Wednesday, July 24, 2013

12 Reasons We Don't Use Contraception

12. Because a healthy bodily function should never be suppressed.  I was probably 20 years old and had taken birth control for 7+ years before I found out how hormonal birth control (pills, patches, rings, etc.) works.  Hormones are released into the body to prevent you from ovulating.  If you don't ovulate, you can't get pregnant.  However, not much is known about the effects of stopping ovulation for long periods of time.  It's naive to think that you can stop an entire organ system from function properly for years and expect that there are no effects.  No organ system of the body is completely independent, so purposely impeding a healthy system from functioning the way it was meant to can't be healthy for the body as a whole.  And to think, I was taking birth control to regulate my cycles.  Instead, I was stopping them altogether.  I would love to hear the logic behind that one.

11. Because women should not have to bear the burden of birth control.  For some reason, contraception (and the blame if it doesn't work correctly) tends to fall on women.  Yet, men are responsible for 50% of every pregnancy.  A decision regarding contraception should be a mutual decision and should never put the burden on the woman.  Hormonal birth control has many side effects from mood swings and headaches to death from blood clots.  Not all women may experience these, but I believe that there are many women who do and don't even realize they are the result of their birth control.  Or they don't think there is another way.  Women are always the ones that bear the brunt of these side effects.  My husband loves and respects me, and therefore my body, and is not willing to have me risk my health for the family planning decisions we jointly make. (Notice the title is why WE don’t use contraception.)

10. Because I buy organic.  Although we can't always afford hormone-free meats and dairy, we buy them whenever we can.  Why is this?  Because these hormones are not healthy!  Hormones are sometimes necessary to treat diseases, but they also come with risks (including cancer).  Doctors have to carefully weigh the benefits and the risks to determine whether a patient should be treated with hormones.  But fertility is not a disease.  Again, it is a normal, healthy bodily function.  It does not make sense to me to take on the risks of hormones without the benefits of treating a disease. 

9. Because I recycle. While there is always more I can do to decrease my impact on the earth, I try to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.  Synthetic hormones from birth control pills contaminate the water supply.  Condoms sit in landfills, possibly forever.  Both obviously use energy (and emit pollutants) in the production and shipping processes.  People argue about how big of an environmental impact these have, but regardless of how small it might be, by not using either my sex life is not contributing to pollution at all.  

8. Because the only thing that belongs in my uterus is a baby. Just say the words, "perforation of the uterus", and you won't see me near a IUD ever.  Apparently, 1 in 1000 women experience perforation of the uterus due to an IUD.  That doesn't sound like very many but since the IUD is most popular form of birth control in the world, this isn't happening to just a handful of women.  Lets put it this way: if  those were my odds for winning the lottery, you bet I would be buying as many tickets as possible.  One woman has to be that 1 in 1000, and it could just as well be me (or you).  Even if it doesn't poke a hole in my uterine wall, IUDs can increase menses bleeding and cramping.  In addition, 2-10% of IUDs are expelled on their own, meaning that women could be having sex unknowingly without any form of birth control. 

7. Because I'm thrifty.  (Cheap, stingy, frugal, call it what you will...) I don't believe in paying for something that you can get for free.  Don't tell me that the government or insurance agencies provide birth control for free.  Maybe there is no upfront cost to me, but there is a cost.  You pay it when you pay taxes.  When your insurance premiums go up.  It's also possible that birth control is costing the country in the long run by requiring more money for medicare and medicaid to treat the various long-term effects of birth control.  Very few things are ever really free.

6. Because I like to be in control.  I know what you are thinking, "If you like control, wouldn't you like birth control?"  Hormonal birth control is the opposite of control.  Like I mentioned above, birth control prevents ovulation from occurring.  But birth control doesn't always work, either because you forgot to take a pill, another medication interfered, it just doesn't react with your body the way it should, the pharmaceutical company messed up, or another reason entirely.  If I relied on hormonal birth control and it failed,  I would have no idea I was ovulating, and thus would unknowingly be taking a gamble that may result in pregnancy.  I want to know when I'm taking risks of getting pregnant instead of trusting someone else with my fertility.

