MANILA, August 21, 2012—At no other time has the birth control pill been given so much attention by the public as it has been the past year, and particularly the past week, as talk of contraceptives possibly contributing to the early death of a senator’s baby rages. Now a medical doctor provides more information explaining how oral contraceptives work to expel any newly formed life should the contraceptive mechanism of the pill fail (“break-through ovulation”), which may lead to abnormal development should the baby survive.
Put simply, the developing baby in the mother’s womb ends up deprived of much-needed nutrition due to irregular uterine hormone levels caused by the pill, which “will have a negative impact on uterine preparedness for implantation. This will affect the baby’s development, which may result in abortion. If the fetus survives, congenital malformations can be manifested after the baby’s birth,” said Rey Echavez, M.D.
In short, the cause of this deprivation of nutrition is hormonal contraceptives.
“It is not the hormones per se [that directly affect the embryo] but the effects of the hormones in the process of implantation and development. The moment the implantation is not correct, meaning no or deficient nourishment, such as less blood supply from the endometrium for the embryo, the development of the organs will be disturbed,” explained Echavez, the physician who headed the 1995 investigation of a World Health Organization (WHO)-Department of Health (DOH) government program that involved injurious tetanus toxoid vaccines administered to over 3 million Filipinas (the DOH stopped the program after the case was decided).
Not enough nutrition for the baby
During pregnancy, a baby needs adequate nutrition for proper development – which is why pregnancy resources like magazines, websites, and videos are full of information on folic acid, calcium intake, no-raw-food reminders, and multi-vitamin supplements for expectant mothers. Little is publicized, however, about the consequences of hormonal contraceptives on fetal development, on which Echavez expounded.
One of the contraceptive pill’s mechanisms of action is making the endometrium (the innermost lining of the uterus) inhospitable to a fertilized ovum – in essence a human being in the first stages of life – thereby making it more difficult for the ovum to implant. However, should the ovum successfully implant, multiple effects of pill usage on the endometrium pose threats to proper development during the pregnancy. One example: deficient nutrient absorption.
“No matter how much vitamins the mother takes, the baby can’t absorb the nutrients because of a hostile endometrium,” Echavez pointed out.
“The endometrium is thin, avascular, less glandular and not well-developed to accept the blastocyst. Also, Gut Dysbiosis of the mother will reduce the absorption of nutrients for the baby even if the mother takes all kinds of vitamins.”
It is not surprising, therefore, if the baby fails to develop normally during the pregnancy since nutrition is vital for the proper development of the body’s organs and systems (e.g. circulatory, nervous, digestive, reproductive), according to the doctor.
Echavez explained that though many other factors come into play, the bleeding some patients experience intermittently during the first trimester may also indicate problems with the embryo’s survival.
Medication for ‘pampakapit’
“Management of obstetric cases also involves giving medication to stop bleeding. Sometimes ito yung tinatawag na ‘hindi makakapit ang baby’ kaya binibigyan ng ‘pampakapit’,” he said.
During the times that the baby is in danger, a doctor gives something to the patient “para kumapit ang baby. Nasira na ang circulatory system tuloy. The baby’s development is affected because of this,” Echavez said.
The inability of the embryo to implant properly into the uterus may be due to the pill’s effect on molecules that are called “integrins, which help in adhesion and which are normally found on the embryo and the uterine lining.
The doctor explained that insufficient or the absence of these integrins is among the effects of taking birth control pills, and “if there’s no integrin, hindi makakadikit [ang baby]. In short, it is the abortifacient effect of the contraceptives,” he stressed.
The suppression of ovulation and prevention of fertilization are well-known mechanisms of action of oral contraceptives, so that equating the pill with abortion has been dismissed by advocates of free birth control as an attempt at “disinformation” and “scare tactics.” Even Senator Vicente Sotto III, who in his August 13 turno en contra speech attributed his infant son’s death to his wife’s use of oral contraceptives, has been met with remarkable criticism mainly because the other mechanisms of action of pills are unknown to many.
Eleanor de Borja-Palabyab, M.D., president of Doctors for Life, insisted that this lack of understanding of the workings of hormonal contraceptives is the reason why more time should have been allotted for interpellations on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in both chambers of Congress.
“Not until the bill was being hotly debated in Congress have people become so aware of these issues, so that’s something good. But they should have continued interpellating further para maliwanagan ang marami pang mambababatas,” Palabyab said.
“Kawawa ang mga pasyente, ang mga potential patients who will be receiving the effects and consequences of all this,” Palabyab added. (CBCP for Life)