Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rational Birth Control - THE PILL IS FOR EPSILONS

"Many people maintain total and unquestioning trust in modern medicine. They get advice and treatments from only one school of thought and willingly surrender their personal health responsibilities to the hands of their doctor. This approach is not sensible. Educate yourself before you follow anyone else's advice, including your physician's. Health is the responsibility of the individual." Raymond Francis, Never Be Sick Again: Health Is a Choice, Learn How to Choose It.

That is the health philosophy of a Libertarian.

I don't blindly follow the mystics in government, economics or education--why would I blindly follow the mystics in medicine? They are not a special breed of mystic. They are human, capable of error and most have been through an educational bootcamp that indoctrinates its students into a life of establishment-following almost as well as the military.

Luckily for me, my grandfather was a doctor who was very confident in the human body's ability to heal itself and very suspicious of the "benign" side-effects of most modern medicine. He raised four daughters and wouldn't allow any of them to go on the pill which he knew was a very dangerous drug. Most people couldn't handle trusting their four daughters to not get pregnant without the pill--yet none of his daughters had unwanted pregnancies.

My stepmother is also a doctor. At least once a month she attends a fancy dinner thrown by a drug company introducing their latest drug. After being wined and dined over snazzy power point presentations complete with flawlessly spun science and polished jokes she is usually gung ho to prescribe whatever it is they're selling. I attended a few of these dinners with her when I was a teenager and even then they made me a little sick. My stepmother pushes birth control on every teenage girl she encounters like she is saving the world.

Some of the short term side effects of the pill include: nausea, morning sickness, irregular menstrual cycles, loose bowels, bloating, mood swings, heart palpitations, depression, irregular vaginal discharge, increased susceptibility to infections, breast tenderness, loss of libido, hypertension, weight gain, decreased calcium retention (which leads to osteoporosis) and hair changes.

Some long term side effects of the pill include: depression, optical problems, increased susceptibility for cataracts, increased number of gallstones, cardiac failure, decreased resistance to colds, exponentially higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, increased susceptibility to endometrial and cervical cancer and jaundice.

On a philosophical level--why would I want to trick my hard-working body into believing that it's pregnant? The road to health and happiness does not begin with rejection of reality.

And on a rational level--the pill isn't worth the risks. Nothing is. My number one value is my health. Without my health, all my other values--love, family, work, adventures, philosophy--would be less enjoyable and harder to achieve.

There is something seriously crazy about the 63% of American women who think that the best way to prevent pregnancy involves putting themselves at risk for cancer. All I can conclude is that these women are not actually thinking. They aren't reading the fine print, doing their homework or thinking for themselves. It's like when people think about government in terms of "bad" and "less bad." They aren't aware that "good" exists and so they never bother to look for it.

I always make a point of looking for the Good before I settle for the Less Bad. When I researched birth control, I found something Great: The LadyComp machine--a small computer that looks like an alarm clock with a thermometer attached. You take your temperature every morning and the machine gives you a red light (if you have sex today you will probably get pregnant), a green light (you are not fertile today) or a yellow light (better safe than sorry). Used correctly, this machine will prevent pregnancy 99.3% of the time, comparable with the pill which prevents pregnancy 95 to 99.5% of the time depending on your source. The LadyComp machine has no side effects whatsoever. It has the added bonus of getting you in tune with your body and its cycles. It's used all over Europe but is unheard of in the US. It is not included in any of the birth control information given to teenagers in health classes or students in medical school. It is also not listed on Planned Parenthood's website. It sounds like an anarchists birth control already, doesn't it?

My stepmother told me that using the LadyComp machine was the "calendar" method of birth control, also called the "fertility awareness method," which has an abysmal 75-91% success rate. I tried to explain to her that using a computer was far better than using graph paper but she said, "Nope. You'll be pregnant before the year is out." I wasn't.

My stepmother told me I was crazy to be so "afraid of the pill." She used the following arguments to get me to sign up for an expensive daily dose of poison: everyone does it, it's fine, the side effects don't really happen and the short term ones go away.

Despite these compelling and rational arguments, I stuck by the LadyComp machine.  But she wasn't the last doctor to discourage my birth control choice. Every OBGYN I saw between the ages of 16 and 26 pushed the pill at me.

