Right To Life: Dr. Matheson, thank you very much for doing this interview. Will you please give us a brief biographical sketch of what you are doing professionally now?
Dr. Matheson: I am a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist and have been for 26 years with a special interest in NaPro Technology (the care of women’s reproductive issues the natural way, not using chemicals or medication that will cause the destruction of unborn babies or injure the woman), and NFP (Natural Family Planning or fertility awareness). I don’t prescribe the pill or other abortifacients, and don’t do tubal sterilizations. I take care of complicated gynecologic issues; deal with problems that can result from any form of contraception; deal with problems women have after having been sterilized (tubal reversal procedures); repair those tubes which have been damaged. I try to counsel women with regards to other ways of treating gynecologic problems where often times the first choice of treatment was hormonal contraception. I use alternatives that they have not tried that can be extremely effective. Sometimes that includes recommending surgery to evaluate the problem. I will try to get to the root of their problems instead of masking their problems with chemical birth control.
For example, I saw a young lady who has a history of irregular periods, going months without having a period; and instead of investigating the reason why that might be happening, her previous physicians put her on the pill to regulate her period. Well, it’s not regulating her period at all. It has nothing to do with the underlying condition and it’s not treating her problem nor is it regulating her period. She’s bleeding in response to how she takes the pill, whether that be to withdraw once a month or withdraw every three months or however you want to do it; but it doesn’t fix or help diagnose what the underlying problem is. So that’s what we did today. We tried to figure out what’s the reason why she’s not having periods every month. Why isn’t she ovulating? So rather than masking it and sending her on her way, we tried to find out what the problem is.
RTL: Dr. Matheson, what does “abortifacient” mean, and how does it relate to actions of chemical birth control pills and similar products used today by many women to prevent pregnancy?
JKM: The definition of “abortifacient” is (a chemical which) creates or causes an abortion, i.e. the loss of pregnancy, the loss of human life (in the womb). With regards to the chemical methods that are used today, the way they work as an abortifacient is by affecting the implantation of the fertilized egg and, obviously, the embryo that is created at the moment of fertilization/conception. The lining of the uterus gets very thin, which is how the chemicals work; then the embryo can’t satisfactorily implant, and is not nourished adequately to continue to grow.
So if you have, for example, Depo-Provera, the primary action is thinning the lining of the uterus. Probably, within the first year, 25% of the time, women continue to ovulate. Within the next 2 or 3 years, that goes up to 40%. So it doesn’t inhibit ovulation as frequently as the manufacturers suspect that it will. The mechanism of action of thinning the lining of the uterus actually becomes more of a primary way of preventing pregnancy then does the prevention of ovulation. So in that situation, the chemicals are affecting implantation which causes the potential for a (very early) abortion. Picture in your mind an analogy: if you plant your garden in rocky soil, or poorly nourished soil, your tomatoes don’t grow; or they may grow, but the harvest is not very good, or the tomatoes are not as big or strong or as healthy as they normally would be. With fertilizer in it, if you’ve got good, rich, nutritious soil, your plants grow (much better).
The same thing can happen with the lining of the uterus. So if you think about the normal lining of the uterus in a normal menstrual cycle, at the time of implantation the lining is typically about 15 millimeters thick. If a woman is on the pill or Depo-Provera, the lining is 1.5 mm. So it’s ten times thinner than it needs to be. Now what’s interesting is that sometimes a pregnancy will implant – it will be O.K. It will miraculously survive. Sometimes I see women on the pill or on Depo-Provera and the pregnancy is O.K. But often times the exact opposite is happening. They may be pregnant and then they withdraw from taking the pill. During that normal pill-free interval, they may actually be losing the pregnancy. They don’t even realize it. Or with Depo-Provera, a lot of women have irregular bleeding while they’re taking it, and because the lining is so thin, they may actually be bleeding because they are miscarrying and they don’t realize it.
