Skip the pill — choose wholeness for your teen

(Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 via Unsplash)

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” —St. Catherine of Siena

Parenting is really hard. We want to have freedom and control over all situations, and give our kids absolutely everything good. How do we raise our children to have a more abundant life, to be confident, smart, successful, and holy in this crazy world? As our kids get older and have more freedom, more friends, and more opinions, there are so many more ways we start to worry about their wellbeing. One area we might encounter this worry is in the realm of health and sex education for teens.

It’s not uncommon for teen girls to be prescribed hormonal contraception within a few years of their period starting. Sometimes this is to “treat” irregular cycles or heavy periods, but I think we sometimes need to be honest with ourselves as parents. There might be a feeling of relief thinking there's less chance of an unplanned pregnancy, as if it’s an insurance policy against life-altering consequences of fallen human behavior. It turns out the pill is far less effective at preventing pregnancy in teens than in adults. We might perceive it as a guarantee “just in case” something happens, but the typical use pregnancy rate in teens is 10-15% after one year of use and beyond (compared to 5% in adults).

When a girl goes on the pill, her natural cycles and fertility are suppressed by an almost constant flow of synthetic hormones. This cycle suppression can lead to a great deal of side effects, and also prevents a girl’s natural hormones from providing healthy benefits. Synthetic hormones can affect bone development, increase the chances of blood clots and cancer, lead to a worsening of anxiety and depression, and even influence who a woman is attracted to. Conversely, a girl's natural hormones help to balance mood, support muscle, bone and brain development, reduce inflammation, and protect the cardiovascular system.

These side effects aren’t limited to the pill: hormone-containing long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine-devices (IUDs) or other implantable devices (like Nexplanon) have similar side effects, with the added risks of displacement, infection, and uterine perforation. Even copper IUDs, which don’t contain hormones, can cause heavier periods, mid-cycle bleeding, and more painful periods.

Beyond the physical effects, the intentional alteration of natural hormones and fertility might inadvertently send another message: if a girl feels it's necessary to take a pill to suppress her cycle in order to live a full life, does that mean the part that’s being suppressed is bad? Does that mean it’s bad to be a healthy woman?

There is a better way. Let’s equip our kids with self-knowledge and an appreciation for the beauty of fertility. We can learn to celebrate the way our bodies call us to self-gift, and share this with others. We can integrate fertility into our lives and rejoice in the goodness of how the body is created. It’s not impossible for a teen girl to learn to chart her cycles and find patterns in her mood and hormones that can lead to a fuller appreciation of how she is created, and truly integrate the beauty of fertility into her identity.

To integrate means to combine things to become whole. Fertility truly is a part of the whole person. We don’t need to live in fear of a beautiful and healthy aspect of ourselves. A young woman doesn't need to delete a portion of herself to integrate with the world. We do not belong to the world; we belong to our Heavenly Father, and we are His beloved children. He chose each one of us, individually, to be set apart from the beginning of creation. We are his handiwork, created for good works, and set apart to be holy and whole (Ephesians 2).

To be holy can be a difficult journey, but I assure you it is a journey that is worth it. When I was a teenager, I wished I had more adults I could look up to who waited to have sex until they were married, who didn’t use contraception, who were open to life and the heroic virtue that is necessary to live married love. Kids should know it is possible to do those things, but not on our own. We need all the graces we can get. Our kids need parents who will strive to grow in their own holiness, and share the joy that is the fruit of the struggle. Parenting and family life are good, and we don’t need to be afraid. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that God is the one Who is good, and He will take care of everything, including our children's wellbeing. We can trust our Good Father to give us, and our children, everything we need. No prescription needed.

Lauren Vitale, BSN, RN, MMCP, is a registered nurse with a background in pediatric nursing, and a Certified Marquette Method instructor. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Marquette Method Professionals Association, and enjoys collaborating with other healthcare professionals to improve access to high-quality fertility and holistic health classes. She is co-owner and clinical director of Whole Mission, which seeks to grow and promote access to, and research for, secure methods of natural family planning, specifically the Marquette Method, and to provide breastfeeding education and support for women and families.


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