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A Bitter Pill, Indeed

“Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it prescribes pills it may happen to do more harm.” –George Eliot

In 1968, Pope Paul VI confirmed the Church’s longstanding teaching against contraception (which includes any measure designed expressly to prevent conception during the conjugal act) in Humanae Vitae (On Human Life). The Pope reminded Catholics of the truth about God’s plan for marriage and sexuality in response to the advent of the Pill, which was being lauded as the first effective and reliable form of contraception.

In Humanae Vitae, the Pope predicted several negative consequences for individuals and society if contraception use were to become widespread: 1) men would lose respect for women and treat them as mere instruments to help them gain personal pleasure; 2) marital infidelity and promiscuity would become rampant because the disincentive of pregnancy would no longer deter people; 3) human beings would lose respect for the process of begetting new life and attempt to claim for ourselves the right to create it; and 4) coercive governments would force their citizens to contracept, thus violating their human rights and dignity.

I’ll leave to our readers to determine if the Pope’s words were prophetic.

Of the few dissenters who actually read Humanae Vitae when it was issued, most misunderstood the Pope’s warnings. He was not saying that God was going to punish us with bad outcomes because we disobey Him and use the Pill. Instead, the Pope said that because contraception itself violates the natural law, the consequences will inevitably be bad.

There are other consequences to the Pill that not even Paul VI could foresee, however. No one knew back then that those little tablets of synthetic hormones are actually carcinogenic, increasing women’s risk of many cancers. Nor did anyone imagine that these hormones would be excreted in women’s urine and find their way into our environment. For years, a handful of brave scientists have sounded the alarm about the freakish mutations occurring in wildlife near streams and rivers fed by estrogen-rich wastewater.

But fish and frogs aren’t the only creatures affected by the Pill; there is now copious evidence that the hormones have found their way into our drinking water and are causing serious health problems for human beings, too.  In addition to causing early onset of puberty in girls and cancer in women, multiple studies have now confirmed a solid link between prostate cancer in men and Pill use in women. Using data from 87 countries, researchers found that where the proportion of women using the Pill is higher, so are prostate cancer rates in men.

Professor Janet Smith says using contraception is like ingesting a little bit of poison in your orange juice each day: it may not harm you right away, but it’s still going to hurt you in the long run. When she made this analogy during her famous, “Contraception: Why Not?” speech in 1994, she likely never imagined the hormones she spoke about were literally poisoning not just contraceptive users, but the rest of us, too.

Contraception affects us all. The hormones from the Pill have gotten into our rivers and streams and are damaging the precious environment God has given us. It has poisoned our drinking water, causing serious health problems for women, men, and even children. For as long as we’ve had the Pill, the decision to use it has been touted as a private one that affects only the woman who uses it. Yet it is obvious that when one woman chooses to ingest these hormones, she also chooses for her husband, her children, her parents, her neighbors, and her coworkers to ingest them. She chooses for me, my husband, and my children to ingest them. It is painful to realize that despite my efforts to spare my own family the harmful effects of using hormonal contraception, we are all still likely to suffer the consequences as if we did.

Whether you are a practicing Catholic who uses natural family planning (or doesn’t!) or you are a Catholic who has always struggled with the Church’s teaching on sexuality and family planning, let this be a call to action for you. For Catholics blessed to accept the truth about conjugal love, let us never neglect to proclaim the beauty of God’s plan. And for my brothers and sisters who want to be faithful, but who are afraid or simply lack information, let this galvanize you to seek the voice of Christ through the wisdom of Holy Mother Church. Let this be what spurs you to investigate and embrace God’s plan for your sexuality, your marriage, and your family. I strongly recommend videos, articles, and books by Christopher West, which will beautifully explain what and why the Church teaches what it does about sexuality and family planning.

Fertility is one of God’s most amazing gifts to us. May we all have the courage and the grace to treat it with the reverence it deserves.

About Misty

Misty converted to Catholicism from atheism 10 years ago, just a week after becoming a mother to her first child. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, she worked full-time as a magazine writer and editor. She has been married to her best friend for nearly 15 years and looks forward to many more decades by his side. Her days are now spent cooking, doing laundry, freelance writing, and homeschooling her four children. After spending so much of her life in spiritual darkness, she revels in the joy of being Catholic. Without a doubt, the Lord’s greatest gift to her has been saving her from a life without Him.

December 2, 2011 - 8:05 am

Connie - Beautifully written!

December 2, 2011 - 8:31 am

Lisa Steger - Excellent! I love how you’ve made it not so much of a “private” choice anymore, but one that affects all of us. How true that is….

December 2, 2011 - 10:00 am

Angela - I don’t discount the facts presented in this article, but what about those of us who must take the Pill for disorders such as PMDD? It’s medication that we need, and we are not taking it for contraceptive purposes.

