1. My girlfriend is on the pill, but I heard it is really bad for her body. Is that true?
The Birth Control Pill, or any other hormonal contraceptive like the Patch, DePo Provera shots, Nuvo Ring, etc., can be damaging to a woman's body. They flood the woman's body with artificial hormones that can affect many processes of her body, not only her reproductive tract.
Hormonal contraceptives are linked to heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and there is a strong link with breast cancer if the woman took them before her first full term pregnancy. In medicine, the goal is to have our bodies work the way they were designed to work. If we have a heart or thyroid problem, we take medicine or therapy to make them work correctly. Women's reproductive health is the only place in medicine that we take a healthy system and make it stop working the way God intended it to work.
In addition, the Pill will not protect against STD's, which is a high risk factor for teens.
2. If the pill is so bad, how is it that at least 90% of OB-Gyn's prescribe it so readily?
Health care providers are influenced with the "wonders" of the Birth Control Pill during medical training, and from pharmaceutical companies for the treatment of many medical conditions, not just contraception. The thought has been to make things easier and faster by correcting a medical problem, such as cramping, heavy periods, irregular cycles, or preventing an unplanned pregnancy. The Pill is a quick fix, "a band-aid" for so many issues that it just becomes automatic and part of the practice. The side effects both short and long term (i.e. headaches, GI issues, blood clots, high BP, abnormal bleeding, weight gain, decreased sexual desire, etc. ), are abundant and most of them affect other parts of the body. The side effects tend to be seen in the primary care doctors', internists' or specialists' offices; so the OB-Gyns only concentrate on what they are trying to prevent or correct. The Pill takes a natural process of the body and puts the body in an unnatural cycling state.
3. How should I respond to friends or family who use contraception? I know they are not bad people, but I don't know where to start.
People who use contraception are not necessarily bad people! They are using contraception which is an intrinsic evil (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370). They may do it knowing the Church's teaching or in ignorance of it. The truth always wins out. Educate yourself about the Church's teaching on family planning; the different models of Natural Family Planning and way in which contraceptives and abortifacients act. In this way you can have a frank and honest discussion about contraception and related issues. Review the experience of the Brennan family as Dr. Brennan changed his practice from one prescribing contraception to a fully Pro-Life Practice. This story reflects the power of truth shared in a loving way.
4. How is permanent or surgical sterilization different from contraception? I know so many people who have had their tubes tied.
The intention with sterilization, a surgical procedure, is to permanently prevent children from being conceived. Although very effective in preventing pregnancy, people do occasionally get pregnant after sterilization. There is, however, only one way to avoid pregnancy 100% and that is to avoid all genital contact 100% of the time.
When a person is sterilized, whether through vasectomy (for the man) or tubal ligation (for the woman), it should be viewed as permanent and some people later regret that decision and try to have the sterilization reversed (repaired). This requires another surgery and is not always successful in allowing them to achieve pregnancy.
Contraception, on the other hand, does not usually cause the man or woman to become permanently sterile (unable to achieve a pregnancy) and is usually reversible.
The moral issue with sterilization and contraception are similar. Both are used to prevent pregnancy by interfering with the unitive and life giving aspects of intercourse (see question 8).
5. I know that Planned Parenthood works hard to hand out contraceptives. How are contraception and abortion related?
There is a very good reason that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers push contraception so heavily: they make a lot of money providing contraception and abortion services and it is their purpose to help people avoid pregnancy or have children. They believe that by handing out lots of contraceptives, they are providing the most effective remedy against abortion. However, the resulting increase in promiscuous behavior and sexual activity inevitably leads to an increase in "unwanted pregnancies." Therefore, when contraception fails (and it is by no means 100% effective in preventing pregnancy especially for teens), they expect that clients will return for abortions. "The negative values inherent in the "contraceptive mentality" ... are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation [to have an abortion] when an unwanted life is conceived." (Pope John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae #13)
Additionally, many people are unaware that the IUD, the Pill and other hormonal contraceptives such as Depo Provera and Norplant, can at times act not to prevent conception, but to abort a newly conceived human being. When the Pill fails to prevent ovulation and conception occurs, the hormones change the lining of the uterus which prevents the newly conceived child from implanting in the wall of the uterus which is an early abortion. It is believed that the IUD works this way most of the time.
6. I'm on the pill because my doctor prescribed it for pain related to my menstrual cycle and it helps me. Are there better options?
Yes, we believe there are better options than the Pill. The Pill acts as a "band-aid" solution to many female problems - bad cramps, acne, irregular periods, heavy periods, etc. The Pill doesn't cure any of these. It can help the symptoms go away, but you are flooding your system with artificial hormones that are not good for you as seen in the answer to #1.
