Saturday, May 24, 2008


This blog has been a tad bit tired lately. I'm tired of how tired it is. Putting up linkys is nice and all, but I want to do a bit better. I haven't had a ton of amazing, scintillating, exciting thoughts on my mind lately, but now, I do have a few worries. Join with me in worrying about... vaccines. It sounds insidious when you kind of hiss that word out.

Vaccines have been something I've worried on and off about since Seth has been born, before that really. As much as I like modern medicine in some ways, I am quite distrustful of it in others. Especially when it comes to powerful medication, which, in my case, has felt like a force for both great good and great harm.

A little background is in order. I am well aware that some people out there may think I'm a little nuts, but I am pretty convinced that birth control pills caused my infertility. Here's why... I took them for less than a year, the first year that David and I were married. Before I took them, I had a regular period, like clockwork, from the time I was 13 until I was 21. After 8 months on them, I got off (because I thought other forms of birth control might be better), and my period did not come back, except in little spurts, every 2 or even 3 months. When I finally went to see a doctor about this a year later, he wasn't surprised. None of the doctors I talked to about this were surprised. He told me I wasn't ovulating, and he couldn't tell when when I'd start ovulating again. He told me that it could be anywhere from tomorrow to 10 years from now. I was pretty shocked. He was the most honest doctor I've talked to, and looking back, I appreciate his honesty. He wasn't willing to say that the pill caused my lack of ovulation, but he came far closer than most doctors.

Orthotrycyclen works by telling your brain to tell your body to stop ovulating. It creates a chemical change in your brain to do this. For most women, when they get off of it, their brain reverts back to the normal pattern, and after about 6 months, they're ovulating regularly again. This did not happen for me. My brain was sticking with the instructions it had gotten that I shouldn't ovulate, and I did not ovulate again, as far as I know, for 4 years, excepting the hard fought, medically induced ovulation during our year of treatments.

Whenever I asked most of my doctors if my lack of ovulation could be caused by birth control, they blew me off. "Well, anything could've happened during the time you were on the pill to cause you to stop ovulating, and the pill just masked that, so you didn't know about it." That was the standard answer I got. Never mind that I hadn't been on the pill for years. Never mind that I'd never had a problem with anovulation before. Never mind that I was in my early 20s. It seemed that they simply couldn't admit the possibility that the drug whose ties they were wearing could possibly, for some small part of the population, cause the extremely serious side effect of infertility. I'm shocked (dripping with sarcasm).

I was very angry over this for quite awhile. I can tell as I write this that I'm still angry. I know that God decides what He allows to touch us in each of our lives, but I still put some blame on drug companies and blinded doctors for a very real evil that is hurting women. I am not saying that a large percentage of women who go on the pill become infertile as a result. I'm just saying that it appears to me that at least some small percentage do. And it bothers me that doctors won't look you in the eye and admit to you that it could be possible. I guess I would just like women to be informed that this is a possibility for them if they take the pill. I want it listed in the potential side effects on the drug package. Then, its up to you if you take the risk or not, but you have been warned. This seems reasonable to me. What seems unreasonable is that doctors won't admit the possibility, even though they don't seem to have any idea what causes anovulation.

I'm ovulating again, it appears. I finally got pregnant with Seth, even though getting me to ovulate again was not like flipping a switch with meds. It isn't that easy, and fertility ovulation is nothing like your own. My fertility doctor talked about how pregnancy could "reset my system." If it could "reset my system," then doesn't that imply that something got it off balance? What was that something? If you don't know, don't pretend you do.

I have talked to other infertile women who have similar stories. They also wondered if their lack of ovulation after the pill was because of the pill. They were also blown off by their doctors. I don't know how many of us are out there, and the sad thing is that I'll probably never know. It would take a bunch of clinical trials to figure that out, and they would be incredibly complicated, and I'm doubting I'll ever see one in my lifetime. I'm throwing this out there in this post, hoping that my story will make a difference to someone, as nonclinical and unscientific as it is. I don't think science is going to rush out there and try to validate me, so I guess this will be as far as it goes.

We think that prescription drugs are benign things, doing lots of good and very little harm. Most of us don't think much about that list of side effects on the package. I may have taken the pill anyway, even if I knew there was a small chance it could make me infertile. I don't really know.

But, after this experience, I know that I was very wary of any drug that fertility doctors wanted to prescribe me. I read up on each one. And I only tried each one out of desperation. It took me years to seek treatment partly because I believed that drugs got me into the mess I was in. I didn't want to get worse as a result of more drugs. In the case of infertility, medicine became a huge blessing. I am very thankful for it. But I have a very bittersweet relationship with medication as a result of all I've been through.

And this makes me skeptical of the American vaccine regimen for kids. And that skepticism, once again, is opening me to the argumentation of my doctor. Like most mothers of baby boys, I worry about autism. I don't know where to look for answers because nobody has any. And, I argue, if no one has any, doesn't that mean that I should be allowed to question without much arguing? Yes, I am fully convinced that children should be vaccinated against truly awful diseases that have great potential to kill or maim them for life. Who isn't thrilled about smallpox or polio vaccines?