December 2, 2011 - 10:23 am

Rebecca - Angela – if only women you describe as needing to “take the Pill for disorders such as PMDD” were the ones taking the pill, I would suspect the problems would be significantly less because of the amount of hormones being put into the environment.

That is one simple answer but there is so much more that could be said.

Misty – beautiful article!

December 2, 2011 - 10:31 am

Teresa - @Angela, if only people who needed them medically used hormones, there wouldn’t be the problem that there is. If you have to use them for medical purposes, there would be no moral culpability.

December 2, 2011 - 10:41 am

Heidi - With all medications there is a cost/benefit ratio. Individuals must address those concerns and alternatives with their care provider as no one is here as a medical professional.

That being said, the concern for me in using the pill to treat other hormonal imbalances is that while taking the pill it is effectively impossible to embrace openness to life. There is loss in the interactions between husband and wife that cannot be regained as long as the pill is in the equation. Having used the pill early in our marriage and coming to embrace first NFP (for health reasons) and then later Catholic teaching on openness to life I can attest that each step away from the pill has brought a new intimacy to our marriage as we have learned to communicate in new ways both in and out of the bedroom.
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December 2, 2011 - 11:01 am

Jeanne - Great job!
What’s scary is this article does not even touch on the links between pill use and infertility, depression, lack of sex drive, mood swings……. the “side effects” are an entire book in itself.
I am seriously beginning to simply feel bad for women who feel the NEED to use birth control. Because it’s based mostly on the fear of becomming pregnant, and secondly, on the expectation of their partner that they won’t. Which of course means news of an unexpected pregnancy probably won’t go over so well.
And yet the freedom that comes with not contracepting. And self empowerment, and love and respect. Cannot be topped.

December 2, 2011 - 11:03 am

Angela - I understand, appreciate, and respect your concerns, Heidi, and I agree. That said, I personally am a celibate single, so marital intimacy is not a factor for me at this time. :-)

December 2, 2011 - 11:07 am

Margaret - Thank you Misty. I’m definatly reposting. Thank for mentioning NFP. I find it disturbing that I am a cradle Catholic and have not heard of NFP until 2008 when I was getting married. We need to get the word out.

December 2, 2011 - 11:07 am

Misty - Angela, I assume you are referring to Post-partum Mood Disorder (PPMD)? I’ve had many, many reproductive-related health problems, from endometriosis to adenomyosis to mid-cycle hemorrhaging. I took the Pill for 10 years. It was not until I came off the Pill that the symptoms of my disorders manifested. For the endemetriosis, which was physically debilitating, I went to five different doctors. Their solutions for my daily, agonizing pain was to either get on the Pill or have a hysterectomy. This was even before any of them even bothered to confirm whether I had endometriosis or not. It was not until I discovered a Catholic gynecologist trained in Natural Procreative Technology that I got real treatment for my disease. Dr. Stegman actually scheduled the diagnostic and treatment procedure for the day operation; he actually went in and LOOKED for the endometrial lesions before he committed to a treatment plan! Part of the treatment was going over my insides inch by square inch and then removing every endometrial lesion. Guess what he found? That my edometrial lesions were embedded in the muscles surrounding my cervix, NOT anywhere on my uterus. The other doctors were willing to take out my reproductive organs and render me sterile without even bothering to find out if that was where the problem was…and it wasn’t. If I had listened to those doctors, I would not have had the endometriosis discovered and actually treated. I would have lost the chance to have the two more beautiful children that grace our family. And, as the research I’ve done has shown, I would have just been trading one set of problems with another if I’d elected for the Pill or hysterectomy.

Over the years, I’ve become mad as hell about what passes as “healthcare” for women in this country. If a woman has a reproductive-related problem, the solution is to suppress or destroy her fertility. I’ve noticed that doctors don’t offer this to men; when was the last time you heard of a man being offered castration as a solution to pelvic pain??

Natural Procreative Technology (Google it) is different because it works with the woman’s natural system, aims to treat the underlying problem itself (and not just mask it), and its primary goal is to preserve fertility while restoring health. I have not had endometrial pain for almost 7 years after being treated by a NaPro surgeon. The Pill does NOT solve the underlying problem, particularly in the case of PPDS. NaPro docs have treated PPDS successfully by addressing the underlying hormone imbalance that leads to it…often within hours of a woman giving birth, when the woman has a history of this problem.

Doctors throw the Pill at women for every conceivable disorder, without ever stopping to really try to find out the real problem. After the birth of my third child, I hemorrhaged so badly at 3 months postpartum that I had to go to the ER. The doctor’s solution? The Pill. No one actually cared in any way to figure out what was wrong with me, but there was no way they were going to throw me on a drug that I knew came with increased health risks as a band-aid solution to my health problems.

