Question Submitted: I was wondering if you know where I might find good information about the ethics of the medicinal use of hormonal therapies for a married woman. It looks like I will probably be having to wade into some murky waters here soon. Tomorrow, I’m going to make an appointment with my OB. I saw her nurse practitioner a week ago, and she was thinking I need either three months of birth control or 10 days of progesterone, but we decided to see if time would help. Well, after nearly doubling over with cramps in the middle of the church service on Sunday because of my 4th menses in 2 months, I think we need to do SOMETHING. I trust my doctor for the medical info, but I don’t think she will be able to help with the ethics. My husband and I would like to be as well informed as we can be before making any decisions, but, to be honest, other than doing a little research that led us to avoiding hormones for birth control, we don’t even know were to start. I was hoping you could point us in a general direction. Thank you so much.
I am so sorry to hear you are in such physical pain. That is awful. I had similar pain episodes a couple years ago. They were excruciating, debilitating, and socially embarrassing.
I do not know of any particular published resources which I 100% recommend on this topic. At this point, I suggest you ask your OB-gyn some very frank questions, listen to her answers, talk to your husband/pastor/father confessor, research all you can about your doctor’s suggested treatment plans on the internet (Lutherans for Life and LCMS Life and Health Ministries may be helpful resources with this), and then make decisions according to your conscience. Remember, you do not have to make a decision in the doctor’s office. You can go home, take your time researching and discussing your options, and come back at a later time with your decision.
If it helps, at the request of my own OB-gyn, I took the pill for a few months a year-and-a-half ago to help her diagnose what kind of masses were growing in my abdomen. Since some types of masses are known to be hormone responsive, my undergoing hormone therapy helped my doctor diagnose (without immediately, surgically opening me up) whether or not those masses were cancer, regular cysts, fibroids, or endometriomas. The results of the hormone therapy helped my doctor better treat me and, in the end, prepare for surgery.
I will admit that in order not to burden our own consciences, my husband and I abstained during that time.
I also bartered with my doctor. I acknowledged her need for me to take the pill for diagnostic purposes, but I also explained that I was only willing to take it for a limited season of time. She understood from the beginning that the pill was never going to be an acceptable, longterm treatment option for me. I think that information helped her make alternative treatment decisions for me before, during, and after my surgery. My surgery was successful, though my doctor had to leave some offensive tissue in my body so as not to destroy some of my organs. In an effort to get rid of that tissue, I then took Lupron Depot shots for six months in order to starve the tissue of my own hormones and, hopefully, kill it.
I am neither advocating nor discouraging you from taking hormone therapy for the purposes of healing medicine. I never thought I ever would, but, when the time came, the risks of vascular bleeding in undergoing immediate surgery and the risks of an ovarian torsion in doing nothing outweighed the longterm health risks of hormone therapy for me. My doctor was also reticent to perform a hysterectomy at the time unless she absolutely had to, as the consequences of depleting my body of its natural hormones in my early thirties also had longterm risks. Every woman is different, every diagnosis is different, and every treatment plan is different. Just be sure to ask your doctor detailed questions about the entire effects of any therapy which you engage. Let her know that you have religious concerns that could burden your conscience if you engage in any therapy which might potentially serve as contraception or an abortifacient. Whether your doctor agrees with you or not, she is a professional who wants the best for you and your health and most likely will respect your request with honest, forthright answers. She does not have to agree with you to be a good physician.
At this point, I do not plan on engaging in any more hormone therapy for long-term health reasons. My husband and I agreed to undergo such therapy once in an attempt to rectify the immediately dangerous situation. If I continue to have problems post-surgery, my husband and I are seriously considering alternative options, even a hysterectomy, for hormone therapy does have its own longterm consequences on the female body.
These are such hard decisions. I am sorry that they are also undefined and ethically murky in so many ways. I am serious about asking your doctor the hard questions. Listen to her, talk to your husband, make a decision you can live with, and trust in Christ always.