Hormonal Birth Control

Last week the FDA approved “Ella” for sale in the USofA. Ella is a morning after “contraceptive” pill that is effective when taken up to five days after intercourse. I put contraceptive in quotes there because this new pill does not meet the true definition for a contraceptive. A contraceptive prevents conception, which is the joining of sperm and egg. Thing is, there is a very narrow window of time during which a sperm and egg can join, and five days is at least two days past the largest theoretical window for that. By 72 hours after intercourse, sperm and egg either have joined, or are not going to join. This means that for Ella to work for five full days it has to destroy a fertilised egg or prevent implantation.

Why does this matter? If you think life starts at the point when the egg implants in the uterus, or at any point after that, it does not matter. If you think life starts when sperm and egg join, it does matter, because this pill is causing an abortion based on that definition. This is different from Plan B, which does not destroy a fertilised egg (see link below).

As long as I am on hormonal contraceptives…

After a great deal of research, Lori and I have concluded that many hormonal pills do NOT destroy a fertilised egg, and as such are not abortive. Various conservative groups have put out a great deal of propaganda, bad science, and maybe some outright lies about “the pill”. Some of it is well meaning ignorance, some if blind faith, some is politically motivated. Regardless of why, we are opposed to the lack of truth. On our birth control page we have done our best to give you the facts, so you can make up your own minds.  We are not trying to sell anyone on hormonal contraceptives; we simply want the truth to be shared.

Speaking of the truth about hormonal forms of birth control: there is now conclusive evidence that they harm a woman’s sex drive, do so long term, and that the negative effects may never go away completely. For this reason, I would caution against their use in all but situations where pregnancy could mean death.  Working on details on that, I will share when it’s done.

6 Comments on “Hormonal Birth Control

  1. When my husband and I were to be wed I did some extensive rsearch on the pill. In high school before truly giving my life to God, I had some a ton f research on this, and had been led to believe that plan b was on-abortive. Just like with the pill, I’ve read things both ways. I am smart enough to know that what I read or hear is based heavily on the point of view of the person giving it. I encourage you to continue your research and pray about it. I know that when I prayed I felt no peace about using the pill, and during my recent pregnancy with my beautiful daughter, I asked 2 seperate doctors their opinions on the pill and both told me that hormonal birth controls generally will stop the pregnancy of an egg that has been fertilized. I’ve read a lot of things about plan b, and used it once. a pharmacist let me know that they have had cases where it has stopped a pregnancy after fertilization. I’m not sure if that is common, or has been remedied. It’s hard to say what does what and how much of what we read is false and how much is truth. I believe that because in the Bible it says that He knew us in our mother’s womb, that life begins when egg meets sperm. encourage everyone to do a lot of research and prayer before choosing.

    • @ Nicci – First and foremost, if God leads you away from something, that is that. But we must not read into that. God may clearly lead me away from something, but wants others to do it. Knowing His specific will for you does not give any hint about His will for others. I would also suggest He gave you no peace about using the pill because He did not want you to permanently mess up your sex drive.

      As you say, there are a lot of conflicting claims about this issue. Most of those claims are based on feelings, dogma, and fear, with very little science.

      When we first wrote the birth control article more than a dozen years ago, our stance was that all hormonal methods ran a risk of destroying a fertilised egg. As we continued to study, we changed that. We did NOT change due to a lack of proof that destruction of a fertilised egg happened, but due to proof that it did not happen.We have done a great deal of ongoing research, and have talked with several topnotch pro-life doctors and medical experts on this.

      I don’t know how a pharmacist could know that the drug had worked after fertilization – that would require several lab tests done on more than one day. The only evidence that Plan B MAY HAVE WORKED is having a normal period at the normal time. But that does not mean Plan B did anything – maybe the woman would not have gotten pregnant without the drug.

      Plan B depends on the reality that getting pregnant requires intercourse to occur BEFORE the woman ovulates. If you have sex as she ovulates, she can’t get pregnant – the timing makes it impossible. Pregnancy requires sex to occur before ovulation, and Plan B stops ovulation.