I strongly recommend you check out the NaProTechnology pages and see if you have a doctor near you. These doctors are also willing to work with women long-distance; my surgeon was three states away and scheduled everything over a 2-day period for me. There are true solutions to our health problems, but sadly, only a few wonderful doctors who love us enough to try to truly heal us.
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December 2, 2011 - 11:21 am

Lib - It’s worth noting, however, that numerous studies have also found that the Pill gives women substantial and long-lasting protection against ovarian cancer. (See this story, for example: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080126194137.htm ) And while I agree that it’s troubling that manufacturing the pill causes large amounts of estrogen rich waste, almost all manufacturing/industry produces such negative externalities. The solution isn’t banning or eliminating the final product, it’s enforcing existing environmental laws more strictly and devising new laws and regulations which force pharma to be responsible corporate citizens. The same goes for the chemical effects of the pill on our neighbors and communities vis-a-vis drinking water. Unfiltered, unprocessed water contains all sorts of garbage that human beings should avoid ingesting (run off from animal waste, motor oil, soap, etc.). But no one suggests banning pets, cars, or cleaning agents. The solution isn’t to ban the source of these materials, but rather to better process and clean the water.

December 2, 2011 - 11:26 am

Martina - There is a huge mindset out there that the pill actually cures…I have yet to see anything convincing that proves that to be true. If anything, the pill is like the bandaid for the wound and masks the underlying problems, as Misty stated. We all know if we wanted to cure something we do more than just slap a bandaid on. We would look for ointment to help heal.
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December 2, 2011 - 12:42 pm

Misty - The Pill gives a modicum of protection against one type of cancer, but it nonetheless CONTRIBUTES to the development of other cancers. There is a reason the World Health Organization declared the Pill a Class I carcinogen in 2005.

I don’t think anyone mentioned banning the Pill, either in the original post or in the comments. But there are plenty of things in life that provide one small benefit despite overwhelming injury to health. My sister says her cigarettes keep her from being obese and calm down her anxiety, but there’s no doubt that is overwhelmingly injurious to her health.

In a previous life, I was a reporter for a civil engineering magazine and my “beat” was water and wastewater news around the country. I wrote many articles about water and wastewater filtration and am intimately familiar with the EPA’s guidelines on water quality. I can assure you that it is financially prohibitive to filter water until it is 100% clean of all other substances, particularly the hormonal and pharmaceutical residues we’ve mentioned here. Few people realize the cost to a community even to get their waters “fishable and swimmable” in compliance with EPA standards…especially if the community is poor and the majority of their residents are under the federal poverty guidelines. In one story I wrote, the EPA estimated that it would cost EVERY RESIDENT $57,000 to comply with its EXISTING regulations for wastewater and drinking water.

The Pill is not the panacea for life that so many people think it is; we all pay a very hefty price for the widespread use of it. Which is a shame, when there are just as effective, completely safe, and ecologically responsible family planning options available. I just wanted to point out, however, that “just filter it out then” is not a realistic option to addressing this problem. I spent several years studying EPA water regs and know without a doubt that even current regs are a serious financial burden on many communities. I can’t even fathom the outrageous cost of filtering our wastewater to the quality you describe.
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December 2, 2011 - 12:57 pm

Mary - Lib – you seem to be missing the point that we Catholics have a long list of other reasons that the Pill should not be used. The pollution of our environment and thus the bodies of our “neighbors” is just one little piece of the bigger picture – not THE reason to be against use of the Pill.

December 2, 2011 - 1:17 pm

Angela - No, I meant what I typed. PMDD = premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I’m 36, I have no children and I do not know if I will be able to ever marry and have them. (No one’s asking! LOL, but I am serious about the marriage thing. So far, it doesn’t seem to be in God’s plan, and I am comfortable with that.)

All that said, while I am not familiar with NaProTechnology, I will check it out. Since what you are referring to and PMDD are not the same thing, I don’t know yet if treatment for me is even possible. Thanks for sharing, though, and I will indeed check it out.

Finally, the Church’s stance on using the Pill for those of us who are a) celibate singles and b) needing it for medical purposes is that it is acceptable and not a sin, therefore this is what I accept with a clear conscience at this point in my life. Should I ever marry, though, this of course will have to be debated…and that worries me. :-/

December 2, 2011 - 1:53 pm

Angela - This is what I found on NaProTechnology’s website regarding PMS (which is HIGHLY watered-down PMDD, I can assure you):

“By treating these hormonal abnormalities cooperatively with either cooperative progesterone replacement therapy or targeted HCG support (which should also improve both progesterone and estrogen production) and/or with the use of naltrexone as an opiate receptor antagonist, a high degree of success can be obtained with hormonal treatment. At the present time, fluoxetine (Prozac) is considered the treatment of choice for women with premenstrual syndrome. However, in comparing targeted hormonal supplementation (cooperative progesterone replacement therapy) with Prozac, the targeted hormonal therapy is significantly more effective (Figure 29-16). In addition, the treatment effect is much more rapid in onset and helps attain the normal physiology of a woman so she actually feels more normal and does not feel “drugged.”