5. Because nothing comes between me and my husband.  Not even condoms. Sex between a husband and wife is not meant to have a barrier between it.  Women can only get pregnant a week or less out of the month, so most of the time a couple is using condoms to prevent pregnancy, it's unnecessary.  When they do use condoms during fertile times, they actually aren't that effective.  The efficacy of condoms with typical use is only around 85%.  That statistic includes condom use throughout a woman's cycle including the times of the month when women were infertile and couldn't get pregnant anyway.  If you're using it specifically during fertile times and the condom does fail, you are much more likely to get pregnant than the overall efficacy rate suggests. According to the FDA compliance rules, 1 in 250 condoms is allowed to be defective within lots that are approved to be on store shelves.  Do you want to take the risk that your condom is that 1 in 250? 

4. Because knowledge empowers.  I deserve to understand my fertility.  If I'm suppressing and changing it, I don't know what is actually going on with my body.  Birth control can mask the symptoms of serious conditions or hormonal imbalances.  It's not a surprise that many women go off birth control wanting to get pregnant only to be blindsided by the fact that they have fertility problems.  Problems that could have been caught and treated if they had noticed they weren't ovulating regularly, weren't ovulating at all, were having extreme hormonal symptoms or pain, etc.  Even contraception options that don't suppress ovulation (such as IUDs) still disrupt the uterine lining, often contain hormones, or hamper a women's natural cycle in another way.  In addition to helping diagnose medical problems, knowledge of her own body can empower a woman.  Fertility is not a disease or burden that needs to be suppressed, but an incredible process that is part of the health and beauty of womanhood. 

3. Because while I like to be in control, I recognize that ultimately I am not.  God is.  I can't write my reasons for not using contraception without referencing my Catholic faith, but I want to point out that this is only one of twelve reasons.  Many men and women of various faiths that allow birth control as well as many with no religion at all have chosen alternatives to contraception for non-religious reasons.  Initially, it was my faith that led me away from contraception, but even if we were to leave the faith (don't worry, chance of that is slim to none), I've since learned so much about the negatives of contraception and the advantages of the alternative that I'm certainly not going back.  As a Catholic I believe that love (and the physical manifestations of it) should be free, total, faithful, and fruitful.  Contraception prevents sex from being total (by rejecting the spouse's fertility) and fruitful (by separating sex from the reproduction).  That's not to say that couples should only have sex with the purpose of procreation, just that procreation should not be completely severed from the act.  Read more about the Church's stance here

2. Because I'm pro-life.  You may be tempted to lump this together with "religious reasons" but I assure you this is separate.  There are atheist pro-lifers and people of all religions that are anti-abortion.  If hormonal birth control fails to A) prevent ovulation and B) block sperm from the egg by thickening cervical mucus, then it's third line of defense is preventing the fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall.  This makes it an abortifacient.  Life begins at conception (when the sperm and egg meet, the fertilized egg is a living organism with the complete DNA of unique human being).  The main question of abortion is not when life begins, but rather when meaningful life, life that is worthy of protection begins.  I believe a human life has meaning and value at the moment of conception and therefore do not support anything that prevents that life from obtaining what it needs to survive.  IUDs are also anti-life.  IUDs agitate the uterine wall, inhibiting implantation.  If you do become pregnant while using an IUD, there is a greater risk of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.  Even during times when I hope to postpone pregnancy, I would not want to do anything to harm my child if a pregnancy does occur.