      All that said, I agree that a couple should do a great deal of research on birth control – no matter what method they use.

  2. Thank for this. Especially the last paragraph. We used hormonal control for years and wondered why my wife’s sex drive was so so low (I felt that there was a big difference in her soon after she started it). We had read that hormonal birth control “may” reduce sex drive so tried to investigate it some but doctors, counsellor-friends etc said ‘no way’.

    At this time we even were taking psychological testing to make sure we would be fit for the type of work we were hoping to do. For some reason we had issues with sex and were told to work on it and ‘here are a bunch of books and recommendations’.

    Again, our thoughts that the birth control (BC) might be doing it was shrugged off. We went off of BC to have our first child and within months there was an amazing improvement. The psychologists bumped into us after the birth of our first (4-yrs after the test) and were impressed that we were working on the physical part of our marriage. Little did they know that it was not their books that we did not read that did it.

    We went back on a different brand of BC for a short time after that then dumped pills altogether for our second child. The physical relationship is so much better than earlier in our marriage and continues to improve but I think the effects are still there.

    Sorry for the length but I wanted to agree with you and give you our story. Thanks for this site. It has encouraged me so much to keep going and given me new ideas on lovin’ my girl!

    • @ BigA – The “news” about this came out a couple of years ago, but has not been as widely circulated as one would hope. I suspect there are those in the world so focused on preventing pregnancy that this inconvenient fact is just ignored. It’s also not the kind of thing the manufactures are going to want folks to know, and I suspect they have made attempts to downplay it.

      All of this is made easy by the fact that the science is incomplete. The hormonal changes are proven, and a fast partial return to normal is seen when going off the pill. What is not yet known is if the body ever returns to how it was before pill use. There is also no way to conclusively tie the hormone levels to sex drive. It’s know they play a role, that it varies from woman, and that there is some correlation – but it’s not a simple matter of “the pill will reduce your drive by X%”.

  3. Thank you Paul for writing this. My doctor prescribed the pill for me 3 separate reasons, one of them being contraception. The other two reasons were to regulate my otherwise very erratic cycle and to treat very severe (and debilitating) cramps. The month I started on the pill was the first time in 15 years that I didn’t have to lose a day work due to cramps so bad that I could often not even walk or sit up in bed.

    My cycle is now regular and my quality of life (in regards to pain management) has improved dramatically.

    My concern in all this? I’m getting married in less than 3 months and as a virgin I have no experience with knowing how it will affect my drive. I have a healthy attitude towards sex and have no intention or desire to deprive my FH or myself. It seems though that it’s just one of those things that I won’t know until I know, ya know? (sorry, didn’t mean to get repetitive).

    So I’m kind of split on my feelings towards all this because right now all I am seeing is the benefits I am reaping.

    Your thoughts?

    • @ Miss V – First the disclaimer – I’m not a doctor and I’m not playing one on the Interweb.

      Hormonal pills have long been used to treat issues which are due to hormonal fluctuations. For some women the results are the difference between living and existing.

      I would look at it this way – the pain you had before the pills would be hard on your marraige in general, and your sex life in particular. The limits that would be placed on you as a couple, and as lovers, would be far worse than any limitation that the pill might place on your sexuality. The pills are treating something that needs to be treated, and any sexual side effects are just that – side effects.

      As to sexuality, it does vary from woman to woman. For some the effect is minor, for others it’s powerful. There is a chance it won’t be much of an issue for you. HOWEVER, even if it is, that does not have to keep you and your future husband from having a great sex life. The pill can reduce your physical desire for sex, but is kind of like not feeling hungry. Even if you never felt hungry, you could choose to eat, and you could greatly enjoy the taste of food. In the same way, even if you have no “sex drive”, you can choose to have sex, and can greatly enjoy sex. Once sex starts, arousal, desire, and pleasure will follow.

      BTW, not feeling turned on before sex starts seems to be the norm for some women. I wrote about that here.

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