Celibacy For Birth Control?

Celibacy is the state of being unmarried or the voluntary abstention from sex. It has been practiced since ancient times for a variety of reasons.

St. Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, abstained from sex simply because he didn’t like the idea that sperm comes from the same organ that produces urine. The English writer John Ruskin married a 10-year-old girl and was shocked into sexual abstinence at the sight of his wife’s pubic hair! English sexologist Havelock Ellis, on the other hand, never masturbated, fearing he would contract venereal disease that way.

Other notable “virgins” in history found in “The Book of Lists” by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace are the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, and the British playwright George Bernard Shaw.

In today’s world, those who practice celibacy are usually priests and nuns who are concerned about Christ’s teachings on continence. These people believe they can better serve the Lord if they don’t have to look after their husbands, wives or kids.

As 1 Corinthians 7:32, 34 reads: “An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord. In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord’s affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. “

Since self-restraint is generally viewed by the Catholic Church as the first step in following Christ, a person can supposedly live the way our Savior did if he learns to control his or her passions and emotions.

Some people may be forced to practice celibacy either because of medical reasons such as a recent illness, surgery or simply as a way of preventing pregnancy. For those who can’t afford to buy expensive contraceptives or those whose religious upbringing prohibits them from using other effective contraceptives, celibacy would appear to be the ideal birth control method.

After all, it costs nothing and, more importantly, has no physical side effects to worry about. In fact, one does not even have to abstain from sex in using celibacy as a contraceptive method. As Paul M. Insel and Walton T. Roth pointed out in “Core Concepts in Health:”

“Many couples who do choose to abstain from sexual intercourse in the traditional penis-in-vagina sense turn to other mutually satisfying alternatives. When open communication between partners exists, many new avenues may be explored. These may include dancing, massage, hugging, kissing, patting, masturbation, and oral-genital sex. Sexual feelings may be expressed and satisfied through a wide range of activities and intimacy in diverse interactions.” (Next: Is celibacy practical?)

Condom Sense: Condoms and the Environment

So you are smart enough to practice safe sex (preventing both pregnancy and STDs) by properly using a condom. But what do you do with the condom when you are done with it? Here are some hints on environmentally-friendly condom disposal.

Firstly, don’t flush your condoms, ever! Flushing condoms is not the way to deal with them. Condoms can clog the plumbing in your house (or the plumbing wherever you happen to be). This can be an expensive and embarrassing situation. If the condom manages to make it through your septic system, it will only end up with the solid waste. This means that somebody has to pull it out of the sewage treatment, which isn’t pleasant for anybody. The condom might even make it past the treatment plant. This is not good because it means that it could end up in the water supply, and the last thing we need is more pollution in our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Not all condoms are made equally. Most condoms are made of latex, which means that they will biodegrade. Latex, however, does not biodegrade when it is under water, which is why it is not good to flush your used condoms. Condoms are not entirely made of latex, however, and the other things on condoms (spermicide, lubricant) might affect the biodegradability. The best option seems to be to send them to a landfill and see how they pass the test of time.

Some condoms, including all female condoms, are made of polyurethane, a type of plastic. These will not biodegrade. There is no option, however, except to put them in the garbage, because your local recycling depot won’t recycle used condoms. They won’t even recycle new condoms.

Other condoms are made of lambskin. These are completely biodegradable condoms. Don’t run out and get lambskin condoms just yet though! Lambskin condoms do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The pores in the lambskin are small enough to stop sperm, and so prevent pregnancy, but the pores are large enough to let sexually transmitted diseases and infections through. This option is only viable for people in monogamous relationships who have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases. If this is the case, you could consider an even more environmentally friendly barrier form of birth control such as a diaphragm, cervical cap, or shield. Ask your doctor what is best for you.

Regardless of what material of condom you use (latex, polyurethane, or lambskin), you are going to have a wrapper to dispose of. These foil wrappers will not biodegrade, nor can they be recycled. This simply has to be put in the garbage.

