Jeremy Laurance: Should you advise your daughter to take the Pill?

Medical Life

What advice should a mother give her daughter about contraception? "I will always be grateful to my mum for putting me on the Pill when I was 14." That was Tracey Emin's tribute for Mother's Day in
The Independent last week.

Tracey's mother met her father and became pregnant by him while he was married to another woman and the family was later plunged into poverty when Tracey and her twin brother were aged seven. Her mother, who had wanted to be a dancer until motherhood ended her ambitions, later told her: "Any woman who said giving birth didn't hurt is lying. And then when she says 'but when I saw the baby's face it made it all worthwhile' – she's also lying. Whatever you do. Don't have a baby. It will destroy your life."

Stern stuff. But whatever your viewpoint, every mother of daughters sooner or later faces the same question. Should she recommend the contraceptive pill? Many people dislike the idea of swallowing drugs, especially on a long-term basis. On the other hand the perils of pregnancy, as graphically spelt out by Tracey's mum, are well known. Even on a purely medical level, pregnancy and birth carry risks that outweigh those of all forms of contraception. So is the answer clear?

For decades, a question mark has lingered over the safety of the contraceptive pill. In the Seventies and Eighties, concern focused on the risk of thrombosis (blood clots) and stroke and the occasional sudden and shocking death was reported of a woman in her twenties.

The Pill was modified to reduce this risk but in the 1990s scares about breast and cervical cancer emerged, though these later appeared to be outweighed by reductions in other cancers of the ovary, womb and bowel.

Last week came the latest results from one of the longest studies of the contraceptive pill in the world, conducted by the Royal College of General Practitioners research unit. The study was launched in 1968 and includes 46,000 women.

The best news was for today's mothers of teenage daughters – older women, coming to the end of their reproductive lives, who are wondering what penalty they may pay for years, or in some cases decades, of carefree sex on the Pill.

The answer is, unexpectedly, that they may live longer than their more cautious sisters – overall there were fewer deaths from all causes combined among those who had ever used the contraceptive pill than among those who had never used it.

What about their daughters? Here it gets a little more complicated, because the risks to younger women are fractionally increased. The increase is more than outweighed by the decrease in risk among older women and it disappears anyway within ten years of coming off the Pill. Modern versions of the Pill are slightly different – though it would be remarkable if they carried higher risks than the older versions. So assuming you survive to the menopause, you should live longer on the Pill.

This, as doctors have said, is good news for all women – and especially for today's mothers.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

    £21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Affiliates & Partnerships

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This multi-award winning foreig...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

    £17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

    Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager - OTE £36,000

    £22000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A New Business Manager role sui...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor