The motives and reasons of birth control are legion: some wish to prevent conception because of potential health problems for the mother or child (increasingly likely due to our chemicalized environment); others may not be in psychological, financial, or social position to allow birth and proper care of a child; others feel the earth is over-populated already, and do not want to contribute to the crisis. Whatever the real or imagined motives, birth control is a topic too vital to be swept under the carpet, as has often been done.
In this article, I wish to examine the various possible methods of contraception from a biological medical and natural health point of view. Those who choose to use contraception should know the pros and cons of each method as it affects health. With something as serious as changing basic biological processes, one should exercise great caution. A great deal more research is needed, but this is, unfortunately, hampered by drug companies who won't wait for the extensive tests needed for drugless methods that might diminish their enormous profits.
Some of the less serious, if bothersome, ones can include: increased vaginal and bladder infections as well as lowered resistance to all infection; cramps; dry, blotchy skin; mouth ulcers; dry and falling hair; premature wrinkles; acne; sleep disturbances; inability to concentrate; migraine headaches; depression, moodiness, irritability; darkening of the skin of upper lip and lower eyelids; sore breasts; nausea; weight gain and body distortion; fatigue; dental cavities; swollen and bleeding gums; greatly increased or decreased sex drive; changes in blood and fat; visual disturbances; and amenorrhea. 2 4
More serious complications may include intolerance to carbohydrates leading to diabetes, 6 eczema, 2 hyperlipidemia, 5 epilepsy, 5 gallbladder problems, high blood pressure, kidney failure, 7 edema, 8 jaundice, 6 strokes, liver damage, varicose veins, thrombophlebitis, and heart attacks. 12 The Pill is also causatively linked to cancer. Liver, pituitary, uterine, and breast cancer may develop from estrogen intake - especially in those with any personal or family history of predisposition to disease in those areas. 6 9
A team of researchers (Dr. Hugh Edmondson, et al.) from the University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles, reported recently that long-time users of the contraceptive pill face a risk of developing liver tumors. Oral contraceptives contain one or two synthetic estrogen hormones - mestranol and ethinyl estradiol. The main risk may be for women taking pills containing mestranol. 26 For those who intend to resume child-bearing later, it should be known that the Pill can cause permanent infertility in some cases.
The most recent findings show the adverse effect of oral contraceptives on the cardiovascular system, especially in women over thirty. High blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and heart disease are possible side effects - sometimes leading to death. Studies conducted at Oxford University by Dr. Joel Mann, showed that women between the ages of 40 and 44, who took the birth control pill, increased by 5 times their chances of dying from a heart attack. 12
Recent studies show that women exposed to the Pill during or before pregnancy have a significantly higher incidence of malformed babies. A study conducted by the Birth Defects Institute, New York State department of Health, showed that while only 4% of the mothers of normal children were exposed to the hormone treatment, 14% of the mothers with malformed children had a history of exposure.
Most of these side effects will not be experienced by the majority of Pill users, of course - but some certainly will be. Women who for one reason or another decide to use birth control pills should have an extensive clinical examination and give a responsible doctor a thorough personal and family history to determine the likelihood of the more serious complications. One way to ward off the worst is with improved nutrition. Many of the above side effects are directly linked to nutritional deficiencies induced by the Pill. For example, nausea, mental and emotional changes, and edema are due to Pill induced deficiency of vitamin B6 (50-100 mg. taken daily should correct this). 2 27 Pill-caused lowering of vitamins A and C in the body leads to decreased resistance to infection.
Biotin deficiency caused by the Pill contributes to eczema, depression, fatigue, and hair loss. 2 Other vitamins in which the Pill user becomes deficient, which she should add to her diet include B1, B2, 2 B12, 14 and folic acid.
The Pill's interference with tryptophan metabolism can be corrected by B-complex vitamins. 7 Iron and zinc are the most important anti-Pill-damage minerals. 15 16 Thirty mg. of zinc, and 50 mcg. of iron should be taken daily by all Pill users, as well as other vitamins and supplements.
