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Pill and You

A book just came in the mail from author Alexandra Pope, who wrote The Wild Genie, and whose website is linked here on the sidebar, and co-author Jane Bennett.

The Pill, Are you sure it's for you? is sure to be a controversial book, but it's very grounded in scientific research.

The main thrust of the book is that although women herald the pill as the great liberator, freeing women from unwanted pregnancies, and granting sexual freedom, it also is the 'greatest medical experiment' ever perpetuated on half of the human race.

We know about some of the side effects, but these are often downplayed. The pill is even prescribed to twelve year old girls with acne to control their skin problems. It seems odd that doctors seek to repress symptoms without looking to find the cause. But then, hormonal contraception is a multi-billion dollar industry with sales of $1.7 billion a year in the US alone (stats from the book The Pill).

There is a very good discussion of the dangers of menstrual suppression, which is touted as 'more natural' than having a monthly period for 35 years by some doctors. For myself, I took the pill at age 17, and went off at age 19, then didn't have a period for two years. It never was an option for me, so I looked into natural methods of identifying the ovulation part of the cycle (easy to do), and my husband and I used condoms until I hit menopause.

Many girls and women have never even considered other options. And they probably aren't told of the dangers of thrombosis or blood clots, mood swings, depression, weight gain, fertility problems and other side effects. (In one study quoted, of 23,0000 oral contraception users, over a third of the women on the Pill stopped taking it because of depression." (29) Synthetic hormones are four times as strong as your natural hormone levels. They affect all your organs and processes. The liver for example, must handle these hormones, break them down so your body can use them, and can get overloaded. "Nausea, crankiness and moodiness as well as feeling depleted, tired and rundown, can in part be traced to this added strain that processing the Pill places on your liver." (41)

I highly recommend you read this book to get fully informed on the side-effects so you can decide if the benefits are worth it. There is a wonderful chapter on how to find the best contraception method for you. And several chapters cover the power of the menstrual cycle and how to tune into your own rhythm, which stems from the work Alexandra Pope has done in her previous workshops and books. The

If you are considering going off the pill, you also may benefit from reading this book. Many stories and examples are given of women who felt disconnected from themselves while on the pill, and now are embracing a greater harmony as they get back in touch with their cycles.

Menstruation is a natural, healthy process in women, and when it's not working, there are underlying health issues that must be addressed, whether genetic, stress-related, or environmental.

Take charge of your reproductive health - ask the right questions, get informed. Make peace with your period. And above all, listen to your body's wisdom about whether the pill is right for you.

More on this book later


UterusLover said...

Great post Jennifer! We were hoping to carry this book in our store (Red Tent Sisters) but were having difficulty purchasing it wholesale because it is published in Australia. I should check to see if it has been picked up by a North American publisher yet, and in the meantime I should order myself a copy! Menstrual advocacy is hard work these days when you are up against companies like Lybrel and Seasonale who would have us believe that menstrual suppression is no big deal so thank you for this blog post - I'll be sure to forward it on to as many people as I can.

Particles of Stone said...

I took the pill for three years in my 20's and had absolutely NO libido during that time. I also had a yeast infection for those three years and a number of years after, and no doctor (male or female) bothered to diagnose it--a nurse practitioner finally clued me in to why it always burned during sex. I just thought there was something wrong with me. I realized later that there was--all caused by my sojourn with the pill.

I do wonder why so many women seem to suffer menstrual and fertility problems these days, but that is a vast question unanswerable by one book, I'm sure. Thanks for the recommendation. My daughter will certainly be more informed about hormonal balance than I was.

Judith van der Roos said...

I could write long books on this subject. The way the medical profession has treated women when it comes to any sort of hormone manipulation whether it be via the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy has to be the biggest single wholesale abuse of women in modern history. Synthetic hormones don't work as predicted and, worse, they pose a health threat to women – this is KNOWN by the drug companies but surpressed in order to protect their vast profits. It is also known by the medical profession but they refuse to countenance any questioning of conventional “wisdom” because it would damage reputation and egos.
The first contraceptive trial of Enovid led by Edris Rice-Wray began in April 1956 in Río Piedras, The conduct of this trial and the presentation of the results was nothing short of criminal deception and fraud. Dr. Rice-Wray reported the news that the pill was 100% effective when taken properly. She also informed that 17% of the women in the study complained of nausea, dizziness, headaches, stomach pain and vomiting. So serious and sustained were the reactions that Rice-Wray said that a 10-milligram dose of Enovid caused "too many side reactions to be generally acceptable." What these figures really hid was that eight of the young women in the trial dropped dead of unexplained heart attacks. As their death were unexplained they were removed from the trial figures, however it was later discovered that the sponsor of the trial Gregory Pincus order the recorded deaths be struck out. Pincus went on to become a millionaire after the drug was licensed. Pincus said that he felt many of the side effects were “psychosomatic, common in women”. He also felt that problems such as bloating and nausea were minor compared to the contraceptive benefits of the drug. Reports of mental distress, extreme distress in the case of eighteen of the women, were also dismissed as unrelated. No investigation was conducted to see if the Pill had caused the young women's deaths. Pincus's team would be accused of deceit, colonialism and the exploitation of poor women of colour in the years that followed but by then he had made his fortune.
There is no doubt that the pill liberated women in so many ways, but never be under any illusions that it was done for entirely commercial reasons. It was also a fore runner of the next wholesale abuse of women – the HRT scandal.
Our endocrine systems are amazing, but they are also very delicate and we should never assume that there is any such thing as a “safe” dose of something because for each person it will be different, often very different.
Estrogen and estrogin (synthetic estrogen) can have the most profound and devastating mental effects on women. I have had clients come to me who have felt like they were falling apart mentally, who were terrified of the extreme nature of many of their own emotions, but often within days of using natural progesterone to balance off the estrogen/estrogin calmness returns. Estrogen/estrogin is implicated in every single chronic illness and cancer. For every client who is referred to me with multiple sclerosis I can show you a woman with estrogen dominance, and the common thread is that they all have taken the pill at some time in their lives. I know this view is entirely anecdotal but sometimes anecdotal is a very good indicator.
The contraceptive pill rarely contain progesterone, rather they contain progestins which are the synthetic forms of natural progesterone. Where natural progesterone is a wonderful hormone that calms the body and mind and does the body only good, progestins are most definitely not good. If you want to totally wreck a woman’s health then give her progestins like those found in the contraceptive pill. Nothing, other than crack cocaine, will so totally wreck a woman’s health.
To any woman trying to find her way through the mass of conflicting information on this subject i would recommend a book by the wonderful Dr John Lee called “Hormone Balance Made Simple”.

Kind regards,
Judith van der Roos

Jennifer Boire said...

thanks to all you women for adding to the subject and passing the message along. There is so much about women's bodies that women are not aware of, so much to learn.