The “mini-Pill” IS progesterone replacement therapy (no estrogen), and this is what I take.

December 2, 2011 - 1:59 pm

Patty - Great article Misty, I loved it!

December 2, 2011 - 2:56 pm

Michael Demers - Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

December 2, 2011 - 5:20 pm

BirgitJ - Simply tremendous post! This needs to be shared with everyone because, as you say, we are being affected whether or not we ourselves participate in use of the Pill!
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December 2, 2011 - 5:56 pm

Ricardo Boncan - WE need to have more women repeat this message over and over again. Do you know how difficult it is to talk about contraceptives as a man? This is an excellent post and one that I will share in my FB account. Thank you
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December 2, 2011 - 6:19 pm

enness - “Unfiltered, unprocessed water contains all sorts of garbage that human beings should avoid ingesting (run off from animal waste, motor oil, soap, etc.). But no one suggests banning pets, cars, or cleaning agents. The solution isn’t to ban the source of these materials, but rather to better process and clean the water.”

Lib, surely you would at least agree that overuse can be decreased and unnecessary use should be cut out entirely? For example, why should I always drive a distance I can easily walk? My other pet peeve is antibacterial hand soaps. My understanding is that these were designed for use in hospitals and now everyone seems to think they need hospital-grade antimicrobial agents in their homes.

I, like Misty, used the Pill for about a decade. First it was for cramps and then for acne that wasn’t helped by OTCs. I didn’t know much, but I knew someone who had been on Accutane, and thought it was better to stick to the Pill than have to check my blood all the time. First thing: one day I forgot to take one, so I followed the instructions and took two at once; the next morning it was like my face exploded — I never thought about how it could do the reverse, too. Second thing: I had one really busy stretch where I forgot several times and had a three-week period. I couldn’t guarantee this was not going to happen again. In short, I felt sorry for my body; it seemed to want to know why I was being so manipulative and confusing. I tried to go off the Pill once and things got worse. A dermatologist finally told me there was a cheap alternative that had the same blocking effect but no synthetic hormones. When I mentioned it to the GYN, she was familiar with the drug, but for some reason had never told me about it…even after I tried going off the Pill because of concerns about the hormones…hmm. I like the woman but I don’t honestly know what to make of that. So, ladies, this is my second try. I’m hoping this one sticks.

December 2, 2011 - 6:38 pm

Sharon - Misty, this is a great article, and your post at 11:07 a.m. is even better. Very well written and informative. Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser has a book that is all about getting chemicals out of our bodies, but she won’t go anywhere near the elephant in the room – the effect of the Pill on women’s bodies and on our water supply. I’ve read articles that blame plastic water bottles for the high level of estrogen in the water supply, but sadly, a commitment to supposedly free sex keeps everyone from just telling the truth about the obvious, major source of this contamination.

I have also been prescribed the Pill for medical use. A doctor who had never met me before and spent very little time on my health history prescribed a three-month course of Pill use. I was leery from the get go, and when a pharmacist who was also in her 20′s said in response to my many questions that the Pill would only mask, not treat, my symptoms, and that I would suffer from side effects during those three months, I chose not to take the pills home. I am grateful that the pharmacist took more time to talk to me than the doctor did. My condition did clear up on its own, but if it hadn’t, I would not have wanted the Pill hiding the symptoms without treating any underlying condition. Doctors are far too quick to take the easy route of handing out the Pill for everything. It is insulting to women and a poor way for doctors to live out their vocation as healers.

December 2, 2011 - 9:52 pm

Misty - Angela,
Forgive me for confusing the premenstrual disorder with postpartum depression. I saw the same acronym and confused your post with someone else’s.

I will say, however, that there is a significant difference between progesterone supplementation with NaPro and the progesterone in the minipill. The minipill contains progestin, a synthetic compound SIMILAR to progesterone. I supplement at the end of my cycle with actual progesterone.

December 3, 2011 - 11:15 am

robbie - Misty,

Excellent post!! I love that your backgound so qualifies you to discuss this. There’s a book called The Really Inconvenient Truths that looks at this issue as one it’s topics. The author points out a specific instance where the hypocrisy is glaring: the pollution of Boulder Creek, in uber-environmentally-correct Boulder, Colorado. So a population that would be hip on working toward zero-population growth as a means of protecting the earth [ http://bcn.boulder.co.us/basin/local/bartlett2.html ]is willing to sacrifice the earth when it conflicts with their agenda [ http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/3151 ].

Thank you, Misty!

December 3, 2011 - 12:40 pm

Angela - No problem, Misty. Now I’m very intrigued…how do you take actual progesterone rather than synthetic?

