Let’s begin by going back to a time when I was in high school, and went to see my doctor about my severe menstrual cycles. I was not sexually active, and yet the only solution my doctor gave me was to put me on The Pill. Zip bam boom, prescription written, filled, and pills in hand. The Pill, she explained, could help regulate my cycles, and make things less severe. No other options were discussed, and so I started taking it, faithfully, every day. No questions asked.
Later, I was able to manage my cycle in other natural ways- increasing my hydration, progesterone cream, staying ahead of cramping with ibuprofen. I still wonder, why it was so automatic that The Pill was presented as the only option?
I had some side effects from the time I was on The Pill, but dealt with them in exchange for a less brutal cycle. Then, shortly after I got married, I learned something about The Pill that didn’t sit well with me. It sat so not well that I ceased using it immediately thereafter. And I think it’s possible that this piece of information is still not widely known or understood by many that use The Pill for contraception.
Full disclosure… since this article is on a blog called This Catholic Family, it’s probably super obvious that I am Catholic. I also have written on the issue of abortion and being Pro-Life before. So I’m coming at this as someone who believes in the value of life beginning at conception. And the information I learned is probably most valuable to those who have that same conviction. If you don’t believe life begins at conception, then the following information would probably not be as significant, but might still be interesting and possibly helpful.
I was told, and believed, that the function of The Pill was to stop ovulation from happening. So, if I didn’t ovulate, then a baby would never be conceived, and, at the time, I didn’t see any problem with inhibiting a baby being conceived once I was married, and if my husband and I wished to delay a pregnancy. However, I would have an issue with taking something that interfered with the baby’s chance of survival once conception occurred.
Those marketing The Pill are adamant that it does not cause an abortion. However, that is only true if you do not consider a pregnancy to have occurred until after implantation. A fertilized egg, to them, does not a pregnancy make. If you do consider a pregnancy to have occurred at the moment of conception, then you are defining pregnancy differently, and, yes, The Pill does contain mechanisms that could cause an abortion.
The information that I learned that surprised me was not that The Pill inhibits ovulation. What did surprise me was learning about the back up systems The Pill has in place, in the event that something doesn’t work right, and ovulation does occur (more on that in a moment). And also what surprised me were the stats on how often ovulation occurs in the first place.
Ovulation On The Pill
The odds of a pregnancy occurring from “perfect use” of The Pill, and it simply failing are 1-2 per 100 women. Those are the odds of a full on pregnancy. Not the odds of ovulation. We can safely assume that ovulation on The Pill happens more frequently, and also that an egg gets fertilized more frequently than that, but that the back-up components to The Pill terminate those early pregnancies before the mother even knows they have happened. And that’s with using it exactly as prescribed. Missing a pill increases your chances of ovulation. As does taking The Pill at different times of the day. The stats for “typical use” of The Pill give a failure rate of 9% in preventing a pregnancy… again this means women are ovulating and their eggs are getting fertilized at a higher rate than that, and that more pregnancies at those very early stages are getting terminated without the mother knowing, given the back-up systems in place.
So, in reality, woman are ovulating on The Pill much more frequently than they think – and those eggs are getting fertilized sometimes. Which comes as a surprise, especially when someone like me thinks she isn’t ovulating at all. And this is a big problem for those of us who believe life begins at conception. Because those fertilized eggs are facing some major hostility in our bodies.
The two back-up methods that The Pill utilizes are 1) To change the cervical mucus, and 2) To change the uterine lining to make it hostile towards implantation.
Now, why, for pro-life women, are these problems?
- A woman who is on The Pill will experience changes in her cervical mucus. This is meant to make it more difficult for a sperm to reach the egg. However, this could also have the effect of making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to make its way back down to the uterus to implant. This is a problem for those of us who are pro-life, because we are taking something that lessens the chance of that baby having a chance to live and survive to implantation.
- The Pill changes a woman’s uterine lining. It actually makes it thinner, when on a normal non-altered fertility cycle, the uterine lining would thicken up in preparation should a fertilized egg need to implant. That’s why women on The Pill typically experience lighter periods. There is less to expel at the end of the cycle, because her body did not properly prepare for implantation as it would when functioning naturally. This is also a problem for those of us who are pro-life because we are taking something that impedes the baby from having a chance to live by reducing its ability to implant in the mother’s uterus properly.
In both of these cases, the effects of The Pill are causing situations inside a woman’s body that make it hostile to a life that she may not even know she has created.
What Does Plan B Have To Do With It?
Pro-life people are very heavily concerned about the widespread and easy availability of the Plan B pill, or emergency contraception. It is widely accepted among us that the Plan B pill is likely to cause an abortion, given the premise of life at conception.
This is how the Plan B pill works:
1- It can prevent or delay ovulation
2- It can interfere with an egg being fertilized
3- It can alter the uterine lining to make it hostile to implantation of a fertilized egg
This sounds very familiar.
The Plan B pill contains mechanisms that function exactly like The Pill in preventing pregnancy. And yet Christian, pro-life women are taking it, most likely often unaware of its abortifacient effects.
The Change In Me
Personally, this information was shocking to me when I found it out. I don’t know why my doctor at the time did not explain all the mechanisms to me. I also admit that I did not thoroughly read the information about The Pill that was inside the box, which I should have done given the hormones I was about to willingly put into my body. And so, unaware, JP and I used this method during the very early days of our marriage.
As soon as we found out this additional information, we stopped. And recently, I began to wonder how many other pro-life women were also taking The Pill, or considering taking it without knowing this very important information.
There are much more natural ways to space pregnancy, and this article is not the place to delve into that topic more thoroughly. But, suffice it to say, I hope that this post can help spread knowledge, and can help women, pro-life or not, make a more fully educated decision on whether or not the way The Pill changes their natural fertility cycle is wise, or moral.