Sunday, July 14, 2013

Church Teaching Is Greener than Medical Trend

Having teenaged daughters is reminding me how irresponsible doctors can be when it comes to their major blind spot. A lot of folks these days think Western doctors are far too quick to write a prescription, but at least in every other area they tell you what the possible side effects are. Apparently not in this one.
     When my daughter admitted that her cycles are slightly irregular, her new pediatrician offered to put her on the Pill. I remember one doctor after another doing the same with me when I was her age. (Caveat: there are real conditions in which the Pill can be therapeutic and a valid remedy; but neither my daughter nor I had such a condition.)  None of them ever told me about any side effects. They just talked up the advantages.
     None of them told me how it worked. They said it would make my cycles regular. Well…yes, there would be “regular” bleeding, but it wouldn’t be a real cycle. The Pill prevents one from ovulating at all, then produces an artificial monthly bleed.
     These doctors—excuse me, social engineers—seem to care more about preventing pregnancy than the health of their patients. That’s evident since hormonal contraceptives are pushed on adult women as well.
     This is despite the fact that pharmaceutical contraceptives can cause a variety of side effects, such as irritability, weight gain, nausea, depression, migraines, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even heart problems, blood clots, cancer, and stroke.[1]
     Janet Smith, in her popular talk “Contraception, Why Not?” points out that back when scientists were developing the Pill, they were also experimenting with an oral contraceptive for men. Never heard of it, right? In the early stages, one man experienced shrinkage of the testicles, and all development for a male pill ceased. In the experimental stages of creating the female pill, three women died. Development of the Pill for women obviously went on. Death remains (fortunately, rarely) a risk of taking the Pill.
     Another, not very well known, side effect is the risk of sterility. Chemical contraception, in other words, may not only render you infertile when you don’t want babies, but even when you do.  It can also do this directly or indirectly. Girls and women using any sort of hormonal contraception are more likely to have more partners and less likely to use condoms … and therefore more likely to contract a sexually-transmitted disease. (Plus, condoms don’t protect you from HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer.) One in four teenaged girls were found in 2008 to have an STD.  Some STDs can render you permanently infertile; some can cause cancer.
     Some years ago, I pointed these risks out to the editors of Prevention, purportedly a magazine promoting health, especially women’s health and including alternative methods. Nevertheless, they regularly included ads for hormonal contraceptives and even an occasional article on the subject. I don’t recall seeing anything about the risks. I know I never saw anything about a natural, safe alternative—even though there is one and I gave them plenty of information and sources about it. No response.
     Hormonal contraceptives also seem to be having an environmental impact. Fish have been affected—deformities and possibly sterility—by hormonal drugs that have ended up in the waterways. There is concern that these synthetic hormones—though the levels are very low—could also be affecting human health, as residues are present even in treated tap water. One study linked the use of oral contraceptives by women with an increase in prostate cancer in men, theoretically through the water system.
     The good news is that there is a natural alternative—Natural Family Planning—with no dangers. Most people don’t know it exists, or believe a number of myths about it.

Myth 1: Natural Family Planning is the same thing as the Rhythm Method.
Fact: The only thing that Rhythm and NFP have in common is that both are natural methods of regulating birth that have been approved by the Catholic Church. But NFP is far more effective. The Rhythm method was calendar-based, and so useful only to those with regular cycles. NFP is based on the reliable signs in a woman’s own body indicating fertility and ovulation.

Myth 2: Natural Family Planning doesn’t work.
Fact: Used correctly, NFP is actually more effective than the Pill. NFP is based on new scientific discoveries and backed up with much research and many success stories. It can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
A 1993 study found NFP to be 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy;[2] only sterilization or total abstinence have a higher rate of effectiveness.

Myth 3: Natural Family Planning is too complicated and difficult to actually be used.
Fact: NFP has been successfully taught and utilized by illiterate women in third-world countries as well as by busy professionals in industrialized countries.

     When my husband (then fiancé) and I were trained in using NFP, our instructor told us that we were only among about 3% of her clients who were interested in NFP for religious reasons. The vast majority of her clients came to her because they had had health problems from using other methods and/or wished for a safe and natural method.
     Ever since I first heard about NFP, my reasons for preferring it have gone well beyond the religious. I wouldn't think of using anything else.
     You hear a lot of talk about alternative health, natural foods, natural options, taking care of the environment, and so forth. Why are both the medical establishment and alternative health gurus mute on this one?