I hope my posts haven’t been misconstrued all along. I would LOVE to do something natural instead of synthetic/chemical. I just didn’t know there were alternatives. As you’ve pointed out, Misty, not all doctors are telling us all the facts. I’m grateful to know about NaPro in general; I wonder if there are doctors in my area who apply Church teachings to their OB/GYN practice? (I’m in St. Louis.)

December 3, 2011 - 1:03 pm

Monica - I am not trying to discount anything in this article, as I too am against the Pill. However, I do not believe that this study showing that there is, as Misty says, a “solid link between prostate cancer in men and Pill use in women” should be considered “solid” at all. I encourage you to click on the link provided and read the article that shows up on ABC.com. As you may have noticed, the article uses words like “potential link”, “it’s unclear what exactly could tie the pill to prostate cancer”, “one possible explanation”, “Fleshner [head of urology at the University Health Network in Ontario and co-author of the study] agreed their findings produce more questions instead of answers, and their hypothesis is based on speculation”, “This is just a hypothesis generating idea… Women should not be throwing away the pill because of this.” NOWHERE in the article does it use concrete words like “direct link” or “positive correlation” – words that would suggest a bigger degree of validity of the experiment.

Also note that the study was published on November 15, 2011 – EXTREMELY recently. As with any experimental or medical study, it can take dozens of trials and repeats to come to concrete results. Fleshner said himself that because of the study there are only more questions. It may be years before researchers can conclude that hormones from the Pill really have as significant an effect on our drinking water – and therefore our individual lives – as Misty describes in her article.

As Lib mentioned, there are SO many other contributing factors that have polluted our drinking water. I’m not saying the hormones from the urine of Pill users might not be one of those factors, but let’s see where we can use our logic for a minute. As the ABC.com article says, “Men living in continents like North America and Europe are at higher risk for prostate cancer, and countries within those nations also have a higher use of oral contraceptives.” North America and Europe are wealthy nations, are they not? Therefore they have the monetary funds to produce and purchase/use the Pill. This higher economic status is correlated to lifestyle and environmental factors such as 1) factories and industrial growth, cars, pesticides, and all sorts of other pollution-producing agents that contaminate the water and air that we intake everyday; and 2)access to health care facilities where people can get diagnosed with their health issues (prostate cancer being the issue in question here). Perhaps – and this has been shown to be the case with many other diseases such as breast cancer (because of earlier and more advanced testing and new insurance policies)- more people in these more wealthy and technologically advanced nations are able to get tested and diagnosed with prostate cancer. This increased number of prostate cancer cases may be, in part, simply due to better medical access and technology. For example, just because someone doesn’t have the skills to fix an old car themselves doesn’t mean it has any less mechanical problems. The same goes for prostate cancer: we see it more in America because fortunately we have the means to diagnose it better in America.

Also after doing some research for the purpose of making this comment valid, I found that testosterone contributes to the growth of both normal prostate tissue, but high levels of testosterone and other androgens [MALE hormones] AND prostate cancer cells. Thus when combating prostate cancer, decreasing the level of testosterone is commonly incorporated into treatment and usually is effective. So if anything, an increase in testosterone – NOT estrogen from Pill users urine – would contribute to the development of prostate cancer.

Another factor that can increase risk of developing prostate cancer – among other diseases – is obesity. Obesity is a growing problem in wealthy nations such as North America and European countries. There’s yet another correlation between wealth, health problems, and the Pill.

Lastly, as commonly mentioned by people against the use of the Pill, it decreases people’s respect for and overall sanctity of the sexual act, therefore causing people to think of it as “free sex” as another comment mentioned above. Thus, in places where the Pill is more commonly used, multiple sex partners is more widely accepted. This can lead, as we all know, to sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Men with a history if STI’s and STD’s are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men without such a history.

There are also many other risk factors that can lead to an increased chance of developing prostate cancer, including smoking, diet, genetics, exercise, nationality, and family history.

Simply put, there is no way that this study leads to anything conclusive. We CANNOT use it as an argument in and of itself as to why people should get off the Pill. Perhaps it would be beneficial to continue to follow this line of research for some years before jumping to conclusions that even the researchers themselves have admitted are not yet valid.

December 3, 2011 - 1:10 pm

Ellen - Angela, I’m in St. Louis too. There are 2 doctors who are NFP only. And for the life of me I can’t remember their names, but they practice out of St. Anthony’s hospital in South County. They advertise on WRYT/KHOJ (the Catholic radio station). One’s first name is Michael, I think. Grrr! This is going to drive me crazy! I’ll come back when/if I can remember.

December 3, 2011 - 1:10 pm

Ellen - Michael Dixon is one them! Still can’t remember the other one.

December 3, 2011 - 1:10 pm

Monica - Pardon me, **testosterone contributes to the growth of both normal prostate tissue, but high levels of testosterone and other androgens [MALE hormones] can contribute to the production of prostate cancer cells. Thus when combating prostate cancer, decreasing the level of testosterone is commonly incorporated into treatment and usually is effective.

