I teach NFP. Because of that, the issue of women being put on the pill for various issues with their cycles has been at the forefront of my thoughts, since many who come to me have been on the pill at some point for supposed medical reasons. I can relate, for I was one of those women, too.
Recently, though, I’ve thought of the disconnect in my own mind when I was prescribed the pill as a teenager. At the same time as my gynaecological issues, I also had issues with my knee. My tendons were malaligned and thus my patella was being pulled to the side with every straightening of my leg. By the time I was 18, my patella was beginning to degenerate. I lived with constant pain and swelling, just as I also lived with the cyclic pain of my irregular cycles.
My reactions to these pains was quite different, though. Perhaps it’s because I was embarrassed by the bleeding and pain of my periods and breakthrough bleeds (I was the lucky one who bled at ovulation and menstruation), but I didn’t hold my doctors to the same standards. For example, my orthopedist prescribed pain medication, but I would’ve been furious if he’d said “the pain medication is working so we won’t do anything else”. After all, the pain medication wasn’t solving anything, just masking the pain so I could function a bit. No, instead of just doing that, he ordered physical therapy, and, when that didn’t work, surgery. He got to the root of the problem and addressed it instead of just giving the quick fix of a bandage. It wasn’t quick, and there was a fair bit of recovery needed, but I hoped the pain would be gone after that (it took 2 surgeries, but my knee is much better now).
So why did I then accept the quick fix and bandage from my gynaecologist? I was prescribed the pill, with no effort to address why I was in such pain and having such heavy bleeding. She did test hormone levels and check for cysts and endometriosis, but when those showed nothing wrong, nothing more was done. I wouldn’t discover why I’d had the bleeding every 2-3 weeks until I went off the pill years later and started charting, in fact (by the way, bleeding at ovulation is in fact a normal variation of the menstrual cycle). When I would ask about an alternative treatment, neither of my gynaecologists were willing to consider it because, as one said, the pill was “working”. In fact, it took me finally working up the courage to ask my uncle, an OB/GYN, before I was told of a non-hormonal treatment, which I then requested from my GP. By then I’d been on the pill for years with little questioning, though I’d never have accepted that in other medical fields. I wish I’d known about red raspberry leaf and nettle teas, too, but live and learn.
Yes, I’m sure much of my willingness to accept it from my gynaecologists was due to me being mortified by this issue. I had to be convinced to see a doctor in the first place, and I avoided talking about if possible (years of teaching NFP have cured me of that squeamishness, obviously). Now, though, I’m just angry that we women don’t talk about this more and demand better. After all, don’t we deserve to have the crux of the problem addressed and not just be given a plaster to cover it? (Please note I’m not saying hormonal treatments aren’t sometimes required, but that the pill shouldn’t be used as a quick fix, in my non-medical opinion based in part on my personal experience.) Let’s ditch the disconnect and quit settling for the quick fix.