Upon listening to an interview with the authors of The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You, I wanted to learn more about how taking “the pill” may have contributed to and/or exacerbated the hormone-related issue (PCOS) that surfaced when I ceased taking this medication. PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) impacts roughly 1 in 10 women of childbearing age and its symptoms vary greatly from one case to the next. Because its origin stems from a hormone imbalance, most women with PCOS deal with some degree of amenorrhoea, hirsutism, or cystic ovaries. I, personally, struggled with fertility issues for over a year before I conceived and it was only through the assistance of a fertility clinic that I was able to become pregnant. Ironically, many women with PCOS are advised to start taking the pill to “regulate” their cycles; this remedy only masks the symptoms of this syndrome and, in no way, alleviates the underlying causes.
Due to a great deal of my own research that stemmed from my battle with infertility, I was aware of some of the pill’s negative side-effects and had already arrived at the conclusion that I would never take a synthetic hormone again for the purpose of birth control. If you’re in this category, this may not be the book for you. However, this could still serve as a great resource if you’re looking for guidance regarding “natural contraceptive” options for birth control and/or are interested in learning how to take steps to make sure you are maximizing your overall health during different phases of your cycle.
The natural contraceptive methods that authors Bennett and Pope address include: the rhythm, Billings Ovulation, temperature, sympto-thermo, Justisse, fertility awareness, and Natural Fertility Management methods. Not only did I gain a great deal of information regarding each method, but I also found related resources in the appendix quite helpful as I plan to implement some of these options.
Learning how to optimize ones emotional/physical health by staying in tune with the phases of the menstrual cycle proved to be a valuable component of this book for me, as well. The reader gains insight into how learning about our own, unique cycle affords us the chance to: feel more connected with our bodies; embrace the moments in our cycle that are geared towards slowing us down and looking inward; heighten our intuition and creativity; tap into the greater proclivity to socialize and be productive during the middle of our cycle; and embrace the inner calm that inevitably takes over once our period starts.
The other aspect of this book that I found particularly intriguing involved the discussion around the impact of synthetic contraceptives on our nutritional well-being. Bennett and Pope suggest that, “Pill-induced malnutrition will vary considerably from woman to woman, as individual tendencies will manifest when general health is compromised” (pg. 72). They further highlight that, “The Pill affects vitamin, mineral, lipid, essential and amino acid metabolism” (pg. 72). The vitamins especially affected include B6, B12, C, riboflavin, thiamine and folic acid. Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and selenium also stand in harms way when at the mercy of the chemical disruptors present in synthetic hormones. For instance, zinc levels are “significantly reduced in pill users” (pg. 279), which can lead to “diabetes, sugar cravings… low fertility…” and is crucial for many aspects of a healthy pregnancy. Appendix 2 further details how these vitamins and minerals are impacted by the pill.
Ultimately, above and beyond any other message in this book, Bennett and Pope want spread the word about why we need to question whether taking synthetic hormones as a means of contraception is the best option for birth control. Spiraling back to the pill’s negative side-effects and dangers, they continuously emphasize this key point. Some of these potential issues include: reduced libido, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, brittle bones, headaches, cancer, and circulatory issues. Furthermore, I have to say that I was astonished to learn that, “The Pill, and other hormonal contraception, delivers approximately four times the corresponding estrogen and progesterone naturally occurring at the peak in a normal menstrual cycle [and that] these forms of contraception need to alter our fertility and hormonal balance significantly in order to work” (pg. 13). As we live in a society saturated with bottom lines, mass media and quick fixes, I appreciate that Bennett and Pope remind their audience to question their actions, particularly when they impact ones emotional and physical well-being.
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