Had a bit of an editing error.

December 3, 2011 - 11:27 pm

Jeni - so where is there safe water and how do I get some lol??? no seriously!
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December 4, 2011 - 2:16 am

Misty - I feel like someone chastised for not using “alleged” in a new story about a criminal, LOL. Here is the reality of the study:

Prostate cancer is more prevalent in countries where the Pill is widely used. Researchers say that the hormones from the Pill that have found their way into wastewater and drinking water, could be a likely culprit.

The article wasn’t so much about the study, as about one more piece of evidence that the Pill is bringing about many, many negative consequences for everyone, not just the women who use them. I’m personally not at all surprised to hear the researchers say that women shouldn’t throw away their birth control pills just yet…we don’t know ~for sure~ that the Pill is connected to the rise in prostate cancer rates. But then again, even when the connection is crystal clear, the medical establishment refuses to advice women and their families of the true risks. Most scientists refuse to acknowledge the impact of the estrogen-rich wastewater going into the environment. I simply know that there is NO WAY that estrogen getting into our drinking water is NOT affecting the health of my husband or children, who are not designed to be exposed to synthetic estrogen long-term.

The researchers found that the IUD, condoms, and other barrier devices were NOT associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Only the Pill was significantly associated with both the number of new cases of, and deaths from, prostate cancer in individual countries around the world, the analysis showed.

As Catholics, that the Pill is somehow linked to a higher prostate cancer rate is simply one of dozens upon dozens of reasons to eschew contraception. And frankly, not even the most important reason to avoid it.

December 5, 2011 - 4:08 am

Anonymous - I’m not her to dispell everything stated. Drinking water goes through many purification processes before it finally gets to your tap. There have been many studies made about this topic all of which disprove the allegations of the “Pill” promoting high levels of estrogen in both waste water and drinking water. The high levels of estrogen in wastewater are attributed to the plant processing facilities. The compound causing the high levels is known as phytoestrogens, which has been shown to cause negative developmental and reproductive patterns in fish. There have been few studies of this compund on its effects on human, tho the few conducted show it does have limited effects on humans. It has been also shown that sewage treatment facilities remove ~99% of the “Pill” estrogen, 17 alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2). This ~1% of estrogen that makes it past the treatment facilitie now has to make it past the purification measures of your local drinking water treatment facility. Also, the amount of estrogens excreeted into the wastewater by all humans(everyone contributes to this, if you don’t belive me have your urine tested, males too) has been shown to contribute <1% of total estrogens in the supply. The major culprit of estrogens in the supply has been shown to be the plant product production facilities and normal animal waste. Most of these high levels are attributed to the social swing to Soy products due to the higher levels of phytoestrogens, any time a soy bean is cracked and washed the estrogens are released into the wastewater. As for the causes of precocious puberty in females there are many studies attributing to many other causes including products being made contact with everyday. One of the major causes identified being high-fat diets lack of physical activity and obeseity. Girls that are obease at an early age, defined as 22lbs above reccomended weight, were shown to have an 80% chance of developing breasts by the age of nine.

Sources include:
studies by the University of Minnesota and published
McKenna, Phil (2007-03-05). “Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls”. New Scientist
German waste water studies
Japan waste water studies
Water treatment facility standard testing

December 5, 2011 - 9:11 pm

Monica - Misty – I feel as though you didn’t read my comment at all. I agree with what you say about there being dozens of reasons to avoid the Pill and artificial contraception. I just don’t think that this study is even close to being one of those reasons. There is no proof provided by researchers that Pill hormones are affecting anyone but the person using the Pill. As Anonymous so credibly noted, the estrogen that IS released into water systems (which is the result of plant production and factories – NOT Pill users’ urine) goes through such an effective purification process, that even if some estrogen DID get through to our drinking water it would be such a minute amount that it wouldn’t do any significant harm. As Anonymous said, the studies conducted show it has limited effects on humans.

To say “I simply know that there is NO WAY that estrogen getting into our drinking water is NOT affecting the health of my husband or children” is to completely ignore all the facts. As far as anyone knows at this point, we do not need to be worried about the Pill having any widespread effect on the general population.

If we are going to fight against the Pill, which I agree is a just cause, it is important to do so in a well-researched manner. It only makes us look ignorant and hurts our case if we grasp onto any minuscule suggestion of the Pill’s harmful effects and blow them out of proportion in an attempt to defend our beliefs. If anything, it only fuels and makes stronger the argument of those who believe the Pill is acceptable.