Even if your latex or lambskin condoms are biodegradable, it is best not to try to compost or bury your condoms. Animals will smell the human scent and try to dig up what you have buried. This means that there will be unsightly used condoms around. Burying your condom is tantamount to littering: and there are better ways to deal with your condoms available.

So, in the end, what is the best way to dispose of your condoms? The best thing is to wrap it in a bit of toilet paper or paper towel (or any other biodegradable material: think paper bases such as paper bags) and then to put it in the garbage. Don’t wrap your condom up in plastic, as then it certainly won’t biodegrade. The good news is that the semen and vaginal fluid on the condom certainly will biodegrade, and might facilitate the condom biodegrading.

And lastly, remember…never reuse a condom. Although reduce, reuse, and recycle is the motto for environmentalism, you need to put your health first on this one. Don’t minimize your condom use, don’t reuse your condoms, and it’s too bad that you can’t yet recycle them. To think on an environmentally broader scale, using condoms is environmentally friendly because it is preventing the spread of communicable diseases. It is also preventing conception, and children have been documented to be hugs consumers of global resources.

Hopefully soon we will be able to figure out an environmentally friendly way to practice safe sex. Until then, we’ll make do with what we can, and we will continue using condoms.

The Fit Girl’s Guide to Birth Control

Women are such amazing creatures that it’s downright mind boggling at times. I know what you’re thinking – you and I are both women, so such self-praise sounds a bit excessive.

But really, think about it for a minute. Our physical makeup is dramatically different from that of our male counterparts. We have to train nearly twice as hard to make any substantial gains in the gym, and we’re genetically preprogrammed to store more fat than men, all because of the differences in our hormonal makeup.

Let’s face it, ladies, our bodies are built for child rearing, not heavy lifting or figure competitions. Regardless of whether those babies are a goal of yours or not, your system will always do its best to ensure a soft & comfortable atmosphere for that baby’s development during the first nine months of its existence.

Nature’s plan.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that if you’re actively working on preventing pregnancy, you’ll likely have an increased hormonal imbalance and even more pronounced effects of the estrogen hormone doing its job.

Not sure what I’m talking about? There is a phrase that will conjure up memories of bloat, fat gain, nausea, spotting or breakthrough bleeding, mood swings, and even severe headaches. It’s a short phrase with a lot of power. Ready?

“The Pill.”

Most of those who’ve tried birth control pills are well aware of their possible side effects. These are to be expected; anytime hormone levels are changed in any way, the body is bound to let you know of the changes.

Birth control pills are comprised of synthetic estrogen and progesterone (or in some cases, just one of those two). Since the menstrual cycle and ovulation are regulated by these hormones, this increase results in a variety of changes within the reproductive system, which results in pregnancy prevention.

Now, as any woman in the fitness industry knows, we try our very best to decrease the female hormones in our bodies. We all know that increased levels of testosterone, along with decreased estrogen hormones, are essential to the sense of well-being and overall health.

It’s testosterone that helps us gain lean mass, reduce fat storage, increase sexual desire, ward off that “I’m PMS’ing-leave-me-alone” mood, keep our skin healthy, and our minds sharp. Excessive levels of its opposing hormone, estrogen, produce the exact opposite effect on our bodies.

Clearly, increasing your very own estrogen levels by going on the pill sounds more than just a little crazy. It is, however, seen as an absolute necessity by most women. Many of us just accept the unfortunate side effects and learn to deal with the consequences of a less than perfect hormonal balance.

After all, what else is there?

That’s the question we’ll answer in this article. I’ve done some extensive research on the topic, including interviewing numerous fitness and figure competitors regarding their personal experiences with birth control pills. Each of these girls has discovered what works for her; whether it’s a lower dose estrogen pill or a viable alternative that does the job while keeping those hormone levels at least somewhat conducive to her hardcore fitness lifestyle and ultra-lean body goals.

