So there I was, engaged to be married in roughly six months, waiting to see the “Lady Bits Doctor” for the first time. I was there for a pelvic exam and my first prescription for hormonal birth control.
Accompanied by my mother.
I think that pretty much sets the stage…
Unfortunately, things weren’t going super smoothly. Within 10 minutes, the Doc had already doubted my claim to virginity (by asking my mother whether she “believed me”) and then proceeded to demonstrate on a plastic model where the penis is supposed to go.
(Apparently he thought the reason I hadn’t been sexually active is because I didn’t know HOW.)
Shortly after that, we discussed the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which I wrote about on my old blog, here.
Doc: “It only takes having sex one time to catch it!”
Me: “And are some people just born with HPV?”
Doc: “No, it’s an STD. But it’s spreading like crazy, and having sex with an infected person once puts you at risk.”
Me: “But, my fiance and I are virgins.”
Again, Doc repeated, “The virus…could put your unborn children in danger. Is it something you’re willing to gamble?”
Finally, I demanded a straight answer: “If two people have sex with ONLY each other, for life, is there a risk for HPV?”
“No,” he said almost begrudgingly.
“Well, then that sounds like a prenup to me. Thank you, I will opt out.”
I thought that my questions were clear and based on a fairly solid understanding of reproduction, so I couldn’t figure out why Doc seemed to be dodging.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Finally, we arrived at the Contraception Discussion, and I told Doc I was interested in “The Pill.” So he began explaining how they work…
“The advantage to hormone birth control is that it prevents pregnancy TWO ways,” Doc began. “It’s designed to trick a woman’s body into thinking she’s already pregnant, which usually keeps her from ovulating. But, even if you were to ovulate, there is backup protection built in. Hormone pills thin the lining of the uterus, so an egg cannot implant.”
Hang on, a minute!
I had another question.
“You mean a fertilized egg won’t be able to implant, right?” I asked.
Again, Doc looked as if he had no idea why I might even be asking such a thing.
“Riiiight,” he said.
“So the human zygotes can’t attach where they’re supposed to?” I continued.
“Well, it’s just a back-up,” he replied, back-tracking. “Most women won’t ovulate at all.”
At this point, I sort of felt like grabbing his face and saying focus! But, instead I asked, carefully, “Does the Pill cause very early miscarriages?”
Doc looked relieved!
“No, not miscarriages!” he assured me. And he repeated again, “It just thins the lining of the uterus to keep eggs from implanting!”
Then Doc wrote my prescription. And I confidently took that version of The Pill for roughly three years before my husband and I decided to have our first baby.
The only problem was, my doctor’s answer wasn’t completely truthful.
And, now, I have no idea whether that pill actually prevented me from ovulating for three years, or if my husband and I conceived any humans that weren’t able to survive because of the “back up” feature.
Now, I don’t want to believe Doc “lied” on purpose.
Maybe he misunderstood what I was asking. Maybe it was my fault for saying “miscarriage” instead of “spontaneous abortion,” which is the more medically-common term for early miscarriage. (It’s kind of like the word “murder” gets used for average people–while important folks get “assassinated.”)
If I had asked Doc whether The Pill causes “very early assassinations,” he would have been correct to say “no, not assassinations!!!” But he also would have been wrong, if he knew what I meant and said “no” just to get rid of me.
The fact is, sometimes as many as half of women on hormone contraceptives will continue to ovulate, at least occasionally. And, if any of their eggs were fertilized, then the newly-conceived human zygotes would not be able to burrow into the uterus to be fed and grown.
Thanks to The Pill.
You can read more about it here.
I understand why a doctor would hesitate to answer a moral question, like “should I take the pill?” or “will this make me a bad person?”
But the question I was trying to ask was a direct and fairly easy one.
“Will ‘The Pill’ make my womb an unsafe place for a newly-conceived human zygote?”
The answer to that is: YES.