The Influence Of Anticonceptional Practices
( Originally Published 1923 )
IN the first part of this book, mention was made of the admirable foresight with which nature provides for everything that is connected with the preservation of the human race and its procreation as well as of the severe punishment she metes upon all irregularities and abuses committed in this respect.
The fact was also shown, that from such abuses and especially from abortive and anticonceptional practices even premature death may result.
I would like to add here that early and rapid ageing may also be produced through anticonceptional practices. Even in the male subject, such preventive habits may contribute to early ageing, but in women its effects are far more deleterious. This is due to the different anatomical arrangement and structure of the female organs as well as their different physiological functions, which are far more complicated than in the male. Indeed, in this respect nature has placed a far heavier burden upon woman than upon man.
Each gland in our body is intended for a special purpose and for a certain kind of activity. This general rule also holds good as regards the sexual glands. To insure their activity, nature has implanted a kind of craving into the breast of each creature, which demands satisfaction. There are certain persons who, through a special kind of education in preparation for a certain vocation, can more or less successfully resist this craving, but most people show manifestations - of nervous disorders from an enforced total sexual abstinence of long duration, especially women who have arrived at the mature years of maternity, often without any knowledge of the real cause of these disorders.
I have for this reason advocated marriage as a preventive of such disturbances and as means of lengthening life.
Still more serious, however, are the consequences for those who, while actually sipping of the nectar, resort to anticonceptional measures with the purpose of thwarting the natural consequences of the satisfaction of this peremptory craving. Serious disorders of the reproductive organs and of the nervous system result from such practices. Women are exceedingly sensitive to all disturbances that arise at this, their most vulnerable point, the organ of sex.
While it is true, as the great, much travelled Belgian physician and nature student of the seventeenth century, Van Helmont, emphasized, that women are what they are by reason of their sex organs, it must be considered likewise a fact, ac-cording to my conviction, that women are susceptible to rapid ageing on account of these same organs, or at least, to ageing much more rapidly than men.
As I have proved in my various publications, ageing is brought about by changes in the ductless glands, among which the thyroid and the sex glands play the most important physiologic rôle. Like the thyroid, the ovaries exert an influence over a number of the most important bodily functions, such as blood formation, the heart action (disturbances of heart action during the period of the menopause), and in particular, general metabolism. Thus, obesity often sets in after cessation of the function of the ovaries at the menopause or when these organs are removed by operation.
In my book, "Building Human Intelligence," I show at length how the brain, and likewise the general condition of the nervous system, is influenced by these glands. The effects of these remarkable organs extend even to the appearance of the skin, and the experienced eye is often able to recognize the presence of disorders of the ovaries and uterus merely from the dirty-yellow, muddy complexion of the women suffering from them. Similarly, when these organs are overactive, the condition betrays itself in a bloated, sallow, aged, and worn appearance of the face.
In view of the above mentioned influence of these organs on a number of important bodily functions, one can readily understand why anticonceptional practices may likewise cause rapid ageing by acting harmfully on the organs of sex.
The harmful effects referred to are two in number : The first is a physical excitation and irritation of the sex organs which is not followed by satisfaction, or only partly so. The second is the mechanical irritation of the sexual organs by the devices employed for the purpose referred to.
The first of these harmful influences is exerted when, for example, a covering over the intromittent organ is used. In this respect there can of course be no question of mechanical irritation, but its use prevents complete satisfaction or permits of it only in part. Where pessaries are used, the satisfaction obtained may be greater although even under these conditions it is not complete but the mechanical action on the uterus may induce severe disorders of the latter, or at least pave the way to their occurrence, The use of sponges likewise interferes with complete satisfaction, and may also lead to uterine disturbances. The premature interruption of the sexual act is not in itself attended with any mechanical local injury, but does produce, owing to the complete lack of satisfaction, a correspondingly pronounced injury to the nervous system, and is often the cause of neurasthenia and hysteria, with frequent disturbances of heart action.
Either of the above practices may lead more or less readily to neurasthenia or hysteria merely through the impossibility of obtaining complete satisfaction as well as through irritation of the nervous system.
These, in turn, result in a very marked predisposition to the development of arteriosclerosis, which easily becomes established under such circumstances.
Furthermore, these practices bring about severe disorders of the uterus and ovaries and likewise frequently afford the initial impulse in the development of cancer of the uterus.
It should be borne in mind, too, that in all these procedures there occurs a marked congestion of the uterus and ovaries with blood, and when this takes place frequently, the result is an inflammation of these organs as well as of the neighboring tissues, with consequent endo-,peri-, and parametritis, and as a further consequence, the production of exudates.