The Pill

Types of Birth Control Pills

There are two basic categories: those containing progestin only, and combination pills containing both progestin and estrogen.

Progestin-only pills contain no estrogen. These are sometimes referred to as the “mini-pill,” and are considered ideal for breastfeeding women since the presence of estrogen reduces milk production.

The mini-pill works by thickening the cervical mucus, thereby preventing sperm from entering the uterus. They must be taken at the same time every day.

While these pills don’t contain any estrogen, they’re not considered figure-friendly by any means. You see, the pill’s progesterone component has been shown to increase appetite – which of course makes it very difficult to diet, resulting in weight gain.

Some of the other side effects of the mini-pill include irregular or heavy bleeding, spotting, and severe headaches. Additionally, progestin-only pills have been shown to be slightly less effective than their combination counterparts – so that the chance of becoming a mommy is actually increased when choosing these over estrogen containing birth control pills.

Combination pills are ones containing both estrogen and progestin. This category can be broken down into three different types, which are as follows:

Monophasic pill. This is the original birth control pill. Each pack of these pills consists of 21 active pills containing the same amount of estrogen and progestin in each pill, and 7 placebos, which contain no hormones.

The second type of the combination pill is called multiphasic.Also referred to as biphasic and triphasic, multiphasic oral contraceptives contain varied amounts of hormones and are designed to be taken at specific times over the pill-taking period.

Each of the pills in this pack contains different levels of estrogen and progestin so that the hormones are varied throughout the month. They were developed for the specific purpose of reducing side effects of oral contraceptives. Women taking multiphasic pills report having fewer episodes of breakthrough bleeding and spotting, but as of now, those are the only sides that have been shown reduced.

The last type of the combination pill is the continuous use pill. This is the brand new one of the bunch, being approved in the spring of ’07. The best known brand of the continuous use pill is Lybrel, which also happens to be a multiphasic pill. It comes in a 28-day pack and is meant to be taken without any breaks in between pill packets, which basically means not having a period at all.

Some of the side effects associated with all combination oral contraceptives include most of the ones you’d normally hear about, including nausea, severe headaches, possible vomiting, irregular bleeding, and weight gain resulting from the changes in the body’s hormonal makeup.

Birthcontrol

Birth Control Options for Fit Girls

Now that we’ve gone over the basic differences among the pills, let’s take some time discussing ones that seem to be popular with women who are in the fitness industry.

Those ladies who are on the pill and training hard almost always opt for low dose pills. Low dose birth control pills are mostly monophasic pills that have an estrogen component of less than 35 micrograms. Some examples of this type of pill include LoOvral, Nordette, and Ortho-Cept.

There are also two newer formulas of low dose pills on the market, both of which have become a quick favorite among many figure competitors. Cyclessa is a brand new low dose oral contraceptive that’s also multiphasic. The low estrogen in its varying-hormone package has actually been shown to result in weight loss for many women who begin taking it… and those who didn’t lose any noticeable weight, didn’t gain any fat, according to the studies.

Yasmin is another newer low dose pill with many fit ladies in its fan club. Because of a more natural progestin in its formula, it’s been associated with improved skin texture for those who are naturally oily or acne-prone, an improved sense of well-being, and even weight control help due to reduced water retention.

Ultra low dose pills exist as well, and these are ones that have the lowest amount of estrogen in a birth control pill, which is 20 micrograms. This dose of estrogen is sufficient for contraception, however these pills oftentimes result in more spotting and breakthrough bleeding than pills containing 30-35 micrograms of estrogen, which is why most women who’ve tried them end up opting for the low dose pills instead.

If you’re interested in trying an ultra-low oral contraceptive, two of the most popular ones are Alesse and Mircette, with the prior being a favorite of three figure competitors I’d interviewed.

