Claims of pills’ side effects untrue

Letters, Normal

I REFER to your Health Watch (March 4) report where visiting Human Life International activist and missionary Dr Ligaya Acosta said the “introduction of contraceptive pills and sterilisations as part of family planning had many serious side effects”. 
Dr Acosta is further reported as saying that there is “overwhelming scientific evidence that have proven time and time again that contraceptive pills or use of injections or sterilisations can actually cause cervix cancer …”
Both statements are not true.  
It is very disappointing The National could report these untruths under an equally misleading headline “Science proves artificial contraceptives dangerous”. 
The National should have checked with local doctors before printing these misleading statements.
One must also wonder what on earth an ethical organisation like the Catholic church is doing by bringing a person from overseas to spread such claims.
Pregnancy (especially unplanned pregnancy) is dangerous in PNG; overall more than seven women die for every 1,000 births in this country. 
Contraception, on the other hand, clearly saves lives and promotes health.
The facts are that injections and sterilisations have not been linked to cancer of the cervix or any other serious diseases. 
In fact, it is well established that Depo-provera is effective in preventing both ovarian and uterine cancer, as well as reducing the risk of serious conditions like anemia, endometriosis, ovarian cyst formation, dysmorphic premenstrual syndrome and depression.
All the evidence is available. 
In normal circumstances, if a doctor was found to be making patently false and misleading statements to the public about health and medical issues, he or she could be reported to the Medical Board and disciplined.
With regards the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), international multicentre studies have shown that women who take the OCP live longer because of the many beneficial effects that the pill has for women. 
The OCP helps to prevent ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and bowel cancer as well as many other serious disorders. 
It is true that it has been associated with a very small increase in cervical cancer, but on balance, the risk of life-threatening cancer is reduced for women who take the OCP.
The research is also clear that cervical cancer is caused by persistent human papilloma virus (HPV) infection of the genital tract and a woman’s risk is increased if she smokes. 
HPV is sexually transmitted and, therefore, condoms will prevent HPV transmission; thus condoms can actually lessen the risk of a woman getting cancer of the cervix. 
I notice that Dr Acosta is also against condoms, so it would seem that she is in fact not really interested in helping PNG women avoid getting cancer of the cervix at all. 
In fact, it seems she is only interested in furthering her own religious and political agenda.
Lastly, Dr Acosta is reported as making some ridiculous statement about Depo-provera causing “thinning to appear on the womb making it more vulnerable for germs to enter and get to the baby”.
Women who are on Depo-provera do not get pregnant. It is the most effective temporary method of contraception.
So how on earth can germs get to the baby in the womb if you are not pregnant?
The “thinning” that Dr Acosta refers to is only present when women are actually on Depo and this can actually lessen the risk of infection getting into the womb, but in any event, if you stop your Depo, the “thinning” resolves with the first subsequent ovulation and when you subsequently get pregnant, the affects of Depo have long since worn off.
I suppose it is too much to ask that Dr Acosta apologise to the families of our nation for the harmful misleading statements that she has made whilst here, but at least those who brought her here should do so. 
I am sure the bishops would actually appreciate having accurate information put before them, and must be embarrassed by the blatant attempt to deceive them and their flock.
In future, it would also be respectful to at least involve some local PNG experts to speak to our bishops’ conference meetings. 
Of course, periodic abstinence is a good method of contraception for some families, but it is counter-productive and unethical to tell lies about other methods of contraception in the hope that everyone will use the method that you are promoting.

Professor Glen Mola
Head of Reproductive Health, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UPNG