When you come off the pill, you will probably go right back to the same problems you had before. Bad cramps can often be controlled with prescription pain meds for one or two days a month, versus taking the Birth Control Pill for 28 days of the month. Severe cramps could also be the result of endometriosis, which if treated correctly can leave you with no pain. Heavy periods and long cycles should be investigated so the cause can be identified and treated. The Pill will not cure these conditions. Long cycles might be temporary as your body matures to more regular periods. Get to the root cause of your problem and don't take the Pill.
7. I have heard married couples say that sex within marriage is the best possible sex. If I have sex with my girlfriend and use a condom, how is that less of an experience than what married people have? It would still feel really good and we could share intimacy in a powerful way. Besides, I have heard many married people say that they use condoms when they are trying to avoid having a child.
Sex within marriage is the best possible sex because husband and wife have committed to love and to cherish each other for life, until they are parted by death. Taking marriage vows mean that a couple mutually promises to love one another faithfully, freely, totally and fruitfully. There is no such commitment or even expectation between boyfriend and girlfriend. One can not expect to experience the deepest possible intimacy unless there is a total giving of one's entire self. Even the term given to the category of contraception in which condoms fall ("barrier method") should be instructive for us. A barrier is placed not only between the bodies of men and women who use condoms, but also subtly between every facet of their relationship. Married couples using any form of contraception, including condoms, erect a barrier in their marriage, and this undermines many aspects of their married life. This is, in effect, saying: "I love you, but ..." This means that using contraception can never be a means of sharing authentic love, and it will certainly prevent the experience of sharing the deepest intimacy possible, a level reached only in the total self-giving of marriage.
8. What is the difference between parents using contraception to prevent a pregnancy and using NFP to prevent a pregnancy?
God's purpose for intercourse is two-fold. It is unitive and open to the possibility of life. When couples contracept (contra+ against and cept+ conception), they are physically putting a condom, diaphragm, pill, shot, IUD, etc. in the way of sperm and egg coming together. In some cases, the pill, shot and IUD can be abortifacient if ovulation has occurred and a pregnancy takes place. This is certainly not open to life if God chooses to create a life from that act of intercourse. The unitive aspect is also interrupted, because the couple is not completely giving themselves to each other. They are holding back their fertility from one another and placing something between them like a condom or a pill.
When a couple uses NFP to avoid a pregnancy, the act is unitive because they are not holding back their fertility, and it is open to life. The way to avoid a pregnancy with NFP is to avoid genital contact (intercourse) on days of fertility. So, the couple is choosing not to have intercourse. They cannot abuse the act because they are not using it. The infertile days that they do use are still open to life, if God so chooses, but over 99% of the time, they will avoid a pregnancy without the use of condoms, pills, etc. Also NFP is used to achieve pregnancy by just reversing its use. Contraceptives cannot be used that way.
9. I heard that some contraceptives are abortifacients. What does that mean?
The word abortifacient means it can cause an abortion. The hormonal agents present in the Pill, Patch, Depo Provera shots, Nuvo Ring and even the IUD have the potential to cause abortions at one time or another. The reason is that none of them stops ovulation all of the time and a woman would not know in which cycle she might actually ovulate. It's important to understand the physiological action of what the pill actually does to the woman's reproductive cycle. There are three actions the Pill is supposed to perform. It is supposed to suppress ovulation, change the lining of the uterus, and change the cervical mucus which helps transport the sperm to the egg. If the first action worked 100% of the time, it would prevent a pregnancy from occurring 100% of the time. This is not always what happens. Due to many of the side effects women have from the Pill, pharmaceutical companies over the years have lowered the dose of estrogen in the pills. This increases the chance for ovulation, and also changes the cervical mucus and lining of the uterus to not fulfill their functions. If the lining of the uterus is not prepared properly and conception occurs the newly conceived baby can be sloughed off with the next period. Due to the pill controlling the woman's cycle, she would not even know she was pregnant. Pharmaceutical companies do not provide elaborate studies on this because many couples would not chose Birth Control Pills if they knew this potential action. The important thing to understand is the potential for other medical conditions to develop and the potential of the Pill acting as an abortifacient agent. We should be clear that sometimes a woman becomes pregnant on the Pill and does not lose the baby and things turn out well.
10. I have been on contraception for years. Can I reverse the damage to my body? Isn't it too late for me?
It is never too late to stop using contraception. In this age of getting our bodies to a healthy state it is so important to become hormone free. If contraception is prescribed for medical conditions there are other options of treatment. It is also best to stop contraception and give the body a chance to return to its natural state before trying to achieve a pregnancy. All of the prescriptive contraceptives on the market contain synthetic female hormones to control the cycle which prohibits pregnancy or implantation from occurring (leading to a potential abortion). Due to lower doses of these hormones being used, the long term effects on the reproductive cycle have not been as much of a problem as years ago. A woman who has been on a form of contraception that has artificially stopped the menstrual cycle may have a longer delay of her cycle returning and may need medication to have it return. Taking artificial hormones in any form, orally, vaginally or through the skin changes so many other systems of an otherwise healthy body. We want and should strive to keep our bodies healthy and protect our fertility in all its forms.
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