1. Because there is another option. Look, I'm not crazy.  I realize that there are many women with reasons to postpone or completely avoid pregnancy.  However, there is a way to do this and avoid all the nasties I listed above.  Natural Family Planning (NFP) is effective for postponing pregnancy.  There are various methods of NFP, but each of them have a few things in common. They use the natural signs of fertility to identify when a woman is fertile.  Avoid sex during those days to postpone pregnancy.  Have sex during those days to get pregnant.  It is NOT the rhythm method.  It IS scientifically proven (even surprising those who don't agree with the Catholic Church's reasoning behind it)It does have a learning curve and requires self control (but this is not a bad thing! Practicing self control is good for you!), but it's completely doable!  Here are some of the other benefits of NFP:
  • Works with a woman's fertility.  Does not change or suppress it.
  • No hormones!  All natural!  Nothing in my body that doesn't belong.
  • No side effects.  Women do not have to take on the health risks of family planning.  And in fact, the decisions (and difficulties) of family planning are mutually shared, often bringing couples closer.  
  • Speaking of nature, it has little to no impact on the environment. (I say little for nitpickers' sake, because some methods require a little bit of equipment - thermometer, ovulation monitor, paper for charting, etc. than may end up in a landfill someday, but the waste is negligible.)
  • Depending on the method, it is generally cheap or free. (Again, depending on the method used, there may be a bit of equipment involved.)
  • It gives you knowledge of your cycle, so you can identify if you have any fertility or other hormonal problems, and you can see just how amazing a woman's body is on its own.
  • Because it puts control of your fertility in your hands.  While instructors might help you read/understand your charts, you are ultimately in control and make the decisions.  You do not have to have blind trust that a company or doctor know what they are doing. 
  • It uses the natural cycle of a woman's body as designed by God to postpone pregnancy without severing reproduction from sex.
  • If a pregnancy does occur, there are no side effects (death or otherwise) on the resulting fetus.
  • It can be used to prevent and achieve pregnancy.  In fact, when women have difficulty conceiving, doctors have them chart their cycles to figure out when they are fertile, make sure they are ovulating, etc.  If you decide to get pregnant, you can start right away!

Interested in learning more? Check out for information on the different methods, links to other resources, and a directory on NFP instructors.  For testimonials from real women using NFP, check out the Women Speak on NFP series at Carrots for Michaelmas.


  1. Great post Mandi! I agree with this completely. I especially love #3: Because while I like to be in control, I recognize that ultimately I am not. So true. I finally found a doctor yesterday who agreed with my decision to not be on hormonal BC. It was fantastic!

  2. I am interested to know how NFP has worked for you. I am assuming that since you used BC for 7 years to regulate cycles, you have an irregular cycle. Is that true? I also know that you posted before about NOT being intimate with your husband after your daughter was born because you were nursing... I am not anti BC at all. It would be nice to not have to deal with the hassle of BC, but be able to "plan" our family. My cycles have always been irregular. They have been better after my daughter was born, but still not regular enough.

    1. NFP has worked great for us actually. We used NFP to avoid pregnancy for about 5 months when we first got married, then used it to conceive our daughter (by "using" our fertile days instead of abstaining during them). We've used it again to avoid since she was born. We did have a long period of abstinence after she was born, but that was out of fear, not because NFP wouldn't work at the time. In hindsight, there were very clear signs that my cycles were ramping up again and if I pay attention to those next time, I'm very confident that we can avoid pregnancy while nursing (if we want to in the future, I was emotionally and physically ready for a baby not long after Lucia was born, but financially, we were waiting until my husband got a job).

      NFP works for many people I know with wildly irregular cycles. Mine are mostly regular now (although certainly not clockwork) but some months they have been much longer or shorter than usual. NFP is not the rhythm method, so you aren't counting days or basing your fertile time this month off of past fertile times, it's based on the fertility signs as you see them (depending on the method - temp, cervical mucus, cervix, or hormones as detected on a fertility monitor) so as long as you pay attention to them each day, you should be able to use NFP no matter what your cycles are like. Some methods may be better for your than others. Obviously it can be difficult having to abstain for periods of time, but I think building self control and learning other ways of expressing marital intimacy during those times is preferable to the side effects of BC. If you have more questions, you're welcome to email me and I can answer more specific questions you may have or direct you to someone who could answer them!

    2. I've always had irregular cycles and we have been using NFP (to both achieve & avoid pregnancy) for over 10 years.

  3. We use NFP too - we quit hormonal birth control after we found out about your reason #2. There is no way I would go back!

  4. This is one of the best NFP articles I have ever read. Thanks!

  5. Great post, Mandi! My husband and I use NFP as well and it has been very effective for us. In addition to charting we also use Ovecue . It's a little machine that tests your saliva every morning and charts your hormone levels. It's been very helpful in deciphering some of those months when I wasn't sure when I ovulated and has been very effective in predicting ovulation. I used it for 7 months before we conceived my son and it was 100% accurate during that time for me. I'm still nursing and haven't' gotten my period back yet, but I'll be using it again once it returns. In case anyone is interested


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