December 6, 2011 - 12:12 am

Dawn - Monica, I did read your comment. Twice. I also read the other person’s comments about the source of estrogen coming from birth control pills in wastewater. My first instinct was, “If birth control pills are NOT the primary source of estrogen in wastewater/drinking water, why would the mainstream media–which is overwhelmingly supportive of Pill use–choose to emphasize the wrong source of estrogen and thereby indict the Pill?” It didn’t make sense to me, given that article after article after article I’ve read citing studies that have shown the estrogen in streams and rivers, as well as our drinking water, is the same kind of synthetic estrogen found in hormonal contraception.

Do I read every scientific article about estrogen in water? No. But I also found a plethora of studies where the researchers specifically cite the synthetic estrogen from hormonal birth control as being in the water. Like all of these studies:

Esperanza M, MT Suidan, F Nishimura, Z-M Wang and GA Sorial. 2004. Determination of sex hormones and nonylphenol ethoxylates in the aqueous matrixes of two pilot-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants. Environmental Science &Technology 38(11):3028-3035.

Jobling S, M Nolan, CR Tyler, G Brighty and JP Sumpter. 1998. Widespread sexual disruption in wild fish. Environmental Science & Technology 32:2498-2506.

Khanal SK, B Xie, ML Thompson, SW Sung, SK Ong and J Van Leeuwen. 2006. Fate, transport and biodegradation of natural estrogens in the environment and engineered systems. Environmental Science & Technology 40(21):6537-6546.

Kidd KA, PJ Blanchfield, KH Mills, VP Palace, RE Evans, JM Lazorchak et al. 2007. Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(21):8897-8901.

Liney KE, S Jobling, JA Shears, P Simpson and CR Tyler. 2005. Assessing the sensitivity of different life stages for sexual disruption in roach (Rutilus rutilus) exposed to effluents of wastewater treatment works. Environmental Health Perspectives 113:1299-1307.

Martinovic D, WT Hogarth, RE Jones and PW Sorensen. 2007. Environmental estrogens suppress hormones, behavior and reproductive fitness in male fathead minnows. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26(2):271-278.

What I found is that what you said about estogen being filtered out of water being only partly true:

Natural steroidal estrogen hormones, e.g., estrone (E1), 17β-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and 17α-estradiol (17α), are released by humans and livestock in the environment and are the most potent endocrine disrupters even at nanogram per liter levels. >>>>Published studies broadly conclude that conventional wastewater treatment is efficient in the removal of 17β-estradiol (85−99%), but estrone removal is relatively poor (25−80%).<<>>>In spite of the treatment, the effluent from conventional biological wastewater treatment systems still contains estrogenic compounds at a level that may cause disruption of endocrine systems in some species.<<<< (Khanal SK, B Xie, ML Thompson, SW Sung, SK Ong and J Van Leeuwen. 2006. Fate, transport and biodegradation of natural estrogens in the environment and engineered systems. Environmental Science & Technology 40(21):6537-6546.)
The one thing researchers do agree on is that it is not a lot of estrogen that finds its way into the water…but you don't need a lot to have a harmful effect on wildlife or human health.
This 7-year Canadian study found just that:

http://www.science20.com/news_releases/estrogen_again_chemicals_in_municipal_wastewater_devastating_fish

I wasn't making a blanket, IGNORANT statement about the Pill's effect on my family 's health because I had not read anything and was tarring and feathering birth control pills without evidence. I'm well aware that there are plenty of other sources–some of them natural, some not–of chemicals that are harming our environment and our health by getting into wastewater and drinking water. I see so much focus on the percentage–"1%"–without any real focus on whether or not even just that 1% is harmful to us. If that small percentage of synthetic estrogen is destroying whole fish populations and feminizing fish and amphibians exposed to it, is it such a stretch to say it might also have a detrimental effect on human beings exposed to it, too? If I were to give my husband and children bottled water each day with just 1% of synthetic estrogen in it, they are almost certain to have their health compromised. Small amount does not mean insigificant when you're dealing with chemicals like synthetic estrogen. The key word being "synthetic." The other sources of estrogens–from animal waste, soy products, and occurring naturally in women–are not the issue.

I can appreciate your call for us to promote truthful, objective science at all times in our quest to expose the real dangers of the Pill. Certainly I wasn't trying to be an alarmist without evidence. What does alarm me is the conclusion that because there is "just a little" synthetic estrogen from birth control in our water, we're not supposed to worry about it's impact on the environment or our health.

The scientific and medical community as a whole has done its best to downplay the harmful effects of the Pill; from its inception, many women have died while using hormonal contraception, but we've almost come to expect these outcomes as the necessary price of having the Pill at our disposal. I do believe that's what's happening now–we can't deny the fact that the synthetic hormones from oral contraceptives are in our drinking water and wastewater, so now we are trying to downplay the impact of having it there. I actually believe it's just as possible that the synthetic estrogen IN COMBINATION with the other chemicals, poses a health risk to wildlife and humans. Given the fact that synthetic hormones, when ingested voluntarily, pose serious health risks for humans, I'm not ready to let oral contraceptives off the hook just because they contribute "just" a small amount to the pool of toxic chemicals in our water.

