Hormonal contraceptives were first introduced in the 1960’s, following long fought religious battles and societal upheavals that eventually became known collectively as the sexual revolution. Although still thought of by many religious groups as “playing God”, hormonal birth control has become a well-accepted part of modern day family planning. Studies show that roughly four out of every five sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 19 have at one point used birth control pills or other hormone-based contraceptives. Hormonal contraceptives generally work in two different ways: by preventing the release of an egg during ovulation and also by altering the uterine lining to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. With perfect use hormonal contraceptives can lower the chance of pregnancy down to as little as 0.05%. But at what cost?
Despite its ease of use, hormonal birth control has for long been associated with a laundry list of complications. Even “low hormone” methods such as the Mirena IUD have been linked to serious side effects, including the increased risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID) which at its worse, can lead to infertility. Some birth control complications are so serious that their use must be limited- such as Depo Provera (the shot) that is only recommended for use 2 years at a time.
Some of the most popular hormonal contraceptives include the Mirena IUD, Ortho Tri Cyclen and the birth control pills Yaz/Yasmin. Despite their dangers, many users tout the surface level benefits of hormonal birth control in their decision making process. The Mirena promises to be carefree, and Yaz and Yasmin boast the ability to clarify skin while protecting you from pregnancy. The Ortho Tri Cyclen birth control pill is often a popular choice due to its accessability- it is often given away at Planned Parenthood centers throughout the United States. What is little discussed about these contraceptives past their effectiveness is the serious complications many women have experienced while using these medications. Oral contraceptives that use a combination of hormones such as Ortho Tri Cyclen are linked to a increased risk of acquiring certain types of cancers. The use of Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella with the active ingredient drospirenone is commonly linked to blood clots, strokes and death- even in its youngest pool of teenage users. Death, cancer and your fertility is a high price to pay for hormonal contraception that can’t even promise 100% protection from pregnancy. But consumers aren’t the only ones not informed about the apparent dangers, surveys conducted among doctors showed that more than half of the doctors interviewed were unclear about the dangers of Mirena and who would qualify as a high risk patient.
Thankfully there are a variety of natural family planning methods and tools available to consumers who are seeking a more holistic alternative. Although these methods have not proven to be comparable to hormonal birth control methods, when multiple methods are used together there is generally a greater reduced risk for pregnancy
Natural family planning methods that are alternatives to hormonal birth control:
- mucus test– observing changes in vaginal discharge to determine fertility. When discharge is clear and stringy, ovulation is near. When discharge is thick, white and cloudy you are most likely not fertile
- calendar method– in order to use this method you must have a fairly regular cycle. In the calendar method the first seven days of a 28 day cycle are considered “safe”, day 21 and on are also safe days. The use of other contraceptive methods is advised during the fertile period in between days 8 and 20.
- withdrawal– recent studies have shown that when practiced with perfect precision, withdrawal may be able to prevent pregnancy with nearly the the same effectiveness as condoms (4%) or other barrier methods. In order to be effective men are encouraged to urinate before intercourse to remove any lingering sperm.
Warning: no method of birth control can protect you 100% from pregnancy other than abstinence