Given my personal history, I really don’t know why I didn’t address this in my previous post. A comment on that post mentioned using the pill to treat PCOS, which reminded me of how often the pill is prescribed to treat gynaecological problems. In fact, whenever a discussion of forgoing the pill arises, there are the inevitable comments of “but my doctor prescribed it to treat my x; I need it!” I encounter this a lot in teaching NFP, actually.
Now, let me begin by stating that I am not a doctor. I cannot give medical advice and am not intending to do so.
Now that that’s been said, let me share my own story. It is my biggest regret that I allowed my doctor to just prescribe the pill at 17 when I complained of dysmenorrhea, menorraghia, and irregular cycles. My doctor did perform an ultrasound and test hormone levels, and all was normal. Narcotic pain medication was tried without success. So she put me on the pill. I stayed on it for the next 7 years, trying different formulations and always afraid to consider anything else because I didn’t want the pain again. Even the fact that my cholesterol was high whilst on the pill didn’t dissuade me from using it. I had no other choice, or so I thought.
Then I got married. I encountered the Billings Ovulation Method. I knew I didn’t want to be on the pill if there was an alternative. During my engagement I’d asked my doctor (a different doctor by that time since I’d moved house) about alternatives, but she didn’t want to try something different since the pill was “working”. She also suggested that I omit the sugar pills so I wouldn’t have to worry about bleeding at all during my first year of marriage, which honestly freaked me out. Discouraged, I just pushed the question aside, assuming there wasn’t really much I could do.
But the question wouldn’t go away, thankfully. I searched online for alternatives. I finally broke down and asked my uncle, an OB/GYN, if he knew of an alternative. He did. So I went to my doctor (a different one, again) and said I didn’t want to take the pill any longer and I’d been told of this alternative medication. She agreed to let me try it.
That hurdle jumped, I sought out a Billings instructor and been charting. For some women, it can take a year before fertility begins to return. I was lucky and started noticing fertile signs within weeks. When I started charting the mucus, I remembered that I’d noticed that before, before being put on the pill. In fact, I’d mentioned that to my doctor, who dismissively told me “oh, that’s normal” without telling me what it was or what it signified. Within a month of being off the pill, my body ovulated, and I found the answer to my irregular cycles: I bled at ovulation and menstruation. This is actually fairly common and is considered a normal variation.
For years I’d thought the pill was helping me by taking care of the pain and heavy bleeding. In looking back, it wasn’t empowering me, but enslaving me. It suppressed my fertility, and my knowledge of it. I felt much more empowered once I started charting and could see what my body was doing and why.
Now, there are certainly hormonal conditions that may require hormonal treatments. I am not saying all hormonal treatments are bad. But I am saying that all women with concerns or gynaecological problems would benefit from charting to see exactly what is happening, and that hormonal treatments should be used more sparingly than they are. It doesn’t strike me as pro-woman to suppress our knowledge of our bodies in this way (though, to be fair, I’ve found most of my doctors have been unaware of what one can learn from charting, so it would be great if more were trained in this).