The doctor I saw in college told me to go on the pill to clear my acne (which my body cleared on its own after I fixed the imbalance that was causing it). The next doctor I saw in college didn't think it was wise for me to trust myself when it came to getting pregnant. She was convinced that all college students are impulsive morons who throw caution to the wind and cant help but have unprotected sex sometimes. I tried to explain to her that objectivists are rarely impulsive morons but she had no idea what I was talking about. I graduated from college without even one pregnancy scare. 

A doctor shortly after college told me I was a likely candidate for PCOS and should go on the pill as a precaution. This terrified me and I did a lot of research on PCOS. I learned that the pill is the worst thing someone with PCOS can do--PCOS is a symptom of something you need to fix, an imbalance in your body. The pill hides your imbalance from you until you stop taking it and then your imbalance is back, worse than ever since you were able to totally ignore whatever was causing it for the last decade. Not to mention--if my reproductive organs were struggling, why would I dose them with poison? The natural state of our bodies is health. Our bodies were designed to fix every natural problem they encounter. If I truly were a candidate for PCOS and I wanted to have children one day, I needed to take even better care of my body, help it get into balance and stay in balance. For the record, I never did develop PCOS but if I had, I would have read and religiously followed The Natural Diet Solution for PCOS and Infertility

One OBGYN I saw when I was 26, a famous OBGYN, considered one of the best in LA, told I me I had a hormone imbalance (all women did pretty much) and should go on the pill to control that imbalance. I submitted myself to a month of blood tests so the doctor could prove to me that I was actually hormonally imbalanced. It turned out I wasn't. 

I stayed childfree using the LadyComp machine until I was 29 and my husband and I decided it was a good time to have children.

Recently I have also heard of another form of birth control that sounds promising, call the Fertile Focus. It's less expensive than the LadyComp machine but is only 98% effective.

A close friend of mine used the book Honoring Our Cycles to use the charting method. She has been child-free for ten years on this method.

Some more anecdotes:
1) I have a friend who went on the pill as a teenager to "regulate her hormones". A few years later she started suffering from debilitating migrane headaches that came like clockwork twice a month. She took some pretty terrible drugs to get through the migraines. After a few years they stopped working and she switched to even more terrible drugs. Then, two years ago, those drugs stopped working. Instead of switching to the really serious drugs, she decided to go off birth control for a while and give the LadyComp a try. After a year off the pill, she no longer got migraines.

2) Two of my friends were told to go on the pill to regulate their PCOS. Ten years later they are struggling with infertility. Infertility is expensive and the treatments are uncomfortable and painful. One of my friends, after two years of unsuccessful medical treatments is trying to get healthy with the book I  mentioned above. The other isn't quite there yet. She has only had six months of unsuccessful, expensive and painful medical treatments and still hopes that she can get pregnant that way.

3) Another one of my friends, on the pill for only 5 years, was just diagnosed with pre-cervical cancer. In three months she will find out if she needs an operation that could leave her infertile. She is only 21. It takes ten years of being off the pill for your risk of cervical cancer to decrease to the levels of the non-pill popping population.

So to conclude:
-No doctor with whom I have spoken has even heard of the LadyComp machine
-Doctors attend fancy dinners with schwag bags where they are romanced by pill companies--it's possible they have on rose colored glasses when it comes to the meds they recommend
-Doctors never study nutrition or preventative medicine in medical school so though they know how to help once you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, they don't know how to help you never get cervical cancer in the first place
-Doctors make money from the meds they sell and would make very little from a one-time sale of a machine that doesn't require any monthly payments
-Doctors believe women can't be trusted to know when they are fertile and chose to abstain or chose to use a condom
-Doctors don't worry very much about side effects, perhaps because all of those side effects bring them business
-For a fascinating look at why doctors were motivated to keep their patients healthy a hundred years ago (before the government got in bed with the medical industry) read about "friendly societies" in Social Welfare and Individual Responsibility by David Schmidtz and Robert Goodin. Wikipedia's explanation is pretty unsatisfactory and different from how the societies are described in the book
-My stepmother is not a bad person and I don't even dislike her

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