• Emily Hess

Hormonal Birth Control.... Or Not?

Yesterday I posted on social media about women thinking before putting an artificial hormone into their bodies in the form of birth control pills. My exact statement is here: "My unpopular opinion for the day: in a culture obsessed with what we put into our bodies (from organic foods to diva cups) why are women still putting artificial hormones (birth control pills, copper IUDs, shots, rings, etc) into their bodies without a second thought? Women are taking secondary medications (like Zoloft) to combat the side effects of artificial hormones. Thoughts?"

The post garnered a lot of conversation and questions and reactions. I had two reasons for posting it. One, to make people think. Two, to have a dialogue about something that isn't talked about openly.

I want to correct a few things in this blog that some people mistakenly inferred from my original statement. I am not trying to shame anyone for the choices they made in the past or are currently making. I'm not even saying that there's never an appropriate time to use synthetic hormones or other medications. I am not saying that I believe in organic foods and diva cups; those were just two specific examples of what the current trends are in our culture. I am not against taking medication for anxiety or depression.

I am trying to encourage each woman (or husband and wife to discuss together) to consider how taking a hormone can affect your lives. I dislike that doctors are treating side effects from hormonal birth controls with more medication (such as Zoloft for a person who had not been previously depressed but was now experiencing depression as a side effect from their birth control pills).

Everyone has their own unique story and opinion. As I mentioned, I didn't expect my opinion to be popular. In my original post I was thinking specifically of women using hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy as their sole purpose of taking the medication. But beyond that, I'm a mother of five, soon six, daughters. Doctors are prescribing these medications to young girls for a myriad of reasons and I'm genuinely concerned about the serious side effects they present.

Due to some of the questions I felt I should write a blog about how I came to my decision to forego hormonal birth control options. So here goes!

At 20-years-old, I got married.

Before the wedding I had been to the doctor and he recommended getting on a birth control pill so we don't get pregnant right away. I didn't think much of it at the time, because, well, I was twenty. I didn't really want to have a child at that time. I was still in college and it would have been really inconvenient.

Weren't most of my friends on the pill in 2005?

Without going into details, after just over a year on the pill and some miscommunication and improper use of the pill, I got pregnant with our first child.

Unplanned. Inconvenient. Life-altering.

The best thing that could have happened to us.

After our first child was born I was floored when, the day after delivery, the midwife asked what kind of birth control we were going to use. She went on to tell me that while breastfeeding can sometimes delay ovulation it doesn't always and we should use something more effective. Like pills.

I was really put off by how pushy that felt (but maybe I was hormonal – I did just have a baby after all).

Since I was going to be a stay-at-home mom we figured it didn't really matter how close together our children were and we would forego all birth control.

Seventeen and a half months later, child two was born.

And sixteen months after that, child three was born.

Three babies under three years old.

Due to complications in the delivery of child three, doctors recommended that we not get pregnant for at least a full year. Since my body apparently wanted to have a child every year and a half or less, we felt the pressure again to use “the most effective” birth control pill.

After being very in-tuned to my body for the years I was not on any hormonal pill, I instantly noticed when things started to feel wrong. At first I brushed off the way I was feeling as PMS or some other mood swing. I started to feel very depressed, that I was worthless and I was doing nothing with my life. Prior to this I had been very content with my role as a stay-at-home mom. Suddenly I was having very dark thoughts. Thoughts that were not my own.

This is a list of the most commonly reported side effects of Ortho Tri Cylen Lo (the medication I was on) from their website: http://www.janssenprescriptionassistance.com/ortho-tri-cyclen-lo-cost-assistance "headache (including migraine), nausea and vomiting, breast problems, tenderness, pain, and discomfort , enlargement and swelling, discharge, nipple pain, stomach pain, pain with your periods (menstrual cycle), mood changes, including depression, acne, vaginal infections, bloating, weight gain, fatigue". This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. When I went back to the doctor to tell of my symptoms she now recommended a different hormonal birth control, the NuvaRing, which was fairly new at the time.

This from the NuvaRing website: https://www.nuvaring.com/risks-side-effects/ “The most common side effects of NuvaRing (etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring) are: Tissue irritation inside your vagina or on your cervix, Headache (including migraine), Mood changes (including depression, especially if you had depression in the past). Call your health care provider immediately if you have any thoughts of harming yourself, NuvaRing problems, including the ring slipping out or causing discomfort, Nausea and vomiting, Vaginal discharge, Weight gain, Vaginal discomfort, Breast pain, discomfort, or tenderness, Painful menstrual periods, Acne, Less sexual desire.”

I put in bold the mood changes. Since the pill I was on was making me depressed, shouldn't it have been clear to my doctor that the NuvaRing wasn't going to be the best choice for me?

One we barely discussed due to the long-term nature of it is an IUD. The IUD stops women from menstruating which always struck me as unnatural.

When I asked about non-hormonal options my doctor was not as helpful. She mentioned male condoms and female condoms, but really seemed hesitant to offer those as viable solutions to preventing pregnancy. When I mentioned Natural Family Planning she didn't exactly scoff, but her reaction wasn't far removed.

After discussion with my husband we decided to choose a non-hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy. And guess what?

It worked.

We didn't have another pregnancy until we stopped preventing it.

This was accomplished all without changing the natural cycles that a woman's body goes through. And without any side effects to my mood, my weight, and the even riskier side effects like blood clots, breast and cervical cancer (yes, it's mentioned on the ortho tricyclen lo website, especially for long-term users), liver problems, gallbladder issues, strokes and much more.

I was in a discussion with a woman who is in the process of adopting. Part of the adoption process is an in-depth home study and look at your personal life and details. In this particular woman's case she listed her prescription medications as “the pill” and Zoloft. Her doctor prescribed Zoloft to counteract the depression she had as a direct result from her birth control. This woman was now needing to have a psychiatric evaluation before she could move forward with her adoption process.

There's a real problem to me, when we (women) are being prescribed additional medications to combat the side effects of hormonal birth control.

I think my general audience here at Home Fire is married couples in a monogamous relationship. We aren't having risky sex. We're enjoying the gift that God gave us to bring us together in a special and beautiful way. If you're taking hormonal birth control for the sole reason of preventing pregnancy, I urge you to reconsider your options.

Below is a list of ways to prevent pregnancy without hormones. I encourage you to do some research and consider if one of these ways would be a better way for your mental and physical health to prevent pregnancy.

1. Natural Family Planning

2. Diaphragm

3. Male Condoms

4. Female Condoms

5.The Sponge

6. Spermicide

I do hope that this conversation can continue. I was really happy with the respect and openness I saw on the comment thread. Thank you all for sharing your stories with me.

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