TEL AVIV - More and more women in their 20’s and 30’s have stopped taking the pill, and experts say the trend has significantly added to the annual number of abortions being performed in Israel.
When Danielle was 22, she decided to stop taking the pill.
“I was supposed to renew my subscription, but as I didn't have a regular partner, I decided not to bother; it’s not that healthy anyway,” she said.
A few months later, when Danielle began seeing a regular boyfriend, she started taking an interest in a natural lifestyle.
“I wanted to go back to nature and consume less chemicals, I stopped taking pills in general - including analgesics," she said. "I decided there was no reason for me to take a pill that interfered with by body’s natural function.”
Danielle said that what deterred her most were the side effects, such as enlarged breasts, weight gain, excessive hair growth and acne.
She said she gradually discovered that many of her friends had also stopped taking the pill for the same reasons.
So what other measures do these women take to prevent unwanted pregnancies?
Most women use a condom if they don’t have a regular partner, while others resort to the “safe days” method, which is very inaccurate and difficult to calculate.
Side effects outweigh benefits
When asked whether she wasn’t concerned about becoming pregnant, Danielle said the alternative of taking pills was similar to smoking.
“You know it’s not healthy, but you do it anyway. There are thousands of studies on the efficiency of pain relievers and still I choose not to use them. I don’t bleed excessively or have heavy periods, and I don’t believe the responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancy has to fall on me and not on my partner," she said.
“The pill is unnatural, and when it’s taken everyday, I don’t need it inside me."
Michal, 30, has not taken the pill for years. For her, life without the pill has become a convenient and preferred option.
“The side effects by far outweigh the benefits,” she said. "The pill causes mood swings, weight gain and tenderness in my breasts. The fact that I had to take the pill everyday made me feel ill."
When Michal decided to stop taking the pill, her partner fully supported her decision.
She said the use of condoms has not detracted from their pleasure during sexual intercourse.
Thousands of abortions a year
Like Daniel and Michal, many women feel that regular use of the pill has too many side effects, some fear the gynecological tests, and others don’t take it for religious purposes.
Whatever the reason, some 20,000 legal abortions are carried out every year.
Surveys show that 50 percent of women who had undergone an abortion had not used any kind of contraceptive.
Since the pill came into use in 1960, unwanted pregnancies dropped sharply, however, now the trend is being reversed.
Dr. Dganit Samuel from the Lis Hospital in Tel Aviv said she is familiar with the growing trend of not taking the pill from her work at a local clinic and hospital.
The pill is safe and by far the best form of contraceptive, and if the pill is properly suited, side effects are minimal, she said.
Dr. Samuel doesn’t recommend the "safe days" method.
“The lifespan of sperm is 48 hours, but there are exceptions, and it has been known for women to become pregnant six days after sexual intercourse,” she said.
“Also, ovulation cannot be calculated exactly. The cycle changes in accordance with a woman's hormonal changes, which can be affected by physical exercise, tension and nutrition."
Returning to nature
Dr. Samuel notes that although many women fear certain side effects, the pill in fact treats excessive hair growth, as well as acne, and includes additional important benefits.
“The pill makes the monthly menstrual cycle much easier to bear," she said.
“Recent surveys have shown that that the pill lessens the frequency of ovarian, uterus and the large intestine cancer, so there are benefits.”
Dr. Samuel did confirm however that the occurrence of blood clots reported in recent years has indeed made the pill unsuitable for some women.
She said doctors must go over the patient’s medical history to avoid prescribing the pill when it is incompatible.
Gynecologist Dr. Motti Dolitzky said the trend to refrain from taking the pill seems to have been generated by too much knowledge available on the internet.
“On the Internet there is no traffic warden telling you whether research is positive or negative, and women tend to reach the conclusion that the pill is bad for them, “ he said.
Dr. Dolitzky said the primary risk of not taking the pill is having to undergo an abortion that involves several risk factors, including excessive bleeding, infection that could cause infertility, perforation of the uterus wall and complications that could cause premature births later on.
“An abortion can damage the uterus and cause infertility, and it is unnecessary. It’s interesting that in the 1960’s the pill liberated women, but now there seems to be a trend to return to nature,” he said.