‘Petition on Hormonal Contraceptives’: The Real Effects of Hormonal Birth Control
Below is Part I in a 3-part series on the physical and psychological effects of the birth control pill. We will share this important article today and the next two Wednesdays. Be sure to read each part so that you can share this information with your friends and family. Their well-being and their lives may depend on it.
By Susan Ciancio
Breast cancer. Cervical cancer. Depression. Mood disorders. Suicide. Multiple sclerosis. Ulcerative colitis. Venous thromboembolism. Inflammatory bowel disease. Systemic lupus erythematosus. Cystitis. Crohn’s disease. Urogenital effects. Cardiovascular events. Increased chance of HIV transmission.
Your doctor rattled off those words like he was calling roll in a classroom. But each one made you cringe a little more than the last. You could feel your eyes widening as the list grew. Side effects—for a drug you don’t even need, for a drug not designed to alleviate a sickness. You look at him dubiously, as if maybe he’s joking. These can’t all be side effects from one drug, you think. But the look on his face tells you that he is not joking. In fact, he is very serious. And luckily for you, he cares enough about you to tell you what could happen if he prescribes the drug you’re asking for. You start to think to yourself: I don’t want to do that to my body. I value my health too much. I respect my body more than that.
You wonder why you never heard any of this before, and you realize you’re going to have to rethink your desire for hormonal birth control.
In June 2019, 10 doctors and researchers who had formed a Contraceptive Study Group published a document entitled Petition on Hormonal Contraceptives. This document evaluated existing literature and synthesized studies on hormonal birth control in order to present information on their side effects in one comprehensive document. The Contraceptive Study Group’s goal was to not only warn potential users, but also to petition the government to add black box—or warning—labels onto the boxes of contraception and to include warnings on patient-related information so that women know and understand the risks of the chemicals they put into their bodies. This article serves as an overview of just some of the major findings and of the information this group desperately wants to put forward for all to know.
The members of the Contraceptive Study Group understand the damage hormonal contraceptives do to women, to the babies they may carry, and to the families who love them. That is why they undertook the daunting task of reading, interpreting, compiling, and then disseminating the information they found. In all, this petition cites 230 outside sources—not counting those related to the environmental impact. This petition was not only a labor of love and compassion for their fellow human beings but also serves as a wake-up call to people who unknowingly—or knowingly—ingest these harmful chemicals.
Millions of women take hormonal birth control or receive contraceptive injections without any idea about the poison they’re putting into their bodies. According to the petition, “Based on data from the Guttmacher Institute, a conservative estimate of 11 million women aged 15-44 in the US take some form of hormonal contraceptive each day. A 2015 study reports that about 21 percent of women of reproductive years are using some form of hormonal contraceptive, which equates to about 13 million women (Daniels 2015).”
In addition, millions of babies die when these contraceptives thin the lining of the uterine wall, thus preventing the baby from implanting.
Hormonal contraceptives have been on the market for over 50 years, yet the scope of the devastation and health ramifications they have caused can never be known. Some women don’t even realize that the causes of the health problems they face may be contraception. If this petition succeeds in its intent, pharmaceutical companies will have to disclose these side effects.
The petition begins by listing the side effects of combined estrogen-progestogen contraceptives (COCs). Many are mentioned in the first paragraph above. COCs include oral, intravaginal, and transdermal formulations. The petition lists the brand names of all of these—in six pages.
According to the team, progestogen-only contraceptives (POCs) “have not been extensively studied, but one large registry study did show a significantly increased risk of breast cancer with use of POCs.”
Furthermore, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies COCs as Group I carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer in humans.
The petition recommends that the government “remove from the market the injectable contraceptive Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA; Depo-Provera) based on conclusive evidence that it facilitates the transmission of HIV from men to women.” It then recommends that black box warnings should be added for the following diseases and conditions: breast cancer, cervical cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, depression and suicide, venous thrombosis, and cardiovascular events. In addition, safety information should be added to advertisements and patient-related materials about multiple sclerosis, bone fractures, body mass effects, and urogenital problems.
Countless women suffer the side effects of hormonal contraception. Countless women feel duped by healthcare providers, by pharmaceutical companies, and by organizations that tout the benefits of COCs. Rarely do they hear of these side effects—side effects that can appear after long-term use, after a few months, or even after just a few short weeks.
In conjunction with the petition, the public is asked to post comments or stories to this site in order to encourage the government to add warnings to contraceptive labels. Many of these comments reference tragic and heartbreaking stories of loss—loss of life, loss of health, and loss of autonomy.
You might wonder why many physicians don’t warn their patients about these side effects. Dr. Ken Stone offers some insight:
It is common practice that physicians do not discuss any significant adverse effects of oral contraceptives or require an informed consent. Some colleagues have said to me that they do not want to say anything that would deter them from using the pill. Standard adverse effects in formularies for prescribed contraceptive medicines usually do not mention the most severe ones like pulmonary embolus, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, etc.
This petition for removing certain contraceptives from the market, listing those adverse effects that should have black box warnings in prescribed contraceptives, and those that need additional safety warnings in prescribed contraceptives provide[s] more than adequate research data to require the actions requested. As a family practice physician for the past 41 years, I believe the scandal of not informing women of the known side effects of contraceptives is an egregious injustice and needs immediate correction.
The members of the Contraceptive Study Group believe that the public should know the truth. Throughout the next several pages, we will discuss some of the findings and data they presented regarding many of the major side effects of hormonal contraception. To read the petition in its entirety, and to see the comprehensive list of side effects, visit the petition’s site.
Be sure to catch Part II next Wednesday.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at hli.org/2020/04/petition-on-hormonal-contraceptives.