But I don't think that doctors should think it is ridiculous that I call their judgment into question when they recommend a vaccine for chicken pox, a childhood illness that most of us had with very little fuss or problems. In fact, I would argue that recommending vaccines for chicken pox for most healthy kids is something I should call you on the carpet for as a doctor. If you're willing to do that, why should I trust your recommended vaccine regimen? I've just found one questionably "necessary" vaccine that you recommend. Why shouldn't I believe that you're trying to over vaccinate my child if you're recommending this?

I am weary of this already. I would love to just trust my doctor that every vaccine that he recommends is perfectly safe and perfectly necessary. It's a lot of work to try to make these decisions for my son in a safe and balanced way. At this point, I have had Seth vaccinated with almost everything recommended, but as he gets older, and the list of vaccines he's supposed to get at each checkup gets longer, I question more. And I worry that my questioning will label me as some sort of fringe wacko that doesn't care if her child gets sick and won't intervene if they do. I want to have a good relationship with my pediatrician. He is a good guy. This is tough for me.

I wish there were more answers for my questions. I have a lot of them. Over the years, I have become more willing to question sometimes. I guess this post has explained why...


Meredith said...

Ellen, I agree. I took BC pills for less than a year, when I was in college.

NOT for birth control--that was not even possible--but to help control an acne problem.

After that I was never regular again.

Only after having 2 children did I ovulate with any regularity, and not even that regularly. (So used to skipped periods that I didn't even know I was pregnant with #3).

I do think there is a link between infertility and BC pills, maybe for people like us who are super sensitive.

It solidified my belief that altering our hormones for our convenience is dangerous beyond belief.

Even faithful believers like me, who's ready to let God determine our family size, have been unwitting victims of this medical/social worldview.

The Mom said...

I know several (at least) women who spent years on the BC pill (after years of normal periods) and went on to become infertile.

Like you, their ovulation systems never recovered.

I think it is sadly more common than doctors like to say.

It is very sad when women have been on the bc pill for 20 yrs, then hope to have children when they are nearly 40, and it doesnt' work out for them

Herb of Grace said...

My ovulation system never recovered after the Pill either. I think it may happen to a lot more women than we know about and I pray that as the infertility rates rise yearly, someone in the medical field will soon begin to spread the word to young women considering their birth control options.

Speaking to the issue of vax.... I agree with your hesitations and have many of the same questions. We settled on a delayed vaxing schedule for our children and have, thankfully, found a dr who will respect our decision and not write us off as idiots who put superstitious beliefs above the safety of their children.

Kristin said...

ellen, thanks for sharing. i have always appreciated your straightforward approach and honesty.

i, too, have thought about the chicken pox vaccine. after all, i had chicken pox as a kid and came through it just fine. one reason i'm thinking of giving it to william, though, is that chicken pox can get much more serious - even fatal - when contracted as an adult. if most kids are getting the vaccine, the chances of him coming in contact with the virus at a young age where there will be few side effects are less and less. i don't want him randomly coming in contact with the virus when he's much older and possible serious consequences resulting.

but i, too, am a mom of a little boy and have a few fears. ultimately, i need to make the best decision with the information i currently have, and trust God's sovereignty over what i do not know. easier said than done, right?

Ruthie said...

Wow, Ellen. What a brave and honest post. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea the Pill would cause so much damage. I know that when I told my doctor that I didn't want to be on Pill. She thought I was crazy and still prescribed me one, "just in case I changed my mind." When I asked about Natural Family Planning, she literally laughed at me.

I too have been giving a lot of thought re: vaccines, esp. in light of the autism studies. A good friend of mine who is an immunologist said there's a lot of benefit to having an extend vaccine schedule, so that there is not as much in the system at once. I also think it gives the medicine more time to be tried out, so that if someone is wrong if may be detected, before it is injected your baby.

Brandy said...

Ellen, I have to admit that I've observed a similar trend--that the majority of my infertile friends spent time using the pill. I hope that Seth's birth will turn out to have been "cleansing" for you. I had problems with my cycles as a teen and young woman due to severe illness, and I became regular after my second child, so it seems that pregnancy does change things!

As far as the vaccines go...I was treated like a crazy lady when I told our doctor we weren't vaccinating. But after that, she was totally fine with it. If there had been a negative response visit after visit, I would have reconsidered our relationship with her (even though we think she's one of the best docs in our area), but since it was only once, we've just tried to put that one bad day behind us. Hopefully, your doctor will see that, by asking questions, it is actually a sign of how much you care for your child and desire to protect him!

gerlthouse said...

Agreed on the birth control thing-
I spent about 6 months on them at the beginning of our marriage and have had lots of problems since (9 years of marriage, most without birthcontrol, two biological children and multiple miscarriages).
Through this and other experiences we have learned to question everything. No, we don't have our children vaccinated. For us, we decided that the "benefits" absolutely did not outweigh the tremendous risk. Our doctor treated us like we were crazy and we have since found a doctor that respects our decision.
I'd love to visit more with you about all of this. It can feel lonely sometimes!