I take the Pill for ovarian cysts and my friend uses it to regulate her cycle, but neither of us is sexually active. Is that a sin?

Although it is wrong to use the birth control pill in order to prevent conception, it has other medical applications. For example, it is often prescribed to treat such conditions as endometriosis, ovarian cysts, irregular cycles, and painful cramps.

It should be noted that these conditions often have alternative remedies without the adverse side effects of the Pill, including the contraceptive effect. If an alternative therapy exists that avoids these side effects, it should be preferred to the Pill. The Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction specializes in such alternatives, so you may wish to contact them at www.naprotechnology.com or by calling 1-402-390-6600. However, his practice is located in Nebraska. To find a doctor closer to you, click here. If there are no medical professionals on this list in your area, call Dr. Hilgers and speak to his nurses about the options for you.

You mention that your friend is using the Pill to “regulate her cycle.” She should know that technically the birth control pill does not do this. It may give what appears to be a regular cycle, but it is actually causing her to have a “withdrawal bleed” rather than a regular menstruation.

Here’s how it works: You’ll notice in most packages of birth control pills that some of the pills are of a different color. These are called sugar, blank, or placebo pills. Unlike the other pills, they contain no hormones. When the hormones are withdrawn from a woman’s body, it begins to return to normal, and her period resumes. If she never took the sugar pills but instead continued with a new pack of pills, her period would not return. But the scientists who invented the birth control pill figured that women would be more likely to use it if they still felt as if they were having their monthly period.[1] So they threw in the empty pills. The woman on the Pill is not having a normal cycle. Her body thinks that it’s pregnant three weeks of the month. She returns to normal for a week and then resumes the chemical pregnancy for three more weeks.

If your friend needs to menstruate regularly, there are other ways of accomplishing this, such as nutritional methods, which a doctor can recommend, or the use of progesterone. If your friend is using the Pill for medical reasons, she also should be fully informed of its side effects, risks, and potential alternatives. For more information on the birth control pill, click here.

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[1]. Malcolm Gladwell, “John Rock’s Error,” The New Yorker (March 13, 2000), 52–63.

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