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Meds not only contraception option

Q. My husband and I do not want to use oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, but all of the information available seems to guide me toward medicines. What other resources do I have? Where do I start?

A. Yes, there are other options commonly used to space out pregnancies or to avoid pregnancy, depending on your situation. I don’t know your needs, so I will give some background information on why medications are not necessary. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I should explain that I have stopped prescribing medicines for contraception.

When women take hormones for contraception, they are changing their body chemistry when they don’t need to. Depending on the drug, many women have issues with weight gain, headaches and other side effects. Women who smoke, especially over age 35, may be at a much higher risk of a cardiovascular event. Those who suffer from migraines with auras may have a much higher risk of stroke. In 2005, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified combined oral contraceptives as a Group 1 carcinogen after a thorough review of the published scientific evidence. In addition, many people do not realize that hormonal contraceptives do not always suppress ovulation; they also work by thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent the implantation of an embryo should conception occur, and therefore can cause a very early abortion.

The option I promote in my medical practice is called Natural Family Planning. It is a scientific method of regulating conception based on daily observation and interpretation of the natural signs of fertility and infertility which occur in a woman’s body. Using this knowledge, a couple can identify the days on which conception is possible should they desire to either achieve or to avoid a pregnancy. International studies confirm that, when used to avoid pregnancy, NFP has an effectiveness rate of 98 percent to 99 percent for a couple who has been properly instructed and who follows the method carefully.

Besides equipping a couple either to achieve or to avoid a pregnancy, this knowledge enables a woman to monitor her gynecological health and identify any abnormalities early on. Even women with irregular periods can use NFP with great accuracy.

There is a huge number of resources regarding NFP on the Internet, in books and in Fort Wayne. The most well-known methods that chart and interpret the cervical mucus pattern are the Billings ovulation method and the Creighton Model Fertility Care System. The Couple to Couple League is one method that monitors cervical mucus, basal body temperature and other signs. There is even an iPhone app called NFP Charting.

One more thing: your biological clock is always ticking. A woman’s fertility is very high in her 20s, slightly less in her early 30s, then much lower. Many couples in the U.S. are putting off pregnancy until their 30s for various reasons and some of those couples may find it more difficult to conceive when they are ready to start or add onto their family.

Dr. Julie Bryan practices internal medicine with Parkview Physicians Group. “Ask the Doctor” is a health column by doctors from Parkview Physicians Group. Send questions to Terri Richardson at The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or email trich@jg.net. Please put “Ask the Doctor” for the subject line.

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