Contraceptives are Harmful to Women

September 26, 2008
Those who are advocating the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippine
Congress are guilty of gross misrepresentation. They maintain that the bill is intended to
promote the health of women. That claim could not be farther from the truth. There are
abundant scientific and medical evidences that the so-called "modern methods" of family
planning, such as birth control pills, intrauterine device (IUD), barrier methods
(condoms/diaphragms) and ligation can have harmful effects to millions of women all over
the world.
In a most enlightening paper by Dr. Angelita Miguel-Aguirre, M.D., Fellow and
Diplomate of the Philippine College of Physicians and Chairperson of the Committee on
Ethics of the Makati Medical Society, the ill effects of contraceptives on women's health are
very well documented. Unfortunately, these harmful consequences of contraceptives are
hidden by the promoters of birth control, especially from unsuspecting poor women who
have no access to the information that experts like Dr. Miguel-Aguirre provide to the public.
Even worse, there are advertising and marketing campaigns funded by the anti-life people
(such as those appearing in some local T.V. channels) that present contraceptives as
"essential medicines," peddling outright lies that pills and contraceptives can cure cervical
cancer and other female diseases.
What does an expert like Dr. Miguel-Aguirre say about birth control pills? According to
her, on top of numerous studies showing the carcinogenic properties of birth control pills
since the development of the synthetic estrogens in 1938 by Sir Edward Charles Dodds, the
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization
(WHO) announced last July 29, 2005 that "after a thorough review of the published scientific
literature, it has concluded that combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (and
combined estrogen-progestogen menopausal therapy) are carcinogenic to humans (Group 1
category, which is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans).
Prior to this announcement, a respected journalist from Columbia University, Barbara
Seaman, after years of research, published several books exposing estrogen's detrimental
effect on the health of women. Notable among these books are the "The Doctor's Case
Against the Pill," and "The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women. Exploding the
Estrogen Myth." Barbara Seaman is a co-founder of the National Women's Health Network,
a women's advocacy group in Washington D.C., that refused money from the drug industry
as part of its charter.
There are numerous adverse effects of the pill on women that have been equally well
documented. They are breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, premature hypertension
thromboembolism/pulmonary embolism. Other negative side effects are decreased libido,
infertility, leg cramps, gallstone formation, nausea, and bloatedness. Although some women
may notice improvement in their complexion, others may develop acne by using the pill. It is
claimed to reduce the risk for ovarian cancer. But evidently this is outweighed by its
numerous risks for more common forms of cancer. Unfortunately, the side effects most
frequently communicated to potential users, in order to qualify for "informed choice," are
simple headaches, increased weight or increased appetite or other minor ailments.
The top three causes of mortality in the Philippines are 1) diseases of the heart; 2)
diseases of the vascular system; and 3) malignant neoplasm. With the aggressive promotion
of the contraceptive pill, many of the casualties of these diseases will be women who will be
suffering from the adverse effects of synthetic estrogen as is already happening in developed
countries. It must be pointed out that next to lung cancer, breast cancer is the most common
cause of malignancy in our country and only 5 to 10% of those women with breast cancer
have a genetic predisposition. There are studies in Indonesia (Bustan Contraception 1993)
which show that the risk of breast cancer among Indonesian women is 210% for those who
started taking the pill at age 22 and below; 70% risk for women age 22 to 26 and 60% risk for
women age 27 and up.
Another contraceptive being promoted by the population control advocates is the
intrauterine device or the IUD. The IUD is not a contraceptive. As categorically stated by
Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the late expert on Fundamental Genetics of the University of Paris, "the
IUD acts primarily by preventing the embryo from implanting--not by preventing conception.
It is, therefore, an abortifacient, not a contraceptive." A textbook entitled "The Reproductive
System, Principle of Anatomy and Physiology," by Tortora and Grabowski provides a
succinct description of the IUD: "IUDs cause changes in the uterine lining that prevent
implantation of the fertilized ovum."
The effect is known to both the promoters and
manufacturers of IUDs. Because of the high incidence of litigations resulting from the
adverse effects suffered by women in the U.S., prospective users have to sign a seven-page
document before the device is inserted in the U.S. Because an abortion actually takes place
here, there is also the psychological trauma that can cause long-term depression symptoms
among women who have undergone abortion.
The barrier methods--condoms and diaphragms--have the highest rate of failures among
birth control methods, varying from 4 to 30 percent, depending on the age group surveyed.
These are the causes of most of the so-called unwanted pregnancies which generally end up
with abortion. These devices also contribute to increased incidence of sexually transmitted
disease/infection (STD/STI). The widespread use of condoms in Thailand ironically has led
to an explosion in the number of women infected with HIV. Because condoms encourage
promiscuity, they also indirectly contribute to the spread of the Human Papiloma virus
(HPV), which is the major cause of cervical cancer. Barrier methods are ineffective since
shedding occurs from widespread areas of the perineum. HPV causes warts anywhere on the
skin and mucous membranes.
The adverse effect of tubal ligation are also well known. They are hemorrhage and
bleeding; increased risk of heavy menses in the long term; increased future gynecological rate
of surgery, including hysterectomy; adverse anesthesia effects; and post-tubal ligation
syndrome. There are so many health risks that accompany the use of artificial contraceptives
or abortifacient devices that they far outweigh the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth to a
woman's health. It would be wiser for the Government to invest instead in basic obstetric
care and emergency obstetric care equipment and services and provide skilled medical staff
to the childbirth centers. The bill, if it is at all to be considered for final legislation, should
focus on how to make available to all poor women the basic obstetric care and emergency
obstetric care that can significantly cut down the number of women dying in childbirth. The
focus should be on maternal health, not on preventing maternity. For comments, my email
address is