By Patrick B. Craine

CALGARY, Alberta, January 12, 2010 ( – In one of a pair of recent articles by major Canadian media exploring how women are increasingly turning away from hormonal contraception, the executive director for Sexual Health Access Alberta (formerly known as Planned Parenthood Alberta), bemoans the lack of information about natural family planning.

The pill has served for decades as a symbol of the feminist push for “reproductive freedom,” but in the most recent of the two articles, published yesterday in Canwest papers across the country, the SHAA director criticized the medical establishment for its pill-focused approach to contraception.

“What I see in our communities is an absolute failure to move beyond the idea that hormonal birth control is the be-all and end-all,” said Laura Wershler. “What's happening is we're not developing support, programs and advocacy for women looking for non-hormonal methods.”

“There's this lack of knowledge and understanding within my own field,” Wershler continued, referring to natural methods of birth regulation that involve awareness about the woman’s reproductive cycle. “Women are going to sexual-health clinics and being laughed off by the doctors and clinics for looking for alternatives.”

Featured on the homepage of SHAA's website is a link to a November 2009 Maclean’s Magazine article, describing why women are “ditching” the pill.  They point out some of the health concerns that have been raised, such as the April study from Texas A&M University that linked the pill with poor muscle growth, as well as mentioning parenthetically the research that has linked the pill with breast and cervical cancer.

Another reason for the shift away from the pill, Maclean’s says, is a greater cultural concern for natural products, as evidenced, for example, through the rise of organic produce.  “There’s an emotional identity attached to achieving your own menstrual cycle, and being able to read your body,” one woman explained. “When you’re on the pill, it’s the doctor who’s controlling your cycle. You don’t own it.”

Environmentalism is a factor as well, according to Maclean’s.  They note that studies have shown negative effects on fish populations due to high levels of synthetic estrogens in the water that have gone out through urine and sewage treatment plants.  Further, they mention the fact that the pill decreases a woman's libido, and, in a recent study, was found to have an influence on women's choices regarding men.

But there is growing evidence that these reasons merely scratch the surface of the problems with the pill.

Studies have linked the drug with increased occurrences of heart attacks, bowel disease, heart disease, stroke, chronic headaches, and a hardening of the arteries, among other things.

One study found that the pill not only reduced a woman's sex drive while she took the drug, but could do so permanently.

While Maclean’s' source told them that the pill's link to breast and cervical cancer is inconclusive, the World Health Organization believes otherwise.  In 2005, they announced that they had classified estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives, the most common form of the pill, as a carcinogenic. 

The pill has been linked with numerous deaths in the U.S., Switzerland, Ireland, and other countries, resulting from blood clots that lead to pulmonary embolisms or strokes.

It has also been found to put a woman's future children in danger.  A study found that boys whose mother had taken the pill while they were in utero are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer and bladder disease later in life.  Another found that women who conceive within a month of taking the pill tend to have premature babies or babies with a low birth weight.

Besides these risks to future children, the pill is also abortifacient.  One of the drug's functions is to kill babies who have already been conceived by not allowing them to implant in the uterus, as the American Society of Reproductive Medicine stated at the end of 2008.

The growing body of evidence against the pill appears to lend credence to the view of Dr. Sam Epstein, a world leader in cancer causes, who has declared that the pill is “the largest unregulated human trial that’s ever been conducted.”

See the Macleans article: Ditching the pill for good

See the Canwest article: Women seek alternative birth-control methods