Healthy bodies and the problem of hormonal contraceptives

I was traveling for work a few weeks ago and ended up at a hotel situated next to a Whole Foods store. As I went into the store to purchase a few items, I couldn’t help but contemplate how the people were shopping there not for the sake of convenience but to intentionally search out healthy food. The promise of quality food, organic and chemical free was considered a value above the higher prices and inopportune location.

I also wondered how many of these well-meaning people that were so concerned about healthy food may not be as concerned about the hormones they ingest to control their fertility.

By Chris Codden

Granted, that is quite a leap to make such assumptions and very judgmental of me. But when we look at recent studies highlighting the percentage of women taking hormonal contraception, maybe it isn’t such a stretch.

Statistically, 98 percent of women in the United States have used birth control at some point in time, with 62 percent of women of reproductive age currently using contraception. Of that, 28 percent, or 10.6 million women, are using the birth control pill. So, my assumption may not be far off.

Health risks

Another question I pondered: Do women (and men) know what that does to their body besides avoiding a pregnancy (at a 92 percent effectiveness rate)?

Let’s take a look at the side effects of various contraceptive methods.

Low-hormone birth control pills: Headaches, nausea, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, breast tenderness, acne, mood swings and weight gain.

NuvaRing, a hormonal vaginal ring: Vaginal-tissue irritation, headaches, mood changes, nausea and vomiting, weight gain, breast pain, painful menstruation, abdominal pain, acne and decreased libido.

The Mirena Intrauterine Device: pelvic or abdominal pain, ovarian cysts, headaches and migraines, acne, depressed mood, “heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.”
IUDs can also cause sepsis or perforate the uterus. This is very rare, but still, perforated uterus?

A recent study of more than a million women published in JAMA Psychiatry found that women who used hormonal birth control were more likely to be prescribed antidepressants. Also, there is evidence that these forms of contraceptives can be abortifacient and cancer-causing.

Fewer abortions?

OK, so there are health risks. Isn’t it worth it so you don’t bring a child into the world unplanned? And doesn’t that lower the incidence of abortion?

As we are seeing in the heated “defund Planned Parenthood” debate, the arguments for increased access to contraception and for new contraceptive technologies are built on the assumption that these developments will bring down the abortion rate. Is that true?

It is clear that women cannot manage their fertility by means of contraception alone. Contraception lets couples down. A recent survey of more than 2,000 women requesting abortions at clinics run in Britain found that almost 60 percent claim to have been using contraception at the time they became pregnant, with 40 percent of these saying they were using the contraceptive pill. Another study in the U.S. put the use of contraception at 54 percent during the month they became pregnant.

Access to effective contraception creates an expectation that women can control their fertility and plan a family on their timetable. Given that expectation, women are less willing to compromise their plans for the future.

In the past, many women reluctantly accepted that an unplanned pregnancy would lead to motherhood. In days when sex was expected to carry the possibility of pregnancy, a child was a chance a woman took. Today, we expect sex to be free from that risk and the blessing of a baby is not a price we are equipped to pay.

The “contraceptive mentality” that has been adopted by so many married and unmarried persons has fed us a lie that we can separate our sexual activity from our ability to have children.

The falsehood that one has little or nothing to do with the other has so permeated our culture that the possibility of new life can be offensive and discarded, an affront to a woman’s individual right to choose.

And even though Planned Parenthood has committed heinous crimes, such as selling aborted babies’ body parts, we see protests throughout our great nation supporting their ability to slaughter more precious little ones.

Are we so afraid of the gift that God wants to bestow on us that we would risk the possibility of health problems or the ending of a young life waiting to see the light in the world?

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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