It is obvious that the Pill, while being the most convenient and perhaps the most effective, is the least desirable of contraceptives from a health standpoint. The long-term side effects are only beginning to be known. We do know enough, however, to make the use of the Pill a complete and unequivocal no-no for all those women who are concerned with their health. Those who decide to use the Pill, in spite of any warning, should be sure that, in addition to a clinical and family history evaluation by a doctor, they take vitamins A, C, B complex, B1, B6, B2, B12, and folic acid, as well as zinc and iron, to counteract somewhat the health-damaging effect of the Pill.
An alarming fact connected with the Pill is that girls at younger and younger ages are using it. Often, with the blessings (and even insistence) of worried mothers, girls are put on the Pill at their first menstruation. If the Pill can cause all the above-mentioned severe biochemical, hormonal, and pathological disorders in adult women, just imagine what it will do in the young, tender, underdeveloped, body of a 12 or 13-year young child. The sad part of the situation is that mothers are unaware of the long-term health damaging effects of the Pill, and think that by permitting their adolescent daughters to use the Pill, they are doing them a favor - as well as protecting themselves against the possible risk of social embarrassment. The following story illustrates how some mothers (and grandmothers) view the subject:
A 68-year-old grandmother, while in her doctor's office for a check-up, requested a prescription for the contraceptive pill. The doctor said:
"The Pill, at your age?!"
"My age is none of your business", snapped grandmother.
"Just give me the Pill!"
The doctor, reluctantly, wrote the prescription. When the grandmother visited his office a few months later, the doctor, remembering the Pill prescription, asked, with a derisive grin:
"How are you doing with the Pill?"
"Oh, just great!" said grandma. "I sleep like a baby".
"Sleep like a baby?! That wasn't a sleeping pill", said the alarmed doctor.
"I know, silly", said grandma, slyly. "But, I have a 13-year old grandaughter, and every morning, before she goes to school, I crush one Pill and mix it with her orange juice. And, now, I sleep like a baby!"
It has also been shown that complications caused by IUDs result less from the device itself than the technique of placement, and only a highly skilled specialist should perform the task. Further, it is difficult to train women to check themselves for the proper position of the IUD. While the IUD is safer than the Pill, it is a far from ideal method of contraception from a biological standpoint. It seems that convenience and health rarely go hand in hand.
Another experimental technique uses vitamin C tablets - not taken orally, but inserted into the vagina 10 minutes before intercourse, its contraceptive effect supposedly lasting half an hour. This was found to be 96% effective in study with 800 women in Russia. 19 Further research by the Aquarian Research Foundation of Philadelphia seemed to confirm this, but they recommend it only in conjunction with cyclic methods to be discussed later. Further studies are warranted before this method could be confidently recommended, although the biochemical principle - the ascorbic acid of 250-500 mg. tablets neutralizing the sperm seems sound.
Another frontier of contraception research involves the use of light. By burning a light at night at certain points in the menstrual cycle, scientists at the Rock Reproduction Clinic in Boston, Massachusetts, have found that the hormones were regulated in such a way as to make conception impossible. This approach, although still in the experimental stage, seems promising.
Various foods and herbs have been ascribed contraceptive properties by folk medicine. World-traveling nutritionist, Betty Lee Morales, reports that Australian aborigines use wild yams for this purpose, and analysis shows them to be high in hormones. Peruvian women use a native herb that, taken once, prevents pregnancy for one year. Nevada Indians used the contraceptive herb called stoneseed. 21 In Herbs and Things, Jeanne Rose gives a list of all the herbs considered by folk medicine to have contraceptive properties. Obviously, none of these things have been given the scientific testing needed before they could be used with any degree of confidence.
A promising frontier is the use of temperature regulation of the testicles. One on-going experiment has shown that keeping the testicles especially warm (in comparison to the rest of the body) could cause sterility in just a few weeks. Conversely, cold can reverse this, or enhance fertility. Dry heat, microwaves, infrared rays, ultrasound, wired pouches and even athletic supporters, and hot baths have been used to achieve this effect successfully. 22 Obviously, some of these methods of warming, such as microwaves, would not be advisable. Responsibility for the use of any experimental method also rests solely with the user.