One can readily understand that such disorders as these, which continue for years, greatly undermine the women thus afflicted and cause them to age rapidly. It is also plain that the diseased ovaries become incapable of carrying on any longer their important rôle as one of the glandular organs presiding over blood formation, the metabolic processes, and other vital functions, and that consequently rapid ageing takes place in women suffering from inflammation of the ovaries. Such ageing will occur even more quickly if, as is unfortunately often the case, surgical removal of the diseased uterus and ovaries is required on account of these disorders, and their activity in consequence completely ceases.
I would also like to emphasize the fact that pre-mature interruption of the sexual act, although it causes in itself no local injury to the organ of sex and is considered harmless by many women, may nevertheless cause not only pronounced nervous injury, but also, by reason of the frequent over-congestion of the uterus, favor the occurrence of an extremely serious disease, viz., cancer. Thus, Kisch noted as a consequence of this practice the formation of cysts at the uterine cervix, and in these cysts rather frequently a cancerous degeneration. Furthermore, Neubauer and Pigeolet already emphasized years ago that the onset of cancer may be favored by the use of condoms. I would like to stress also the fact that the use of pessaries may likewise promote tumor development.
Very often local injuries to the uterine tissues produced under these circumstances cannot well be obviated. Yet through such injuries of the epithelium, especially if they occur rather frequently or, as it were, habitually, cancer formation is readily promoted, especially when added unfavorable influences, such as heredity (cancer in the family), late adult life, etc., are present as contributory factors.
It is known that cancer in general readily develops where such frequent injuries of the covering epithelium are taking place, as is illustrated in the cancer of the stomach following a coarse diet in peasants, cancer of the lips in pipe smokers, and cancer of the mammary gland after injury. We know also that the uterus is a preferred site for cancer, and the repeated irritations and injuries previously mentioned certainly constitute a circumstance favorable to the frequent development of cancer in this organ; the frequent overfilling with blood and inflammations following the use of anti-conceptional measures may likewise contribute to this end.
The question thus naturally arises whether it is worth while to expose oneself to such great risks, to acquire such serious diseases, to endure pain and torment for years, and in addition to age rapidly, merely in order to avoid being blessed with a family. If material cares constitute the motive for so doing, it would be well to bear in mind that the expense of an illness of years' duration may easily outweigh that of rearing a child, not to mention the prolonged suffering and pain and the prospect of rapid fading and ageing which must be taken into account, and in addition the risk of premature death.
If, however, it should be the pride of personal appearance which deters so many women from a possible pregnancy, then I would offer the objection that very often the charms of a woman are further enhanced after the birth of a child, as is shown, indeed, in the pictures of the great Italian masters and in those of Rubens.
Often faded maidens of the type known among the Walloons of Belgium as "vierges martyres," after marriage and the birth of a child literally blossom out. Married life, pregnancy, and lactation if the latter is not continued for an excessive time act, indeed, like a kind of whip upon an inactive thyroid gland and inactive ovaries, which are stimulated to greater activity, the functions presided over by them being, in turn, improved. Thus in many instances it would be desirable even from the standpoint of personal beauty for a woman to have a child.
As for the relationship of material cares to the rearing of a family, the State might wisely step in and assist, especially in the countries recently deprived of so many of their sons through war. In order to increase the number of births, families comprising more than five children, unless well to do, should be exempted from taxes; for each child born after the third or fourth, moreover, fathers of poor families might be paid a contribution or, instead, such children reared at the expense of the State.
There remains to be settled the question as to what to do where bodily infirmities of the women make it appear that pregnancy and labor would be dangerous to life. I have already suggested that before contracting marriage each man and woman should be subjected to a physical and mental examination in order to ascertain their fitness for matrimony and whether they harbor any transmissible disease.
In any case it would be desirable for women to call in their family physician in council before they enter upon any such practices as expose their health and even their lives to great risks. This, of all places, is the one in which to emphasize the fact that the physician may be of the greatest utility, not so much in treating as in warding off disease. The blame for the latter lies not with the physician, but the patient. Being frequently called in too late, he is often given to treat an organ which has already been destroyed by disease. He is summoned to put out the fire when the house has al-ready burned down. And yet no great conflagration breaks out suddenly. At first it is only a spark, then it slowly spreads, but by the time the cry of "Fire" is uttered a part of the house has already been destroyed. Similarly a disease almost never develops all at once. Often it extends imperceptibly and insidiously, and by the time it is obvious the patient is often irretrievably lost, or at all events the disease is no longer curable.
If I may be allowed to express a conclusion drawn from personal observations extending over many years, it is that thousands upon thousands of men and women go through life without being aware that they are ill and often severely ill. This is a matter of daily observation to the physicians of insurance companies. And from this there naturally springs the thought that the State should carry out yearly an official examination of every man, woman and child including uranalysis in order to ascertain if they are in good health. What a multitude of human lives could thus be saved betimes, and likewise what immense sums of money for hospitals and no less for insane asylums!
May the above lines be dedicated to the practical consummation of this suggestion!