Having kids really changes the way most people look at the world, and for many, myself included, children are the motivation to begin improving one’s nutrition and really caring for the earth. Photo by Mike Baird
I’ve always been green, but I’d never thought all that much about what I put into my body before I had kids…except in one pretty big situation: I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as a single person that I never wanted to go on birth control.
It didn’t feel right to put chemicals into my body, every single day, to treat something that wasn’t broken. In fact, the Pill breaks a perfectly healthy, working system. That didn’t sit well with me.
In college I learned about some of the physical side effects of the Pill, including irritability, nausea, decreased sex drive, increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, liver tumors, and breast cancer. With long-term use, the constant thickening of cervical mucus and thinning of the uterine lining can be difficult for the body to recover from (i.e., infertility). It also doesn’t get at the root cause of a super heavy period.
The risk of breast cancer is so severe that the Women’s Health Initiative ceased a research study five years early because the women taking a combined estrogen/progestin pill had a 24% higher chance of developing breast cancer than the placebo group. The combined pill is on the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s “Carcinogenic to humans” list.
Even with all that stacked against artificial birth control pills, I still never would have imagined young women to have to call 911 just because of their Pill. A recent article in the Couple to Couple League’s Family Foundations magazine cited a firefighter’s story of conversion to natural family planning, which began when he was a first responder to multiple emergency calls due to complications from the Pill.
It blows my mind that anyone would willingly do this to themselves, honestly. And that’s before we even touch the issue of morality, or that of the environmental consequences, both of which are immense in themselves.
NFP and the Environment
Is natural family planning really the “green” way to go? When you consider the massive impact artificial hormones are having on our earth, I say the answer is an unequivocal YES.
I wrote about NFP as an environmentally sound way to space children and plan a family at The Art of Simple. The highlights of that post include:
- The Pill’s environmental impact:
- Increased estrogen in the water supply – that cannot be filtered out, even with a Berkey, so children and adults alike who drink city water are getting greater exposure to these female hormones, including babies on formula.
- Plastic waste from packaging
- Research shows that male fish exposed to birth control’s estrogen become “feminized” and actually grow eggs along with their male parts. The entire fish population in the study became sterile as a result. It is unknown the extent to which synthetic estrogen is affecting the animal world – not to mention the human one.
- With 100 million women worldwide using oral contraceptives, this risk is no small potatoes.
NFP and God’s Design
It seems that everybody knows Catholics “can’t use birth control.” It’s a doggone controversial topic for Catholics to yammer on about, probably because it’s one of those rules people just don’t want to follow. Did you know that 80% of Catholic couples use artificial contraception in spite of the rule? ‘
If you ask me, it’s that level of disobedience that causes the Catholic rate of divorce to be equal to the rest of the culture’s, even though the Church puts in place measures (like NFP) to prevent divorce. (NFP users have a very low rate of divorce; I’ve seen 4% and as low as 0.2%.) People just aren’t listening.
God created man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply,” and He also created cycles of natural fertility and infertility (for the woman) with traceable signs, such that couples can simply avoid intercourse when the woman is fertile if they’ve prayerfully discerned that they are not in a place to increase their family size at the moment.
Marital relations have two results: unity and procreation. Both must be open to the working of God, every time. To put something, chemical or physical, as a barrier between the man and woman with the intent of interfering with the procreative end of intercourse is both morally wrong AND has the side effect of putting up a barrier between husband and wife, and between each spouse and God.
The joy of saving oneself for marriage, or at least understanding the foundational meaning of sexual intimacy, is that it’s a profound and physical way of saying, “I give myself to you, fully, completely, and without reservation.” To put anything – the Pill, a condom, an IUD, a sterilization – between husband and wife, is saying with your body, “I give myself to you…except for my fertility. I’m not sharing that.” It’s either an incomplete gift or a lie, neither of which build up marriages.
I cannot tell you how joyful my husband and I are because we chose to use natural family planning in our marriage. Although it isn’t always easy, we know in our hearts that it is the best thing for my body, our marriage, our children, and our earth.
Benefits of NFP, all of which I’ve experienced, include:
- increased communication (discussing the question “do we increase our family size” every month)
- deep respect for one another and each one’s life-giving abilities
- cycles of “courtship” and “honeymoon” keep the intimacy fresh as couples abstain during the fertile period (Yes, when choosing to avoid, it’s like a honeymoon when the fertile phase is over!)
- the self-discipline practiced through intermittent abstinence increases both spouses’ self-control in other aspects of life, including resisting the temptation to allow the eyes to wander to other women/men
- decreased fear of unwanted pregnancy – you know immediately if you are taking a “risk” or not, unlike the failure rate of oral contraceptives
UPDATE: I neglected to mention another aspect of artificial birth control that should not be overlooked. Because the Pill doesn’t always prevent ovulation, especially the new “low dose” versions, it has a secondary line of attack against life: it hardens the lining of the uterus, making it inhospitable to implantation. That’s all a fancy way of saying that countless couples around the world are inadvertently allowing (causing…?) their own children to die soon after fertilization. It’s the “abortifacient” property of hormonal contraception, and it’s not one I could stomach.
Natural family planning, when used correctly, has a 97-100% success rate in avoiding pregnancy, depending on what source you look at.
If you’ve ignored the idea of natural family planning in the past, been wary of it, or just plain never understood the beauty of it, I strongly encourage you to look into some classes.
Important Note: Take a Class
You can find classes:
- Sympto-Thermal Method (see the Couple to Couple League for classes in your area)
- NaPro Technology/Billings Ovulation Method (see the Creighton Model FertilityCare System for more information)
- Ovulation Method (see a 27-minute video here to get a grip on the basics)
- Find a doctor who will be able to work with you as you strive to avoid artificial birth control.