The Myth of the Seven Day Rule: What the Pope had to do with the Contraceptive Pill

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Earlier this week I read this article, which revealed that the withdrawal bleed at the end of the pill cycle may be completely unnecessary. The reason the withdrawal bleed was created was due to a gynecologist at the time trying to get the Pope to be more open to contraceptives.

“He [John Rock] thought he’d get the Pope on board with oral contraceptives if it could mimic a woman’s natural cycle, still making her bleed once a month. The Pope, being the Pope, did not approve and the man renounced Catholicism, but that’s another story.”

Upon reading this I rolled my eyes, thought ‘sounds about right’, took a screen-shot of the article and shared it to my Instagram story. The idea of doctors ignoring women’s health due to religious or political affiliations (not to mention personal bias!) is an idea I’ve come to terms with since my first experiences with the contraceptive pill. I’ve written about how horrific the pill made me feel before, and why I choose not to take it.

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Since turning eighteen, moving out of home and taking care of my own health I’ve been shuffled around to various GP’s, physio’s, and other doctors in an effort to manage the chronic pain I experience (which becomes debilitating as soon as my period hits every month). Each doctor has no idea why I’m in pain, even as I list each symptom, along with my family history, and ask for ultrasounds on my ovaries because I am sure the pain has something to do with my reproductive system. In her article for The Independent, Kate Leaver begs the question myself and so many of my peers are constantly asking:

“How can we possibly know so little about women’s bodies, with a medical research industry as sophisticated as ours?”

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The Health Gap: 

There’s a long history, and a lot of statistics that can back up claims of women being treated differently than men by GP’s, and in emergency room settings. From claims of pain being dismissed, to being less likely to receive opioid painkillers in response.

“Research on disparities between how women and men are treated in medical settings is growing — and it is concerning for any woman seeking care.”

The decisions doctors make about our bodies, and how they will be cared for are not immune to personal bias. These personal biases can be linked to sexual politics, and the unfair misogynistic bias inherent in laws informed by religion, or past status quo. There is also evidence to suggest that bias is also present when it comes to treating patients of different ethnicities.

I remember grabbing the morning-after pill one day in my early twenties from a random chemist in Melbourne’s CBD, the chemist who filled my script described it as an ‘abortion pill’ and used terms like, ‘this will flush “it” (it being a potential fetus – which definitely would NOT be present in the 24 hour post-coital period) right down the tubes’. These ill-informed words were coming from a healthcare professional who was supposed to be giving me advice! Advice on how to take medicine! I was shocked. He also seemed to think that any spotting that might occur after taking the pill was evidence of an abortion taking place (it’s not).

The protests surrounding the historic referendum last year in Ireland proved that there are still people in this word who don’t believe in women having the right to information about their bodies. Or maybe they don’t believe this, but they are still horrifically ill-informed about how the female reproductive system works, or maybe how women’s minds work, or what we are capable of achieving in life, and how modern healthcare affords us the necessary tools to succeed in this world. 

While these groups likely don’t represent the beliefs of your local GP, these ideas are leftovers from a period in which women’s health was heavily dismissed. These inherent biases need to be stripped from healthcare provider education, in order to bring up to date the healthcare and information we are giving women and the general public. 

 

 

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