(NaturalNews) Throughout history women have found many interesting ways to practice birth control. There is evidence of women in ancient Rome tying a pouch around their left foot that contained a cat's liver in the belief that it would prevent pregnancy. Some would spit in the mouth of a frog three times in hopes of the same outcome.
There is evidence that Egyptian women may have used substances such as crocodile dung to prevent pregnancy. As strange as it may sound, they never gave a second thought to using such substances. Where and how it was used will be left to the imagination.
Egyptian women may have actually been onto something. As early as 1850 BC, ancient Egyptians were responsible for using the infamous dung in conjunction with the female irrigating her vagina with a mixture of honey and sodium bicarbonate. The Ancient Egyptians also soaked cotton with lactic acid anhydride (LAA) and inserted it into the vaginal canal. LAA is a chief ingredient in modern contraceptive jellies. According to an ancient manuscript called Ebers Papyrus, 1550 BC, it was common to combine dates, acacia bark and honey into a paste and place it in the vulva. Although it may sound archaic today, this method was often effective because as the sugar fermented it was converted into lactic acid, a well-known spermicide. They obviously were on the right track.
Today is really no different. The only difference is that science has introduced chemical hormones to trick our bodies into believing that we are pregnant constantly to prevent pregnancy, not to mention the other methods that seem to be emanating like neon signs from nearly every OBGYN clinic.
We will discuss some of the medical options for women and men. Later we will look at some natural approaches for both sexes as well.
Introduced in the 1960's, the pill has been one of the most widely used contraceptives in the world. It is estimated that over 100 million women worldwide are currently on the pill.
There are many brands, types, and dosages of birth control pills. There is even one now touting that you can have "only four periods a year."
While many women find the pill convenient for birth control, there are health risks and factors that must be considered when making the decision to begin a birth control pill regimen.
* Increased risk of breast and cervical cancers
* Increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
* Gall bladder disease
* Increased blood pressure
* Weight gain
* Mood changes
* Irregular bleeding or spotting
* Benign liver tumors
* Breast tenderness
* Yeast overgrowth and infection
* Depletion of important nutrients, including vitamins B2, B6 and B12
There are those that feel that the birth control benefit of the pill is only a perk. Some women use the pill to regulate their periods and insist that there is no other way to do so.
According to some of the top holistic practitioners, having irregular periods, endometriosis, or cysts is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. There is typically an underlying dysfunction in the adrenal glands and balancing the progesterone and cortisol levels is imperative. Taking the pill only treats the symptoms that are presenting on the surface and is rarely needed. Continuing to treat the symptoms instead of the disease only introduces the female body to further damage and side effects by continuing to overload it with extra hormones.
As a recent AP article pointed out, the pill is now under scrutiny for possibly sabotaging a woman's ability to choose an appropriate partner by disrupting the ability to detect the MHC (major histocompatibility complex) that is compatible for her genetic make-up. In other words, a woman cannot smell the males pheromones that are compatible for her and confuses her olfactory system into choosing an incompatible mate and the relationships do not have as much longevity as the relationship of women who are not taking birth control.
With convenience on its side, The NuvaRing is quickly becoming a popular birth control method among young women.
Unlike birth control pills, which must be taken daily, Nuva Ring is put in place once a month and releases hormones continuously throughout the month. It is then removed for one week to allow the menstrual cycle to continue.
This particular method, because of its chemical similarities to the Pill, carries with it the same dangers. According to the NuvaRing Lawsuit Center:
"Third generation contraceptives were first developed in the 1980's with the goal of producing a contraceptive with fewer adverse effects. As early as 1995, studies concluded that third generation contraceptives containing desogestrel had almost double the risk of venous thrombosis (blood clot) compared to second generation oral contraceptives. The FDA confirmed this risk in 1995 stating 'new studies indicate that a two-fold increase in the risk of venous blood clots associated with products containing desogestrel.'
Currently there have been no non-industry sponsored studies comparing the benefits of third generation oral contraceptives such as NuvaRing to second generation contraceptives."
