Cramming the pillow I’d brought from home a little more to my left, I attempted to placate the cramp that was forming in my back. After years of slumbering on a waterbed, this rock hard hospital bed felt like a torture rack. So, there I was, trying to create a bit of comfort while counting down the minutes until I could scoop up my newest bundle and check-out, when my midwife slid a chair beside me.
Having just given birth to my 4th child several hours prior, I figured she was stopping in to assess my rate of recovery. She made a bit of small talk. Then, she looked me straight in the eyes and asked what kind of birth control I wanted to take home so, “I wouldn’t have to do this again in nine months.”
Huh? was my first thought
Sure, I’d taken the pill for the first two years of marriage (and suffered the daily nausea and monthly weep-fest), but in the previous eight years (prior to the baby I’d literally just delivered) I had only practiced Fertility Awareness (and successfully so, I might add). Clearly, this fact was documented in my chart. And, seeing as she was one of my primary caregivers, it seemed unlikely she was clueless to my choice.
Mind you, she hadn’t saddled up to my bedside to chat about my thoughts/desires on family planning options (although as a Catholic there is only one ethical option for me). No, she was there to hawk a prescription. And she was using fear to get the job done.
The Tempter Comes to Call
Looking back now, it seems easy enough. I should have told her to go bugger off. But something was happening behind the scenes to which she was not privy. My marriage had been undergoing an intense trial. We were actually in counseling at the time, but I hadn’t shared that fact with my caregivers.
She was my temptress in the desert, come to offer me promises during my weakest hour, if only I’d bow down to her plans. There I lie, sore from having just pushed a 7 pound-something human out of my body, thoughts swirling with the knowledge of the current state of my marriage. And then, suddenly, illogically, I was terrified that, before there was time for mama-birth-amnesia to set-in, I’d be back in this very hospital, grunting and groaning baby #5 into the world.
Caving Into Pressure
Planning to breastfeed, I suggested that the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM) had certainly worked well for me in the past. LAM extended my postpartum infertility for more than 6 months each time. I also inquired how the drug she was pushing might affect my newborn.
No worries she told me, staying the course on her mission to get me contracepting. She’d write a low level prescription for a progestin-only pill.
I stammered and stuttered and ultimately caved under the pressure.
By the Grace of God Alone
Rolling my van up to the drug store drive-through a week later, everything inside of me was screaming NO. But, I stuffed those thoughts and handed the sheet of paper to the girl behind the counter.
During what seemed like an extra long wait time, I ran over the options in my head, again. Then in what I can only chalk up to the grace of God, the pharmacist returned to tell me that they were out of those pills. She returned the white sheet of paper and informed me I’d have to try back in a few days.
I never returned.
The Prize for Un-professionalism Goes to…
Comparatively speaking, I should count myself as lucky. A number of my Catholic girlfriends faced more egregious treatment during their postpartum visits. One friend’s doctor found it hard to take no for an answer. He tried 5 times in the course of one conversation to
strong-arm persuade her to allow him to stick an IUD inside of her body.
But the prize for un-professionalism goes to the doctor who, upon being told no, threw the woman’s chart in her lap. He said, “I’ll see you back here in nine months” as he stormed out of the exam room.
I guess the free lunches and pharmaceutical kick backs must be pretty awesome for these obstetricians to want to dissuade a repeat customer in obstetrics?
“Knowledge is Power” was a theme song lyric in one of my favorite childhood programs. Indeed, knowledge is a powerful tool, and with it we can make right choices. Unfortunately, there’s not much education going on in the gynecologist’s office. And I’d even boldly assert that women are intentional misinformed; just as I was on the day my midwife undermined my beliefs and used fear-mongering to pass off a prescription.
Let’s do a little fact checking.
The Pill utilizes synthetic estrogen/progestins to trick the pituitary gland into producing less Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenizing Hormone. The trick attempts to suppress ovulation. However, studies show there is a 2-8% chance of breakthrough ovulation in any given cycle while on the Pill.