One other factor that’s interesting when it comes to all oral contraceptives (even low dose ones) is that they’ve been shown to decrease total and free testosterone by almost half, while increasing total cortisol levels. This, of course, is quite a negative effect for all of us trying to build muscle – it’s just bad news from the anabolic perspective.

Tired of taking pills? Read on!

Pill Alternatives

Now if none of the aforementioned sides scare you, and the only thing you dislike about the oral contraceptives is the oral part, there are a couple of alternatives that work in ways very similar to that of the low dose pills, without having to take the actual pill!

These are the NuvaRing and the Patch. Both work by supplying the same amount of hormones as low dose pills, so side effects along with benefits are very similar. Ladies who dislike taking pills may find it easier to go with either of these two, though each of the two has its own inconveniences.

NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring inserted into the vagina once monthly. It’s left in place for three weeks, and then taken out for a week. Once that week’s passed, a new ring is inserted for the following three-week period.

A few of the fitness ladies I spoke with find the NuvaRing to be very practical. One of them mentioned that it’s helped her get rid of the terrible migraine headaches she used to get with the low dose pill while also helping her lose some water weight she’d been carrying.

The Patch operates by delivering the hormones directly into the bloodstream through the skin via a thin patch. It must be replaced once weekly for three weeks straight, taking a break on the fourth week. The Patch may be applied just about anywhere on the body, and needs to stay in place at all times – regardless of the activity (yes, even training, cardio, or bathing).

As you’d suspect, this wasn’t a favorite of any of the girls’ I’d spoken with. Two of them had experimented with it as it seemed like a convenient, easy birth control method; both were quickly disappointed as the Patch began irritating their skin after just a couple of cardio sessions. My guess is it just wasn’t created with fitness-oriented ladies in mind.

The Patch

There’s just one other thing I’d like to mention about the NuvaRing and the Patch. Both have caused quite a bit of controversy since their FDA approval. Over the past several months, there’ve been a number of lawsuits filed against both companies, claiming that the birth control devices are responsible for blood clots, resulting in stroke, heart attacks, and even death.

Neither of the devices has been taken off the market, and both companies are maintaining innocence, stating that their products have proven to be safe in most cases.

My personal advice? Do your own research and be sure that your decision is an informed one.

Non-Hormonal Alternatives

For those of you hoping to stay away from anything that will alter your natural hormone levels, there are alternatives. The majority of fitness and figure girls I’ve spoken with, have opted for hormone-free birth control methods – everything ranging from male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and lea’s shields (all of which work by creating a physical block), to longer lasting methods, such as the IUD… to permanent ones, like tubal ligation.

Since the IUD seemed to be the most obvious choice for most of the competing ladies, I’d like to discuss that in depth. An IUD is a tiny, T-shaped device that gets inserted directly into the uterus by your OB/GYN. It’s made of soft plastic and contains either copper or hormones.

The non-hormonal ones are the ones I’d like to focus on, as these are the ones most popular in the fitness world. These are known as the ParaGard Copper T 380A IUD, contain copper, and can be worn for up to 12 years. They are effective as soon as they’re inserted and can be removed at any time.

Mirena IUD

Keep in mind that ovulation still occurs when you use an IUD, so you’ll still have your period. Many women complain of more intense cramps and heavier or irregular periods, but most of the fitness-oriented girls find these sides to be a small price to pay for stable hormone levels and the ability to maintain a higher level of testosterone.

Another detail to keep in mind is the IUD installation process itself. It isn’t a pleasant experience by any means – many of the ladies I spoke with said it was one of the most painful experiences they’d endured. But really, just put things into perspective for a second: the insertion lasts for about five minutes, and you’ll most likely be worry-free for a period of over 10 years!

If you don’t already have kids, the IUD may not be suitable for you. The company states that women who have never been pregnant before have an increased risk of expulsion (expelled by the body, usually within the first year) due to a smaller uterus and difficulty with insertion. Check with your doc and follow his or her recommendations when it comes to your particular case.

