By Sammie Gallo, Creator of Abundant Life: You Were Made for More
As I’ve gotten older, I have realized the importance of understanding why my body does certain things at certain times of the month. And as I’ve studied and researched, I’ve become more and more aware of how much education was withheld from me about not only what my body does naturally, but also WHY God created my body to do the things it does and why that’s so important. Every function our body does has a purpose, because that’s how God created it.
I learned about an organization recently called FACTS (Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science), which is committed to teaching women (AND men) about fertility awareness and natural family planning – two words that I had absolutely no knowledge about until I was about 22 years old. Many conversations I’ve had with young women in my life since then has only confirmed that I’m not the only one who had no idea what those words meant.
Let me back up and share some personal stories with you… see, I’m not writing this article to claim that every girl or woman’s story is like mine. I’m also not claiming to be an expert on this topic – all I can share is what God has spoken to me and what I’ve become convicted of through the journey of understanding my own feminine health. For expert opinions from the medical community, I’ll link to some of my favorite resources at the bottom of this article. I also am not writing this from a viewpoint that birth control pill (or any other type) is morally wrong – I haven’t really come to a personal conclusion about what the bigger picture is, but I do know that the pill majorly effects our bodies and reproductive systems as women. I also know that, unless you search for it, almost none of us know what the real effects of the pill actually are.
When I was a teenager, although I didn’t really have a relationship with Jesus, I always knew I should (and deep-down really wanted to) wait until I met my husband and married him to have sex – a super controversial opinion in my group of friends and in the culture in which I was growing up. By God’s grace (and no, this doesn’t mean I never messed up), I held to that conviction, but it wasn’t without its difficulties and challenges.
I had pretty difficult menstrual cycles as a teenager, and the doctors’ only solution for me was “go on the pill.” I was told it would fix everything I was experiencing and do no harm to my body. It was totally normal, they said, and everyone my age was on it. Despite their encouragement, I decided to just deal with what I was experiencing and not go on the pill. The first time I went to see an OBGYN (a different one from the one I currently attend) I told her I was a virgin. She said, “Are you sure? You know I can’t tell your parents anything because of HIPAA. You don’t have to lie.” I replied that I was sure and that I had absolutely no reason to lie, but she still looked at me with eyes full of doubt and encouraged me to “just be honest with her.” Those were my experiences as a young woman trying to honor God but also educate myself.
When I got married last May, my husband and I knew we wanted to wait a few years to have children, get used to being married, and do all of the things that newlyweds want to do (it’s funny because as I’m sitting here typing this article, my little girl, who is due in August, is kicking inside of my belly – clearly God had other plans!). So, again, when I told my doctor that was our desire, the easiest option presented to me was to go on the birth control pill. So, I did it. When my husband and I look back on our decision, we acknowledge that it’s just because there wasn’t a better option, and frankly, I didn’t have the time or the energy to find a better one.
I was on the birth control pill for six months before not only was I convicted to go off of it but my husband insisted that I stop taking it immediately. Some women go on the pill and have no side effects, but some women go on it and have so many side effects it’s overwhelming to know what to do. I had switched versions of the pill three times within those six months, and things still weren’t getting better. I had been experiencing mood swings and pretty intense depression (I’ve never had an issue with depression before I went on the pill). It made our first few months of marriage difficult, very trying, and made communication (with all my emotions) super difficult. I felt like I was in a fog 24/7 and couldn’t get out of my own head. When things would upset me or a conflict would come up, I really thought the world was ending… even though it wasn’t. Again, all things which I’ve never had issues with before – I know how to handle conflict, I welcome moving through hard and difficult things to see the glory on the other side, and I don’t shy away from them. But the hormones I was putting into my body obviously were shifting the things I innately believed and were convincing me otherwise.
No matter what reason somebody goes on birth control (pregnancy prevention, painful periods, migraines, acne, irregular or heavy periods, endometriosis, PCOS, etc.), and no matter what side effects women experience or not experience, it does affect all of our bodies the same way in at least one regard. Have you ever wondered how the pill even prevents pregnancy in the first place? Here’s the low-down: a woman’s natural menstrual cycle is composed of rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout the month. But hormonal birth control pills, patches, and shots keep estrogen at an unnaturally high level all month long, in order to trick your body into thinking you’re already pregnant, which stops ovulation, so another pregnancy cannot occur.
As you can imagine, these super high estrogen levels are neither natural nor safe. The estrogen in hormonal birth control is much stronger than natural estrogen, which can result in fibroids and other hormonal disorders like PCOS and endometriosis. In fact, researchers have now gathered evidence regarding significant problems associated with the effects of synthetic hormones and, some now suggest women should not take them at all.
And the real issue is that the birth control pill isn’t fixing any of our issues. It’s simply masks the symptoms by synthetically altering your hormones. As soon as you stop taking birth control all of those awful symptoms will come screaming back, likely worse than they were before.
Birth control pills aren’t about listening to your body and treating the root cause… they’re about immediate gratification of “fixing” problems. Much like caffeine “fixes” energy or Ambien “fixes” insomnia or duct tape “fixes” a leaky pipe.
It’s what we do when we just want the problem solved… when we’d rather ignore the signs that our bodies are out of whack than actually deal with what’s really causing the problem in the first place. I, along with many people much more educated than me, really believe that that’s why birth control is so overly prescribed to young women.
Since it came on the market in 1960, the Pill — a catchall term for a variety of oral contraceptives containing differing combinations of synthetic hormones — has been the most common form of birth control used in the United States, utilized at some point by four out of five sexually active women. While there are a number of other popular hormonal-birth-control methods, such as the IUD and the NuvaRing, none enjoy the popularity and cultural significance of the Pill. I have friends that have taken the pill for over 15 years without knowing much of anything about it.
When it comes to the Pill’s effect on women’s mental health, we still hold only a handful of the pieces to what could end up being a many-thousand-piece puzzle. That’s what I want to caution you about. “Most of the research women hear about is all from the neck down — increased risk of this or that health problem — but they don’t really talk about what it does to the brain,” said Dr. Sarah Hill, a professor of psychology at Texas Christian University and the author of the popular-science book This Is Your Brain on Birth Control. The book is inspired by her research, but also by her own experience of quitting the Pill about ten years ago after being on it for a decade. “I feel like I climbed out of a black-and-white drawing into the real world,” she said in an interview. “I had felt flat and one-dimensional and suddenly I felt so much more vibrant and alive. It was like waking up.” Hill had been studying women’s mental health for over 15 years, yet it had never really occurred to her that the little pill she took every day might be affecting her psychology in dramatic ways. “I realized like, oh yeah, that’s right, hormones influence the brain, and if you change hormones, you’re going to change what women’s brains do. It was a pretty embarrassing epiphany to have as a psychologist.”
No matter what side you land on when it comes to women’s health and fertility, it’s important to know what you’re putting in your body, what the risk is behind that, and the WHY behind what you’re doing and the decisions you’re making.
Sammie graduated from Robert Morris University in 2017 with a background in biology and psychology and started working with Anglicans for Life (AFL) shortly after. In addition to her work with AFL, she spends time going into public schools with the Women’s Choice Network, speaking to high schoolers about healthy relationships and sex education.
Sammie married her best friend, Juan Gallo, in May 2019. During her free time, you can find her leading youth ministry with her husband at their church, where he serves as the youth pastor.
Sammie spends her day-to-day making sure that every person hears and believes the words: “you were made for more.” You can follow Sammie on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! She’d love to get to know you!