Knowledge is power. However, it seems women have been empowered with methods to post-pone pregnancy, but not empowered with the knowledge of the potential side effects that may accompany these decisions. Politics and morals aside, here is my top ten things every woman should know about her reproductive health.
- There is a link between abortion and breast cancer (ABC link). 108 world-wide studies on abortion and breast cancer reveal an overall 30-40% increased risk for those with a history of abortion (1)
- Estrogen is a carcinogen (cancer causing agent). When a healthy pregnancy occurs, the body is flooded with estrogen. The further along a pregnancy is at termination the higher the risk of breast cancer until 32 weeks. There is a 3% increase in risk for every week of gestation until 32 weeks. At 32 weeks, breast tissue matures into cancer-resistant cells. Second trimester miscarriages (or abortions), between 12 and 32 weeks, double your risk of breast cancer. Early miscarriage has not been shown to increase breast cancer as low estrogen often accompanies first trimester miscarriages.
- In 2005, the World Health Organization classified estrogen-progestin combination drugs (birth control) as a Group 1 carcinogen. All hormonal contraception is carcinogenic, increasing a woman’s risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer. Hormone Replacement Therapy for post-menopausal women also increases breast cancer risk.
- Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women 20-59 years old. In North America 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. Only 20% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to family history. In 2011, Parkin published a study in the British Journal of Cancer which found 15% of premenopausal breast cancer was attributable to hormonal contraception. In the U.S. over 9,000 new cases of breast cancer could be eliminated if hormonal contraception ceased (2).
- There is a petition to the CDC right now for a Black Box Warning on birth control for breast cancer, cervical cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, depression and suicide, venous thrombosis and cardiovascular events. Petition on Hormonal Contraceptives PDF accepted by the FDA in 2019.
- Modern Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness based Methods, such as the Creighton Method, SymptoThermal, or Marquette Method are an all natural means of avoiding or achieving pregnancy with efficiency rates similar to hormonal contraception (3). Be cautious about using Apps without instruction as they may be based on the age-old rhythm method that is only 70% effective.
- The pill and other birth control methods are not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy! The pill for example in actual use is ~92% effective, so with 9-10 million women in the US taking it ~810,000 unintended pregnancies occur each year and about half of those end in abortion.
- All hormonal contraception can allow break through ovulation and act as an abortifacient; Abortifacient means the conception of new life (ovulation and fertilization) is possible, but 7-9 days later implantation of that little human being was prevented causing death. The “mini-pill” (progestin only) allows ovulation 50% of the time!
- Over 80 studies show abortion as a risk factor for premature birth. Abortion history can account for 18% of premature births. Things such as an incompetent cervix and placenta previa are more common after surgical abortions. Fifteen states don’t even have informed consent laws requiring doctors to be transparent about the risks that come with abortion.
- The greatest window of risk or susceptibility for breast cancer is between puberty and a woman’s first full term pregnancy. Waiting until 30 to have your first child doubles your risk of breast cancer. Smoking, hormonal contraception use, and abortion during this window increases one’s breast cancer risk significantly. Appropriate screening should be done in those populations at risk.
Has reading this brief list made you thirsty for more information? Watch the documentary Hush for yourself! It is available to stream for $6 at Hushfilm.com or if you are on Formed it is included with your subscription. (Formed is a Catholic media platform available via the web at Formed.org or on the Formed Channel via a web streaming service like Roku, Firestick, etc) The woman who does the film Punam Kumar Gill is a pro-choice Canadian, so don’t dismiss this as “pro-life propaganda.” You can also learn a lot more from breast surgeon and researcher Dr. Angela Lanfranchi (one of the many experts featured in the movie Hush via the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. She has an 18 min lecture called “The Pill Kills” or there is also a great interview with her on “At Home with Jim and Joy.”
Sources: These sources all have more resources and sources on the webpages
The overall increased risk may be small at 30%, but a small risk taken by millions of women results in tens of thousands of women affected. When it came out in 2002, that Hormone Replacement Therapy in post-menopausal women increased breast cancer by 27%, half of the millions of women taking it used that information and chose to discontinue use. Since the passage of Roe v Wade breast cancer in premenopausal women has risen by 400% (SEER data, The Pill Kills). Women have rights over their reproductive health, but they also have the right to transparent information so they can make not just choices, but informed choices.