The worst side effect listed on The NuvaRing website is "increased risk of heart attack or stroke." But patients are warned to contact their doctor if they experience the following: severe abdominal pains, chest pain or shortness of breath, severe headaches, eye problems such as blurred vision, or severe leg/arm pain or numbness.
Essure is a relatively new (tested since 1997) sterilization procedure that can be completed in your doctor's office.
Many women are opting for this procedure because there is no cutting, burning, or destruction of the fallopian tubes as with tubal ligation (having your tubes tied). Nor do they release hormones as with birth control pills, IUD, The Ring, or the patch.
The procedure involves a spring like coil being inserted into your fallopian tubes and over a three month period the woman's body creates scar tissue to block the eggs from dropping and therefore being fertilized. Unlike a tubal ligation, this procedure is not reversible.
Side effects or dangers? The only ones discussed according to the official site are cramping and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the egg implants in the fallopian tube which can cause the tube to rupture if undetected). But this procedure is only four years old, we will have to wait and see if the results are still as remarkable in the years to come.
For a sneak preview, see this message board from recipients of the Essure procedure:
Although it seems as though the only options men have in preventing pregnancy is the traditional condom or implicit trust in their current partner, they have a few conventional and natural options.
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure in which the vasa deferentia is severed and cauterized or clamped to prohibit sperm mixing with semen. Instead, the sperm is redirected back into the scrotum to be reabsorbed by the body (this is referred to as an open ended vasectomy).
Although many men choose this option, most have made the decision that their family is complete, but there is a rising number of young men in the population that are choosing this option before they find a significant other because they have made the choice that they do not care to have children at all.
In either case, this seemingly safe option raises an eyebrow or two upon closer inspection.
Mostly effective, the vasectomy has some failure rate in the early months following the procedure. Though late failure rate (years following the procedure) is rare; there have been some documented cases. Some studies have also found evidence of decrease in sexual desire following vasectomy and increased risk of dementia later in life.
One major concern regarding this procedure is "Post Vasectomy Pain Syndrome". Appearing in between 5%-35% of patients (dependent on the pain threshold relevant to the particular study), pain has been noted in some men as: pain with intercourse, physical exertion, or ejaculation. Some studies have only seen a 65% decrease in pain levels even with reversal. In severe cases that did not respond to treatment, the patients resorted to castration.
Some men have had issues with formation of sperm granulomas. As the sperm collects in the testes due to pressure, some men have shown an auto immune response after a period of time. Their own bodies create antibodies that attack their sperm, form the granulomas to contain and absorb the excess, the body then treats the sperm as foreign and eventually these burst causing severe pain.
The Pill for Men
Researchers have been searching for an oral male contraceptive for decades. Unfortunately, all have shown themselves to either be toxic or have severe side effects such as unexpected sterility.
The studies continue of drugs that are currently on the market, natural sources such as papaya seeds and cloves, and not only men, but women around the world seem to be awaiting the break-through research that will put men in a more active role for birth control.
Have We Really Come That Far?
Considering ancient practices of birth control and examining some of the options we have available today, the question remains: Have we really come that far?
Do the current medical practices seem less barbaric than the ideas of the Egyptians? Cutting of the genitals? Screwing springs into the fallopian tubes? Pumping the body with chemicals to prevent pregnancy but that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and hormonal imbalances? Risking life-long irreversible pain?
Aside from diaphragms, cervical caps, condoms, and spermicides, there are many ways to prevent pregnancy naturally that are much safer for both men and women. If practiced correctly and in conjunction, the methods are highly effective and failure rates are very low.
1. Checking cervical mucous - As a woman draws closer to the time of ovulation, her cervix produces a clear mucous. Becoming thinner and stickier, then slippery and very stretchy that is of an egg white consistency as ovulation is imminent. Women who are trying to avoid pregnancy should delay intercourse while this mucous is present or find another form of birth control during this time. By itself, this method has a 20% failure rate per year. Combined with other methods, it is very reliable.
