Oral Birth Control and the Catholic Church

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Oral birth control is something that is commonly used in today’s society. It has many different uses besides being used as a contraceptive. Oral birth control is prescribed by many doctors to treat and cure certain medical disease, usually pertaining to the uterus.

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However, the use of this product is a controversial topic when it comes to the Catholic Church. In the beginning stages, the pill was banned and viewed very negatively. As time continues on, the church begins to modernize and still continues to debate if it is okay to use oral birth control strictly for medical uses.

History of Oral Birth Control

The term birth control was coined 1914 by Margret Sanger, the original creator of oral birth control. Oral birth control is a pill that changes hormones and can be used to prevent pregnancy. She got the idea from ancient Egyptian women. Egyptian women found many natural ways that they believed prevented them from getting pregnant. They used combinations of different natural plants, dates, cotton, honey and acai to block or kill the sperm. In the 1950s Sanger paired with Gregory Pincus to develop the birth control pill. Pincus was already testing other experiments but decided to pair up with Sanger after she explained the project and her vision to him. The pair raced against Carl Djerassi as he created his version of the pill that synthesized hormones from Mexican yams. Sanger and Pincus brought on John Rock to help them further their development. Rock was a gynecologist who had already been testing contraceptives in women. The project was funded by a women’s activists Katherine McCormick. McCormick was a public figure and already had many women looking up to her. With her popularity, many women sought after the pill before it was even approved and finalized. (Nikolchev 2010)

In 1957, the team had a breakthrough when the FDA approved of the pill for menstrual disorders. After the FDA approved of this, a large number of women oddly came out and reported having menstrual disorders. The team continued to work on the pill until it finally met the standards of the FDA and could be used as a contraceptive. They reached this goal in 1960. At this time, Sanger reached a remarkable age of eighty years old. She continued to work on the pill and to make as many improvements as she could. After just two years of the pill being approved, 1.2 million women in the united states were on the pill. The number continued to rise. It doubled in year three to 2.3 million. (Nikolchev 2010)

Although the pill was approved by the FDA, not all states allowed it to be used. It was illegal in eight different states including Connecticut. In 1961 a major supreme court case arose, Griswold versus Connecticut. This ruled that in Connecticut any married couple had the right to privacy and the it was violated when the state did not allow for contraception. This law only applied to married couples. It took seven years for this court ruling to be applied to all couples, specifically those unmarried. Initially, when the supreme court made the ruling, New York revoked all its bans on birth control and set an age restriction allowing anyone over the age of 16 to have access to it if desired. Several states followed closely in its footsteps, such as Massachusetts, Ohio, and Minnesota. Other states went even farther than New York and promoted the use of contraceptives, like birth control, for family planning. (Spencer 1966) (Tentler 2004)

In 1965 oral birth control, the pill, becomes the most popular form of birth control in the United States. However, as time went on, more and more people were exposed to the health risks of taking the pill. These risks included side effects such as weight gain, blood clots, heart attacks and an increased risk for a stroke. From here, the pill was reevaluated and was continuously worked on to decrease the side effects. Different brands began to appear, and new types of oral birth control were developed as well. In 2003, a seasonal oral birth control was released to the market. This pill allowed women to only have four periods a year. To this day there are still lawsuits against certain brands of oral birth control due to the side effects that they caused. (Spencer 1966)

Greater uses of Oral Birth Control

Although a common use for the pill is to prevent pregnancy, there are many other medical uses that provide advantages to women. One use is to help prevent and control acne. The combination of the hormones present in the pill work to combat the acne. There are specific types of oral birth control that are used to help with acne treatment. Many doctors find that using a pill that contains both estrogen and progestin is best for acne. These hormones in combination prevent acne from forming. Another medical use for oral birth control is to prevent cysts in ovaries and in breasts. A cyst is an abnormal sac that is filled with fluid. By using oral birth control, it stops ovulation, the egg never leaves its spot so there is no empty sac to be filled with fluid. This prevents new cysts from forming. The oral birth control also helps to control the pain of the preexisting cysts. Oral birth control can also help with the prevention of osteoporosis and bone thinning. This is due to the excess estrogen the pill provides. Later in life, the female body produces less estrogen and the levels continue to decrease as one continues to age. With the pill already being taken, it replenishes the estrogen and makes up for what is not being produced by the body keeping the levels the same. One of the largest reasons that birth control is prescribed, besides pregnancy prevention, is to help maintain hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances can be seasonal, or it can be an everyday thing. With the proper dosage and brand, hormones can be balanced out by the counteraction of the hormones in the pill.
Once the pill has been taken for a few cycles, the body begins to stabilize the hormones and will only have imbalances in hormones if there are other drastic changes in one’s environment. It stabilizes the level of hormones by giving off an excess of whatever hormone is low, or by giving off a hormone that will counteract a different hormone that is too high. It works to keep hormones at one constant level. Oral birth control can also be used to help with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). This is caused by radiation or chemotherapy from different treatments, for example cancer, it can also be caused from Turners syndrome. Women who have POI do not produce enough estrogen. The pill has estrogen in it which makes up for the lack of it being produced by the body.
Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when the tissue lining of the uterus grows in other places that is not the uterus. When the woman is on her period, the tissue sheds the lining and bleeds no matter the location. This is very painful because the blood cannot easily get out of your body when the tissue is not located in its correct place in the uterus. Oral birth control allows for the period to be less frequent or stopped completely if one desires. There are many other less serious disorders that oral birth control can help maintain. Many of them deal with regulating the menstrual cycle to help with things such as cramping, irregular periods (both too frequent and not frequent enough), less body hair growth. It also helps relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD. (Heywood 2017) (Vecchia 1999) (Health Guidelines 2018)

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