So, the Pill has two other built-in functions. The back-up measures cause a thickening of the cervical mucus (to slow sperm motility) and a depletion of glycogen in the endometrium or lining of the uterus. This last mode of operation is abortifacient because it prevents a fertilized egg implanting, thus forcing an early abortion.
The mini-pill, or progestin-only pill, relies predominantly on the the abortifacient mechanism. It creates an inhospitable environment for implantation, should a new life have been formed after a breakthrough ovulation.
Sadly, I didn’t know this fact at the time my midwife handed me a prescription for the mini-pill. And it wasn’t advertised to me. Additionally, the package inserts for the Pill offer a laundry list of possible side effects- from weight gain and decreased libido, to blood clots and heart disease.
Intrauterine Device aka IUD
The IUD, that my friend’s doc was so eager to implant in her just-vacated-uterus, has a high rate of effectiveness. It’s great, so long as you don’t mind the possibility of headaches, acne, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, mood changes, weight gain, ovarian cysts, cramping, pelvic infection, inflammation of the endometrium, perforation of the uterus, endometrial or cervical cancer and high blood pressure. Oh, and, as long as you don’t mind that it is an abortifacient device.
A popular form of birth control in the 70’s, Dalcon Shield was forced to remove its IUD from the market and declare bankruptcy, after paying out millions in malpractice suits. You might assume the new Paraguard and Mirena IUDS are an improvement. But, lawsuits filed against Bayer, Mirena’s maker, tell a different story. Well, it’s really the same old story of harm done to women.
Lactation Amenorrhea Method LAM
That LAM plan, that I mentioned to my midwife, has no negative side effects on the body. And it is completely free. My midwife snubbed her nose at my suggestion, but over the course of my mothering years LAM, along with the Symptom-Thermal Method of Natural Family Planning, has proven successful, again and again. In fact, with my last three children I enjoyed a delay in my fertility (meaning no periods) for 12 to 14 months, beyond childbirth!
First Do No Harm
I suppose to be fair, I have to admit that I am not a reader of hearts. I do not know for certain the motives of these physicians. However, if their pledge is to first do no harm, then their actions don’t support that position.
In each of the anecdotes I relayed (and I have LOTS more), my friends and I had not been contracepting before our pregnancies. We were not seeking birth control. We all expressed a hesitancy toward, if not an out-right refusal of, the unsolicited prescriptions.
Birth control carries mild-to-serious risks. A woman who opts-in, requires annual, if not biannual, visits to her doctor. If her side effects are depression, infection, cysts, etc. then she’ll need more trips to the doc. Clearly, birth control is a profitable product for both birth control manufacturers and prescribing physicians.
What’s a Woman To Do?
So what’s a woman to do? Well, like I said, knowledge is power. An informed woman has the power to make better choices.
There are safe, effective means of postponing pregnancy. They require education, and little more. In fact, poor women in India, trained by sisters in Mother Teresa’s religious order, enjoy a 99.4% effectiveness rate in practicing a method of Natural Family Planning (NFP), according the World Health Organization.
That should make you wonder why the Gates Foundation and our government are so persistent in their desire to export birth control drugs/devices to poor nations. Why not empower the poor with education?
Good News Lies Ahead
In parts 1 and 2 of this post series, I discussed the necessity for women to reclaim their wholeness and recognize their inherent feminine genius. I covered the intricate and readable dance of the female fertility cycle, and now we see how mis-education leaves women vulnerable, to a healthcare system which too often places financial gain above all else. But good news lies ahead. Once we unmask deceptions, review the science and evaluate the options, women are free to make wise decisions that respect their whole selves: body, mind and spirit.
Next time, let’s consider: (1) Reclaiming Womanhood: Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Birth Control Plan; (2) Demystified: How the Female Fertility Cycle Works; (3) The Nitty Gritty of Birth Control and the Abortion Back-up Plan; (4) Big Pharma and Your Doc: Your Ignorance Pays the Bills; (5) Pulling Back the Veil and Exposing Your Genuine Fears; (6) Now That You Know, What’s Next