I’d also like to note that many women are concerned about the safety of copper IUD’s. This concern is mostly grounded in a few events that took place in the 70’s when the very first IUD to hit the market (known as the Dalkon Shield) had to be recalled after 12 of its 2.8 million users died.

The Dalkon Shield was pulled out of doctor’s offices immediately, and although no other IUD since that period has ever been found unsafe, their reputation remains somewhat tarnished. If you begin to seriously consider this device, be sure to do your research just as you would with anything else – plenty of information is available upon an Internet search.

Summary

And that, ladies, pretty much sums up your birth control options. My only hope is that this article gave you a starting point for your own research and made you a more informed patient, one who’ll enter the OB/GYN’s office armed with knowledge.

Keep in mind that the effects any birth control pill will have on anyone will depend on not only the combination and the dose you’re taking, but also on your individual hormonal makeup and response. Because of this, the final decision is best left to you and a doc you trust.

Barrier Methods of Contraception

The barrier methods of birth control work by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. The idea of inserting something into the vagina to prevent pregnancy is not new. Such devices were called pessaries and they were used by the ancient Egyptians.

Pessaries were mentioned as early as 1850 B.C. in the Petri Papyrus. The formula then was a mixture of crocodile dung and honey which was placed in the vagina prior to intercourse.

“Interestingly, this mixture not only acted as a barrier to sperm, but had some broad spermicidal effects. If a convenient crocodile wasn’t available, elephant dung could be used,” said Dr. Niels Lauersen, a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Steven Whitney in “It’s Your Body: A Woman’s Guide to Gynecology.”

Various formulas of pessaries were used throughout the world. Elephant dung and honey was the preferred combina¬tion in India and Africa. In Persia during the 10th century, pessaries were made of mixed rock salt and an oily material.

The most popular pessary, however, was invented by Walter Rendell, a London chemist who lived in the late 1800s. Seeing how many people suffered from the burden of having too many children, Rendell developed a pessary containing quinine which he distributed freely to customers at his pharmacy.

“The results of this new pessary exceeded his expecta¬tions. Requests were logged so rapidly that the pessary was marketed commercially in 1886. By the turn of the century, the product was a best seller throughout the world. In fact, until the 20th century, quinine was the only recognized spermicide which could be used with complete safety,” Lauersen and Whitney added.

With the popularity of pessaries, new formulas were developed using less irritating substances. Today’s barrier methods of contraception include the diaphragm, vaginal sponge, condom and cervical cap. These are often used together with chemical barriers such as creams, jellies, foams and suppositories. Let’s examine them one by one.

DIAPHRAGM AND CERVICAL CAP

The diaphragm is a molded rubber cap which blocks sperm as it covers the cervix and the back of the vagina. It must be inserted for each act of intercourse and left on for six to eight hours afterward.

A smaller version of the diaphragm is the cervical cap which covers only the cervix but works the same way. Unlike the diaphragm, however, this device must be fitted by a physician. Women may find it difficult to do the same because the cap must be inserted deep within the vagina.

The first real diaphragm was created by Aetius of Amida in the 6th century using the fruit of the pomegranate tree. After removing the seeds and pulp of that fruit, Aetius told women to insert the hollow end into the vagina before intercourse.

In 1883, Dr. Frederick Wilde, a German physician, described how a rubber cap could block sperm, but it was Dr. Wilhelm Mensinga, another German, who popularized the method. (Next: Disadvantages of diaphragms.)

Is the New Period Stopping Pill Safe Enough to Prevent Acne & Pregnancies?

No tampons, no super-sized maxi pads, no cramps… Any Pamprin-pressed woman could rant off endless positives of a period-stopping birth control pill. But is this new menstruation vanishing drug safe and can it still provide acne protection?