What I see are situations where I diagnosed somebody’s pregnant by checking the hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone level. I don’t do this with ultrasound, it’s too early typically to see anything. The hCG levels may go up a little bit, but then they start to fall. In my mind, that’s indicative of a chemical abortion. Some people would say that’s possible. But it’s also possible that that pregnancy was abnormal and the woman would have aborted anyway. But we don’t know that. And we can’t assume that every single time somebody loses a pregnancy that the pregnancy was abnormal. We do know that when they have a corpus luteum defect — meaning that, when they ovulate, the corpus luteum (that part of the ovary that’s producing progesterone that sustains a pregnancy) may not be making enough progesterone. So what happens then is that they have repetitive early pregnancy loss. If the woman is given progesterone, often times it fixes the problem.
RTL: When does conception occur?
JKM: There’s really embryologically no question that it begins at the moment of life, which begins at fertilization. So when sperm and egg — genetic material from Mom and genetic material from Dad — come together, at that moment, all the genetic information for that new human being is created; one cell, then it divides. At that moment, it’s a human being. That’s the definition of when life begins. Some people will say that pregnancy doesn’t begin until implantation, when it literally attaches to the mother. That doesn’t make any sense to me because it’s a human being whether it’s floating in the fallopian tube, floating in the uterus for three days, or implanted in the uterus. It’s still a human being even if it’s not detectable until the day after implantation when the hormone level starts to rise. That was the definition (of the beginning of life) long before the 1960’s when the pill was created. Those who developed the pill knew that it was going to be a problem, and they knew that the biggest vocal critics were going to be those in the Catholic Church. They knew that those in the Church would be the opponents of contraception. So what they did was they helped to change the definition of life, based on no science! It was a group of people that got together and said it’s going to be an issue. We need to do something about it. So government people, people who were higher-ups in the American College of OB/GYN’s, all these researchers changed the definition of when life begins.
RTL: How is it known that the fertilized egg is dying in the womb from abortifacients?
JKM: It isn’t known for sure. One way of finding out clinically wou1d be to analyze the menstrual flow of women every time they’re on the pill or Depo-Provera. That can be evaluated to see if there’s any pregnancy tissue there, and if there is, it can be evaluated to see if it is normal in terms of its chromosomes. But that’s never been done. However, if a woman has repetitive miscarriages, many OB/GYN’s will run chromosome analyses to determine whether or not the pregnancy is normal. If the uterus is too thin to nourish the baby and the baby’s chromosomes are normal. About 25% of the time the miscarriages are probably caused by the woman’s use of the pill or Depo-Provera. Normally, though, if you have a detectable hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) level which tells you that someone’s pregnant, and those levels are starting to increase then start to go down, it is indicative of someone having a miscarriage. It’s difficult to know whether that was a normal pregnancy and the miscarriage happened because the lining of the uterus (was too thin), or whether that would have happened anyway because the pregnancy was not normal. Again, we’re assuming that that happens because we know they’re pregnant, and then they’re not.
You can prove they’re pregnant by the hCG level. That’s the hormone that’s produced as the pregnancy tissue begins to grow. As that tissue continues to grow and divide and the hCG invades the wall of the uterus, those numbers go up. In a normal pregnancy, they go up in a defined normal way. If the pregnancy is not normal, then the hormone level doesn’t go up the way it’s supposed to; or if someone is in the process of miscarrying because the new tissue is not dividing or growing, the hormone level starts to fall because the woman’s body metabolizes that hormone; it clears from her system and the level starts to fall.
RTL: What is the difference between the birth control pill and “Plan B,” the so-called “morning-after” pill?
JKM: The difference is the increase in the dose (in Plan B). The amount of hormone that you’re getting is 10 times higher thatnwhat’s in the dose of the pill. The amount of progesterone is typically .15 mg per pill. In “Plan B” there’s a type of progesterone that’s 1.5 mg, that’s 10 times more potent than the pill.
At this point, Dr. Matheson goes on to explain the actions of “Plan B.”
