FERTILITY AWARENESS: This method teaches women how to determine their fertile days through observation of cervical mucous and temperature changes. If correctly taught and understood, this method can be highly effective (see chapter on knowing your body's cycles).
THE MORNING AFTER PILL: This consists of two birth control pills (50mg ovral pills are usually used) taken right after unprotected sex, and two taken 12 hours later. The pills prevent implantation of the egg in the womb in 95 to 98 percent of the cases. Used as an emergency method, it is reasonably safe. Side effects include nausea in 40 percent of the cases, and vomiting in 15 to 20 percent. Withdrawal bleeding should occur within two to three weeks after taking the morning after pill. If it does not, a pregnancy test must be done.
Robyn McKenzie, a medical journalist, puts it this way: "I was amused at the recent press coverage of Ben Johnson's steroid use. The side effects include decreased testicular size and lowered sex drive. The general opinion was that no man in his right mind or who was not misled would subject himself to this hormone horror. Why is it O.K. to let millions of women be subjected to poorly understood hormone treatments?"
Mr. Percy Skuy, the president of ORTHO Pharmaceutical, a large manufacturer of the pill, said in an interview in the Globe and Mail, "I'd be happy to see the pill knocked off the pedestal that it's on. People have lost sight of the fact that it is a drug."
In a court ruling in January 1986 awarding damages to a 22-year-old woman who had suffered a stroke while on the pill, the judges noted that the pills "have presented society with problems unique in the history of human therapeutics... At no time have so many people voluntarily taken such potent drugs over such a protracted time for an objective other than the control of disease."
According to the Boston Women's Health Collective (Our Bodies, Ourselves, revised 1992), "The National Women's Health Network cautions that although pills with lower dosages of estrogen do seem to be safer than the pills used in the 1960's, there are no data to support the claim that pills in current use have all the positive effects and none of the negative effects of higher dose pills."
Between one million and one and a half million women in Canada use the birth control pill, a steroid medication, with serious and proven risks believing that they have no choice. Of course pregnancy itself is risky. In many cases, it is much riskier than being on the pill. But the choice is not between pregnancy and the pill, but between the pill and safer methods of birth control that also offer much more protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
For Further Reading
THE NEW OUR BODIES OURSELVES by the Boston Woman's Health Collective (revised, Simon and Shuster, 1992). This book is an indispensable guide for women, which I suggest that every woman should have in her home reference library.
This well known public information center contains national and international publications concerning women's health and other issues pertaining to women. NATIONAL WOMEN'S HEALTH NETWORK, 1325 G St NW, Washington, DC, 200003. 202-347-1140.
This is a national organization devoted exclusively to women and health. It publishes a newsletter as well as special news alerts concerning issues requiring immediate attention.
This press has an excellent fifty page booklet entitled A BOOK ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL for $4.00 from that address. It also has excellent booklets on sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual assault.
You can obtain a copy of the 1985 REPORT ON ORAL CONTRACEPTIVES, free, by writing to:
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