2. Basal Body Temperature Method - This method is based on the fact that a woman's body temperature drops approximately 12-24 hours before ovulation begins and then increases again after the egg has been released. The change in temperature is less than one degree so it is important to have a Basal Thermometer. The woman's temperature must be taken every morning, noted, and monitored each month. A woman should refrain from having sexual intercourse from the time her temperature drops until at least 48 to 72 hours after her temperature increases again.
3. Ovulation Kits and Predictors - These are the standard ovulation kits that can be purchased at any pharmacy. These measure luteinizing hormones (LH). The LH surges just before ovulation occurs and is detectable approximately 8-12 hours before hand. The standard kit measures the LH in the urine. There are also predictors that are basically small microscopes that test the saliva. Each morning a drop of saliva is placed on the lens of the microscope. When dry, the lens can then be examined for signs of ovulation. During infertile periods, the results look like dark spots on the lens. As ovulation begins, the saliva will appear to have a crystalline fern pattern. Intercourse should be avoided when the "fern" pattern is noted or other forms of birth control should be practiced. These devices may also be purchased at your local pharmacy (if you cannot purchase this locally please visit: http://www.zellersnaturalhealth.com/ovu_tec....) .
4. Symptothermal Method - This method is a combination of basal body temperature, calendar aspects, and mucus inspection. All factors are taken into consideration as well as other symptoms that the woman may experience at the onset of ovulation such as slight pinching or cramping in the abdomen and breast tenderness.
5. Lemon Juice - There was some evidence suggested in a recent study regarding the use of lemon juice as a spermicide. Soaking a sponge in lemon juice and then inserting into the vagina near the cervix proved to be a relatively effective spermicide as the acidity level killed the sperm instantly. More research is needed for this method but could be promising. This method is suggested only if the two partners involved do not have pregnancy prevention as a high priority until research is more conclusive.
6. Heat Method for Men - Although not enough research has been done in recent years regarding heat methods for men to prevent pregnancy, there were thorough studies carried out in the 1930's and 40's. It's no secret that the testes must be consistently several degrees cooler than normal body temperature to produce healthy sperm. According to a study completed in 1988 by Kandeel and Swerdloff, fertile men suffering from high temperatures remained infertile until they were well again. This meant that newborns would have healthy fathers and increased infant survival rates.
Following a 10 year study Dr. M. Voegeli completed with 9 male participants, temporary sterilization of the men was accomplished with no negative side effects reported.
"A man sits in a [shallow or testes-only] bath of 116 degrees Fahrenheit for forty-five minutes daily for three weeks. Six months of sterility results, after which normal fertility returns. For longer sterility, the treatment is repeated" (Corea, 1985 p. 179). Water at 116˚ Fahrenheit (46.7˚ Celsius) was found to reliably produce at least six months of sterility (Voegeli, 1956). Water at lower temperatures produced shorter periods of infertility; for example, water at 110˚ produced at least four months of infertility according to (www.newmalecontraception.org) .
The first normal reaction to hearing "116˚F" is one of fear. How hot is 116˚F?
The average shower is typically around 114˚ F.
If you can write your name on the mirror, chances are you could also avoid getting your significant other pregnant.
As promising as the "wet heat" method seems, some may find this method inconvenient and time consuming. It may be time consuming but it is inexpensive and has the potential to provide many months of pregnancy protection. When compared with the complications that could arise from a vasectomy, men may want to take pause to explore their options when it comes to this method over the risk of living with incessant pain for the rest of their lives or nodules that must be removed or burst.
As for me? If it means taking toxic hormone pills everyday, having springs screwed into my fallopian tubes, going to my doctor once a month to have something inserted or removed, getting a hormone shot that has the potential to give me breast cancer, having my navel and fallopian tubes cut and tied in a knot, or just having all of my female reproductive organs removed to avoid pregnancy all together?
Jennifer McKinley is a wife, mother of five, home-schooler, and business owner. She has spent many years researching issues dealing with holistic and natural medicine and how different chemicals in our homes, foods, medications, and environments affect our health and quality of life. Her goal is to promote public awareness and knowledge regarding these issues. She has recently launched a hand made personal care product company promoting natural and chemical free skin care. Please visit www.urbannaturals.net