What is “period-stopping”

Well, first the period ending contraceptive called Lybrel does not actually stop the period. As the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals points out, birth control induced period stopping is really “menstrual suppression”. The body’s response to the seven day absence of birth control hormones after the typical 21-day birth control cycle triggers withdrawal bleeding, not a true period.

Regardless of what it’s called, this week’s Food and Drug Administration approval of the period skipping contraceptive spawned enough unanswered questions about safeness to fill a month of morning talk shows.

Lybrel

Period suppressing Lybrel comes in a 28 day-pill pack. The pills contain 90 micrograms of a progestin, levonorgestrel, and 20 micrograms of an estrogen, ethinyl estradiol. These active ingredients are similar to and work like other FDA approved contraceptives. Except, you skip the placebos.

Levonorgestrel stops the body’s monthly release of an egg from the ovary and thickens cervical mucus which makes it harder for sperm to fertilize an egg.

Lybrel and acne control

Besides preventing pregnancies, Lybrel can also elicit an acne preventing effect. The ethinyl estradiol component of the pill can reduce circulating levels of testosterone and ultimately limit facial oil secretion- one of several factors implicated in provoking acne.

But how will menstrual suppression using Lybrel effectively treat acne?

A study sponsored by Lybrel manufacturer Wyeth does support the acne preventing power of levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol. Yet, ironically, possible side-effects of levonorgestrel include oily skin and acne. If you do experience acne while using an contraceptive containing levonorgestrel, inform your doctor, because commonly prescribed acne antibiotics like tetracycline can make levonorgestrel less effective.

Further study on menstrual suppression needed

While the words “stop your period” may sound melodious to millions of women, to University of New Hampshire professor of the sociology of gender and medical sociology

Jean Elson, they sound more like the prelude to a horror movie.

Elson feels, “Employing hormones to curtail normal menstruation strikes me as a very odd mix of feminism and medical authority – women are offered the opportunity to control their own bodies, but what are the real implications?”

Moreover, Elson finds that menstruation has transformed from a biological issue into a social matter and proposes that women, “… might not find their periods so inconvenient if schools and workplaces provided opportunities for people to rest.”

Like Elson, Margaret Freda a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, has doubts about menstrual suppression.

This past August, Freda told the American Journal of Nursing, “The jury is still out on total menstrual suppression,” until long-term studies of its safety are done.

A study published in Contraception tested the safeness of continuous daily usage of Lybrel on over 2,000 healthy women who had normal menstrual cycles. Among the participants, Lybrel side-effects were comparable to those reported for 21-days on and 7-days off oral contraceptive regimens.

However, Dr. Camelia Davtyan, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, did notice one problem with the study. Davtyan told HealthDay News that, “… the rate of uterine bleeding-related complications is quite high.”

Granted some woman have practiced menstrual suppression for years, it could take five to twenty years before medical studies ultimately concur on the overall safeness of this practice. In the meantime, women will once again need to rely on their intuition and personal health needs to decide what is the best way to prevent pimples and pregnancies.

Sources:

Archera, David F et al. Evaluation of a continuous regimen of levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol: phase 3 study results. Contraception; December 2006, vol 74, no 6, pp 439-445.

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Health Matters: Understanding Menstrual Suppression. October 2006.

HealthDay News. New Year-Round Contraceptive Pill Safe and Effective. December 13, 2006.

Potera, Carol & Maureen Shawn Kennedy. Choosing Not to Menstruate: A trend for adults and some adolescents. Is it safe? American Journal of Nursing; August 2006, vol 106, no 8, pp 19.

Thiboutot, Diane. A randomized, controlled trial of a low-dose contraceptive containing 20 μg of ethinyl estradiol and 100 μg of levonorgestrel for acne treatment. Fertility and Sterility; September 2001, vol 76, no 3, pp 461-468.

University of New Hampshire. Expert: New Birth Control Pill That Eliminates Periods Is A Bad Idea. Newswise; May 22, 2007.