Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Natural Family Planning: FAQs

Since starting the NFP series of posts, I have received some great questions.  I thought I would answer a few here, via a brochure from an OBGYN.  Feel free to email or comment if you have any others.
(the following questions/answers are taken from a brochure written by Dr. Mary Martin, M.D., F.A.C.O.G of Oklahoma City, OK)
Is there ever a medical reason for using the Birth Control Pill?
There is always a reason why women don't ovulate normally, have intermenstrual bleeding, have pain or infertility.  To prescribe OCPs for these symptoms may delay or prevent a diagnosis.  Alternatives are available which may uncover the gynecological problem for which the Pill is prescribed.
Is is true that the Birth Control Pill's third action is to abort if a baby is conceived?
Oral contraceptive pill (OCP) package inserts and the Physicians Desk Reference are two widely available sources which say explicitly that one of the mechanisms of action is to prevent implantation.  When the potential abortifacient effect is agrued, it is the definition of when life begins which is in dispute.  Physicians who consider themselves prolife may continue to prescribe OCPs with the argument that ovulation is prevented or that life does not begin until implantation, but scientific studies have shown that ovulation occurs far more often now on low does pills than the ones first introduced in 1960.  And the incorrect definition of life beginning at implantation allows the manufacturers of IUDs, emergency contraceptives, and progesterone-only shots and pills to say that these products do not cause an abortion.
Are all Birth Control Pills designed that way?
What if a woman has a serious medical reason for avoiding pregnancy?  What would you advise her?
God only gives us roughly 96 hours of shared fertility per month.  Couples who should avoid pregnancy for medical reasons should be taught Natural Family Planning.  There is no additional benefit to chemical contraceptives or sterilization.  On the contrary, there are many additional risks.  NFP is as effective or more effective than chemical contraceptives, is inexpensive, side-effect free and does not rely on remembering to do something to prevent pregnancy.  Rather, it relies on a couple choosing each and every cycle whether to use the gift of their fertility.
Why do physicians give the Birth Control Pill to regulate cycles?
It is because they don't truly understand the endocrinology of the menstrual cycle.  Some reproductive endocrinologists (fertility specialists) recite the same data that was published in the 1940s and 50s.  Fortunately, research has revealed much about the cycle since then, but it seems to be the domain of only Natural Family Planning researchers.  Common knowledge says that women can't tell when they are fertile, which is untrue and has been since the "red flow" and the "white flow" was described by Aristotle centuries ago.  A major medical journal published an article in January of 2003 claiming that women can ovulate more than once in a cycle.  This is simply not true.  While waves of follicles (egg cells) are recruited every month, not all ovulate.  Ovulation can occur only once in a cycle.  How long it takes a follicle to ripen determines how long the menstrual cycle is.  When OCPs where introduced in 1960 the statement that the average menstrual cycle is 28 days was introduced into the vernacular leading women to believe that anything more or less is "irregular" and needs to be "regulated."
What about using the Pill to help women who are not experiencing a regular bleed?
Physicians really ought to be investigating why the woman's hormones are not working the way they should.  Maybe the woman is too thin or too heavy and that is the reason for the infrequent bleeds.  Women who are under a great deal of physical or emotional stress can often experience a delayed ovulation which would cause a delayed menstrual bleed.  Regardless of the reason, there is never a medical reason to use the Pill.
What is the rationale for giving the Birth Control Pill for irregular bleeding?
See the above statement.  Many pharmaceutical companies sponsor much of the medical research, medical education, and the cost of writing textbooks and they are a tremendously powerful lobby.  Promoting NFP and the research behind it is not only out of the mainstream but counter-productive for them.  Since the medical field is taught by the same professors whose research is funded and published by pharmaceutical companies, we are not exposed to NFP or NFP research in training.  Not all research is good research. 
What kinds of side effects are common with using the Birth Control Pill?
Erik Odeblad, M.D., PhD. of Sweden has done extensive research on the Birth Control Pill and how it affects fertility in women.  He has determined that for every year a woman takes the Pill, her cervix ages an additional year.  In addition, it can take up to two years for the chemicals of the Pill to completely leave a woman's body.  If you want to see a long list of side effects, check the Physicians Desk Reference.  Here are some common problems we see:
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of stroke, especially in women who have migraine or familial risk of blood clotting disorders
  • Increased risk of deep venous thrombosis which may result in fatal pulmonary embolus
  • Intermenstrual bleeding
  • Pap smear abnormalities
  • Worsening of insulin resistance, which is a prediabetic disorder
  • Depression
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Breast and cervical cancer, to name a few
I've heard that our drinking water is affected by the Pill.  Can you explain that?
Research by Dr. Jayne Brian and Professor John Sumpter at Brunel University's Institute for the Environment, showed estrogenic chemicals are affecting the reproduction and gender of aquatic life and warned of the effect on the reproductive ability of humans.  In 2007, University of Colorado scientists, sponsored by the Environmental Production Agency, found that of 123 fish caught in Boulder Creek downstream from the Boulder sewage treatment plant, 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 had both male and female characteristics.  John Woodling, a biologist at the University of Colorado was quoted by the Denver Post as saying that the strange case of the trans-gendered fish is "the first thing that I've seen as a scientist that really scared me."  I definitely share his concerns.  We just cannot ignore the fact that women are excreting estrogen from Birth Control Pills they are taking and it is potentially affecting all of us, male and female.
Why don't more physicians know about Natural Family Planning?  Isn't it taught in medical schools or are they ignoring it because it takes more time than writing a prescription?
More text books have a simple line or two about "periodic abstinence" of "the Rhythm Method" and nothing about NFP and the exhaustive and currently ongoing research behind NFP.  But remember it is the pharmaceutical industry who educates us.  They have a vested interest in making sure we buy their products rather than use a safe and healthy natural method.  And don't forget, our culture teaches us that we should provide contraception as an essential human right.
Need help finding an NFP-only doctor?  Look here.
Interested in learning NFP?  Contact me.


  1. I love this series you're doing! :)

    Also, I can vouch for the part about what we learn in medical school. It's literally 2 sentences max and it references the 'rhythm method' and says 'ineffective.' I've crashed all the "Birth Control" lunch presentations to ensure that when they talk about NFP they do it justice. :)

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