What They Don’t Tell You About Birth Control

Let me start this off by saying, I am not writing this post in order to change your mind about birth control. I have shared before how the Lord has convicted us about trusting Him with our family size, but I realize that not everyone has the same convictions, and that the Lord will work in different people in different ways.

I do, however, believe in making fully informed decisions. I learned when we started our “quiverful” journey that there is a lot about birth control that the doctors and pharmacists don’t tell you.

birthcontrol

 

Since most Christians believe that life begins at conception, I’ll start with the definition of the word. Dictionary.com defines conception as,

1. the act of conceiving;  the state of being conceived.

2. fertilization; inception of pregnancy.
3. a. the union of male and female gametic nuclei.

 

So, to simplify, conception occurs when the egg and the sperm join together.

 

How the pill works

 

There are two main types of birth control pills. The most common ones contain both progestogen and estrogen, and the mini-pill (which is commonly given when a mother is still nursing as it is less likely to decrease milk supply) only contains progestogen.

 

The hormones in the pill try to prevent pregnancy in several ways.

 

It tries to prevent the release of an egg (I say try because the pill is not 100% effective, so sometimes ovulation occurs.)  It changes the cervical mucous, making it thicker and more difficult for the sperm to get through. The lining of the womb also changes, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant.

 

This is where the controversy starts.

 

If an eggs does happen to be released while on the pill — it is commonly agreed that the pill has a failure rate of 0.3%, but that’s only assuming that the pill is taken exactly as prescribed. True failure rate, when taking human error into consideration, can be much higher– that means that it is possible for the egg to be fertilized.

 

If the egg can be fertilized, that means that conception can take place. But even if that happens, the pill is still trying to prevent pregnancy. It still changed the womb conditions to try to prevent implantation in case fertilization occurs.

 

That means that the fertilized egg can try to implant itself in the womb, but is unable to. Or, it may implant but not well enough to stay there. Either way, in those cases, the fertilized egg dies. Medically speaking, that is called an abortion. (Even a miscarriage is technically called a spontaneous abortion.)

 

Remember that 0.3% failure rate? That only applies to pregnancies that are found out about. It doesn’t include all the times a fertilized egg dies in the womb because it can’t implant. That means that by taking a birth control (either the combined pill or the mini-pill) a woman could technically be conceiving any month — or perhaps, every month — without knowing it.

 

What about the progestogen-only pill? It works in pretty much the same way, even without the estrogen. It’s the progestogen that does most of the work; that’s why the mini-pill still can prevent pregnancy.

 

The IUD

 

Like the birth control pill, there are two types of IUD (intrauterine device.) Hormonal, and non-hormonal.

 

The hormonal IUD contains progestogen (the same hormone in both types of birth control pills.) It’s main goal is to prevent fertilization; ovulation occurs more often than with the pill. However, there is still a failure rate of 0.2-0.7%.

 

In most cases with the hormonal-IUD, fertilization does not take place. However, since there is a failure rate, it is still possible to medically conceive. As with the birth control pill, the IUD also tries to prevent implantation in the event that fertilization does occur. This action means that a fertilized egg can die because of the IUD.

 

The non-hormonal IUD contains copper, which acts as a natural spermicide. It also changes the conditions of the cervix to make it less likely for sperm to reach the egg. It has a failure rate of about 0.2-2%, depending on the exact model and how long it’s been since insertion. Any failure rate means that it’s possible for fertilization to occur (and, like with the other birth control methods I’ve mentioned, the failure rate only refers to pregnancies that have implanted and been diagnosed; it does not refer to the frequency of fertilization.)

 

And, like with the other birth controls mentioned, implantation of the fertilized egg could be disrupted due to the IUD.

 

So what does this all mean?

 

Basically, all of this means that by using any of the above mentioned methods of birth control, a woman could unknowingly be getting pregnant (by which I mean, conception could occur.) There is no way to know if you’re conceiving or not each month and the fertilized egg is dying.

 

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I am not sharing this to try to guilt others or make them feel pressured to make choices a certain way. This is just information that I didn’t know when I took birth control before and that I think is very important to know (I took the combination pill right after we were married, but it gave me horrible leg cramps so I stopped them after a couple of months, and I took the mini-pill after my daughter was born but it was affecting my milk supply so I stopped after a month or two.)

 

I do believe that God wants us to trust Him in every way, in all areas of our lives, including the area of family size. And I still struggle with giving that up to Him. It scares me..a lot. And there are times when I have taken that control back. I’m not trying to come across as “a better Christian.” Because I’m not one.

 

If you are not in a place in your life that you are able/desiring/whatever other reason to give up family size to God, I just want to inform you about the facts of these methods of birth control that aren’t really talked about. At least, I’ve never had a doctor or pharmacist or nurse tell me when they gave me the prescription that the pill could end the life of  a conceived baby before it had a chance to implant, or that it can increase the risk of miscarriage due to the changes in the uterus. Whatever choice you make about family size or birth control is between you and God (and your spouse, of course.)

 

*Due to the controversial nature of this post, I will be careful when moderating comments. I am not trying to censor anyone, but I will not allow comments that bash the personal choices others are making. Birth control is a very personal choice, and in the end it’s between the individual and God.

 

Image adapted from one courtesy of BrandonSigma / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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