JKM: “It is really critical as to when the medication is ingested, because if the woman hasn’t ovulated and she takes “Plan B”, it may prevent ovulation. So if the woman goes to the emergency room and somebody does a progesterone level (test) and it is very low, that would tell you that the individual hasn’t ovulated yet. Then “Plan B” would prevent ovulation. But, if she has already ovulated and she has unprotected intercourse and gets pregnant that night or the next day, then “Plan B” is not going to prevent implantation if the woman takes it more than 72 hours later. She’s supposed to take it within 72 hours after intercourse to prevent implantation because “Plan B” rapidly changes the lining of the uterus. She’s already got that embryo traveling down the fallopian tube into the uterus and trying to implant. If she takes it (“Plan B”), too late, then it’s not going to prevent implantation. If she has already ovulated and the progesterone level was high, then there’s the potential at that point that “Plan B” would be an abortifacient. That’s how it works. But most people don’t know where they are (in their cycle) or they don’t know that’s what they’re doing.
RTL: What are viable alternatives to chemical and mechanical birth control products that prevent pregnancy?
JKM: Abstinence and fertility awareness (Natural Family Planning – NFP)
RTL: What are the predominant side effects for women who take the pill?
JKM: The most common thing is bleeding abnormally. That’s probably the thing that causes women to stop — irregular bleeding; then things like headaches, nausea, bloating, weight gain, skin issues, loss of libido. Those are some of the common things that have the minor nuisance side effects. But heart attacks, strokes, blood clots; those are the major things. They don’t happen very often. There’s more likely to be some issues with certain products that have an increase in progesterone that are associated with the increase of frequency of blood clots.
The other thing that people aren’t aware of is that in 2005 or 2007, the World Health Organization classified the pill as a Class 1 carcinogen, which means it causes cancer. Furthermore, when the health initiative came out, everyone got all fired up and upset about estrogen replacement therapy, which is used for a totally different reason than the use of estrogen/progesterone in the pill. The dose is about 1/5 of the potency of what’s in the pill. We’re trying to do two different things. With the pill, we’re trying to prevent ovulation. With hormone replacement therapy, you’re just trying to treat symptoms and essentially replace that little bit of estrogen that women aren’t making at that point in life.
But everybody got all worked up because there was an increased risk of breast cancer (with estrogen replacement therapy).It’s kind of hypocritical in a sense that there are about 23 studies that show that women who take the pill for four or five years prior to the first full-term pregnancy increase their lifetime risk of developing breast cancer by about 40%. So, on one hand, they get all up in arms about it; but on the other hand, when they’re trying to prevent pregnancy, they belittle the statistics. But what’s interesting, when you look at the increase in the incidence of breast cancer, over the last 30 or 40 years, especially in young women, it goes up and up and up. To be honest, OK, there’s diet, genetics, all the other reasons why breast cancer can develop. Those things are pretty much still the same. They have been the same for all this time. What’s different? Well, the birth control pill and abortion. Those are increasing; and so is breast cancer. Nobody wants to talk about it. When it comes to preventing pregnancy, the thing I often times moralize about is that there are so many women that want to be natural. They work out, they don’t put unnatural things into their bodies, and they watch the things they’re eating. But they’re willing to put anything into their bodies, literally anything — (including) something that may eventually kill them — in order to prevent getting pregnant so they can have sex whenever they want. They don’t (want to) have to worry about it.
RTL: What would you recommend to people to read as a resource to find out more about the pill, what it does, and the side effects?
JKM: You can get on-line, Google birth control pill side effects. You can research or Google the link between breast cancer and the pill. You can get a package insert from the pill. Go to the pharmacist and ask him for one. I’m sure he’ll give you one. Go to the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference). Nowadays, with internet access, you can get all that information with just a click of your computer. I’ve looked at package inserts. There are so many side effects on there because anything that can possibly happen, they have to list that. They (the manufacturers) will come right out and say (the chemicals) can prevent implantation. It says that right in the package insert.
During the interview, Dr. Matheson very clearly shared his Pro-Life philosophy:
JKM: I think the defining issue for me is, if you’re Pro-Life, you err on the side of protecting life. And you can’t say that a one cell, or zygote, is any less significant than a baby of 20 weeks (in the womb). It’s still a human life and therefore, if you are taking something that is potentially harmful to that baby and may prevent implantation, which then causes the abortion, then you can’t do that. There’s no logic there. If it’s a zygote, an embryo, a 20 week or 90 year old, it’s still a human life.