The rhythm method is the most widely known, and is based on the fact that there are only certain days of the month when impregnation is possible. Determining these days depends largely on the regularity of the menstrual period, and this method is, therefore, somewhat unreliable.
The temperature method has been used alone and in conjunction with the rhythm method. It is usable, if questionable, because there are body temperature changes at the different times of the menstrual cycle, indicating the fertile times of the month. Both the rhythm and temperature methods should be studied carefully and the individual applicability determined before use.
Astrological birth control has been pioneered by the Aquarian Research Foundation of Philadelphia. It has been fairly well tested and found to be very effective. To find out how to use this method, you should write to them.
The ovulation method is approved by the Catholic Church and was developed by a husband-wife team of doctors in Australia. It utilizes the distinct changes in the vaginal discharge at the various stages of the monthly cycle to determine the fertile and infertile times of the month. Various books and teachers can provide the detailed instructions for use of this method. 1 11
"Have you heard that orange juice is an effective contraceptive?"
"Really? Does one drink it before or after?"
While many alternatives to conventional intercourse, practiced so frequently today, may provide a sexual outlet, it is obvious that sexual intercourse is "here to stay" as are birth control methods connected with it.
Coitus interruptus, or withdrawal, is an ancient but not very effective, and rather frustrating form of birth control. If this method is used, ejaculation should definitely follow completely away from the vaginal area to avoid possible conception in order to prevent prostate troubles that can result if sexual fluids are not released. The unreliability of the withdrawal method relegates its use to emergencies.
Sterility and infertility are not desirable alternatives. A naturally healthy person should be able to impregnate or conceive. Lack of this ability shows something is seriously wrong, since infertility and sterility are Nature's methods of preventing propagation of defective offspring. Though virtually 100% effective, tubal ligation of women and vasectomy for men are not practicable for most people of the world, and so will not solve any large-scale population problem. These methods are not considered to be reversible, so a very careful decision must be made. Although widespread use of sterilization as a contraceptive measure is too new now to be able to assess its long-term side effects, we already know that male hormone levels are decreased, the libido is lessened, and body fat is added.
Since these surgical methods of contraception are very unnatural, we must view them with great caution.
From a biological point of view, abortion is unnatural. Only sick women, unable to produce healthy offspring, abort (miscarry) spontaneously. Once experiencing abortion, the body will be less likely to carry a pregnancy to full term - thus, miscarriages are frequent in those who have undergone previous surgical abortion. Abortion, as any surgery, is also a severe shock to the body - and the anesthetics used can cause further problems. Only extreme emergencies would justify this method of birth control, yet the numbers of abortions are skyrocketing, and the procedure is becoming almost routine for some women. This is clearly a violation of natural law - and we will be unable, ultimately, to escape the consequences.
Contrary to popular belief, most methods of contraception are anything but safe, although most are relatively effective. Some, such as the Pill and IUD, are extremely dangerous. Others, such as coitus interruptus, are impractical and unreliable. Many, such as the vitamin C vaginal suppository, and heat treatment of the testicles, are still very experimental. Surgical methods are not helpful on a large scale and the long-term effects of such biological interference may be drastic. The ovulation and rhythm methods are quite natural and fairly reliable, but require abstinence or alternative methods for about a third of the month. Condoms are, perhaps, the most effective and safe - as well as being a protection from venereal disease (not a minor factor in this promiscuous age). While they may be somewhat inconvenient, especially for the male, women will certainly consider them advantageous. My response to the men's talk of bother or inconvenience is simple: if you are inconsiderate enough of your woman to complain of inconvenience, you don't deserve her!
There are many reasons why couples might wish to practice birth control. I am neither recommending nor discouraging the practice. I have simply reviewed the alternatives from the viewpoint of biological medicine and natural health. Although the individual must assume responsibility for whatever method is chosen, the information in this article should help the reader to choose a contraceptive technique or device most suited to individual needs, taking into consideration its effects on health. With the right methods and a proper mental attitude, there is no need for ill health and contraception to go hand in hand.
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