December 6, 2011 - 12:20 am

Sheepdog - I love the quibbling and splitting hairs of the Pill apologists. (Rolling my eyes.)

* Multiple studies over many years have demonstrably proven that SYNTHETIC estrogen is in the water and destroying the ecosystem.

* SYNTHETIC estrogen in the water supply is linked to higher rates of prostate cancer.

* Water purification is not removing SYNTHETIC estrogen, there’s still enough to kill fish and cause cancer. Even 1% is evidently toxic to everyone.

Catholic or not, “It’s sinful,” and “Because God says so,” or even “[Insert favorite Theology of the Body],” will never be a good enough reason to the majority of the population to give up chemical contraception. All the perfect papal predictions in the world won’t matter to most of the world, even Catholics (obviously judging by the comments in this thread.) The only thing that will ever matter to most of the population will be scientific studies that continue showing it to be the poison it is. Unmask the evil for what it is.

What research has been done has shown it to be obviously bad and it’s only going to continue showing how bad it is. This stuff is poison to women, poison to the ecosystem, and poison to children and men. I don’t want secondhand smoke and I don’t want secondhand SYNTHETIC estrogen.

December 6, 2011 - 10:10 am

Anonymous - o Facts
– One, 1% of the total estrogen in the water is from sythetic estrogen (proven by neumerous studies but here is a referance – Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, associate professor and director of the University of California-San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment)

– Two, Plant estrogen and livestock estrogen are the major culprits of estrogen in the water (many studies prove this true, take your pick of widely available and public publications on this topic)

– Three, There are considerably more estrogens in the wastewater due to natural human excretion than those of the sythetic type. There are three types from natural excresion and one type of sythetic.
*E1 .1 ng/L
*E2 .02 ng/L
*E3 .02 ng/L
*EE2(synthetic) .003 ng/L
(Source: Benotti et al., 2009 Water Sample Testing)

– Four, Of the sythetic type of estrogen, many aother uses are being employed.
* Oral Contriceptive(also used for other treatment but we’ll say all is pregnancy prevention)
* Hormone Replacement Theropy (menopause and osteoporosis)
* Cancer Theropy (Breast and PROSTATE)
* Veterinary Medicine (Growth promotion)

I will also site this page as it offers alot of reasearch on the subject as well, and sites alot of the same resources I have found. It may be one source but has many studies sited. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es1014482

December 9, 2011 - 5:28 pm

Ila Kidd - Still can’t remember the other one. I’ve noticed that doctors don’t offer this to men; when was the last time you heard of a man being offered castration as a solution to pelvic pain??
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December 11, 2011 - 12:36 pm

Manda - Angela, as for your question about progesterone as a hormone treatment for PMDD, it’s actually super simple! A shot at the doctor’s office (Napro doctors do this I hear) or a cream applied to your skin (at the wrist, chest, feet, or anywhere without a lot of body hair really). I developed severe postpartum depression after my 2nd son was born, which has a lot of the same hormone imbalances and symptoms as PMDD and started taking pro-gest progesterone cream twice a day for 10-12 days. Immediately I felt relief while taking it and after 3 cycles of taking it my cycles were normal and I felt relief all the time so I stopped. From what I’ve read that’s pretty common, though a few women have to take it longer than that for consistent results. It was amazing the difference in my mood, I went from hysterical anxiety, depression, and just crazy thoughts to feeling better than I had in years within just 3 months. Sometimes low progesterone is caused by an underlying problem like thyroiditis, anovulation, pcos, etc. so it’s good to have a doctor who will look at the underlying cause as well. Fortunately for me it was just a postpartum thing, possibly thyroiditis but the progesterone supports thyroid function too so I didn’t need anything else to get relief.

Progestin (of the mini-pill) is synthetic so the body doesn’t react to it quite the same way. It can provide some relief but in my experience nowhere near the relief of the natural progesterone.
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January 6, 2012 - 2:09 pm

Angela - @Ellen – Brian Gosser, M.D.! Found ‘em both! Now to see if they’re on my insurance plan…

Thanks again for all the info, everybody!

February 20, 2012 - 12:01 am

Alexandra Pena - First it was for cramps and then for acne that wasn’t helped by OTCs. I will say, however, that there is a significant difference between progesterone supplementation with NaPro and the progesterone in the minipill.
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March 3, 2012 - 11:22 am

Stacy McDonald - This may have already been said, as I haven’t read all the comments, but I’d like to point out that there is just no way that there won’t be consequences to our selfish embrace of a product that risks the murder of our own children (since the Pill can cause an abortion).
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June 5, 2012 - 2:27 pm

Ryan - Fertility is such a gift and 1/6 couples in the US today struggle trying to bring life into the world.

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