Typos pregnacy [= pregnancy]
Marie C. Stopes
with a reply by
Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 26, 194445, p. 148
- p. 148 -
You state in your issue of the 18th that the "best, most effective and only natural contraceptive for the purpose of adequately spacing their families is lactation." This is untrue. It is one of the most ineffective. Women misled into using it have become pregnant within four weeks of child-birth. Women misled into using it have prolonged lactation far beyond their strength, while they did not know they had a child their womb, which consequently suffered weakness as a result. It is anti-social, as well as individually cruel so to mislead women as you do.
Mr. Ludovici writes
Before heatedly resorting to such epithets as "cruel" and "anti-social" in referring to those who recommend lactation associated with a vigorous mammary function as an effective contraceptive method, and before stigmatizing the claims on which it is based, as "untrue," birth-controllers would do well to reconsider the whole question in the following aspects:
(a) The principal grounds for regarding lactation (unqualified) as contraceptive in its effects are the considered judgment of distinguished gynæcologists, the prevalence of the belief among most peoples of the world, and the evidence we have of contraception being successfully secured by lactation.
Now Dr. A. C. Magian; formerly Gynæcologist to the Manchester French Hospital, says in his "Sex Problems in Women" (p. 170). "The average interval between two successive births is about two years, unless a child dies at birth, or lactation is unduly prolonged. In the first case the period is diminished and in the second it is increased."
Dr. E. H. Kisch, the famous German gynæcologist, in his "Sexual Life of Woman" (p. 403, says: "As a general rule, as long as lactation continues amenorrhea persists, and sexual intercourse remains unfruitful. But this rule is not universally valid."
Again, Dr. G. T. Wrench, Past Assistant Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin the premier school of Midwifery and Gynæcology in these islands writes as follows: "As regards the frequency of child-bearing, it may be laid down that Nature has given a good guide in that she prevents conception taking place with few exceptions whilst the child is being suckled." ("Healthy Wedded Life," p. 49). Many more could be quoted, among them Dr. Mary Scharlieb and Dr. Iwan Bloch.
We know, moreover, that the belief in this relation between lactation and contraception is widespread. Ridiculed by birth-controllers as "an old wives' tale," it nevertheless persists in almost every quarter of the globe, and since it is a belief that is constantly subjected to the test of practice, it would hardly have been likely to survive had not experience suggested and confirmed it.
(b) Thus even if we left it at this, and proceeded to recommend lactation (unqualified) as a contraceptive, we should, according to eminent medical experts, be with "few exceptions" right. And should the few exceptions deter us, seeing that it is a matter of choosing the less of two evils? Undoubtedly a few would suffer disappointment and possibly more: but is this not better than placing in the hands of all indiscriminately whether equipped or not for the full quiver and the health and happiness it brings to the normal woman the information which may tempt them to reject their normal destiny?
(c) The recommendation of lactation as a contraceptive, however, become overwhelmingly justified when it is qualified, as I was careful to qualify it, by making it contingent on a vigorous mammary function.
It was a qualification Dr. Marie Stopes unfortunately did not notice. Although, therefore, I regard her protest as unjustified, even its relating to lactation pure and simple, it appears to be more than ever so in relation to the recommendation as I worded it.
Let me explain.
It is noteworthy that whilst Kisch, Magian, Wrench, Bloch and Scharlieb speak of lactation as being "with few exceptions" a reliable contraceptive measure, none of them attempts to offer any explanation of the exceptions which they acknowledge.
But the light Dr. Ludwig Fraenkel's findings shed on the relation between the amenorrhea of lactation and the mammary function, goes a long way towards accounting for the exceptions in question.
He points out that the arrest of the amenorrhea depends on the decline of the breast function, and that the latter is not, as many suppose, conditioned by the restoration of the menstrual function. And he quotes results recorded by Dr. Engel, according to which the likelihood of the arrest of amenorrhea in lactation increases proportionately with the relative defectiveness of the function. (Hallban & Seitz: "Biologie U. Pathologie des Weibes," Vol. I, page 615.)
Thus a vigorous mammary function would appear to be necessarily associated with lactation if contraception is to be expected "and the few exceptions referred to by Wrench, etc., are satisfactorily accounted for. This was my reason for specifying "lactation associated with a vigorous mammary function."
Profoundly interesting facts pointing to the accuracy of Fraenkel's "findings may be read to mention only one instance in Margaret Mead's "Sex and Temperament" (Chapter XI), where we find two important contentions of Fraenkel confirmed. First, the presence of a vigorous mammary function, indicated by the capacity to initiate milk-secretion without bearing a child, and, secondly, the successful avoidance of pregnacy while lactation continues, although intercourse is not interrupted.
On all these grounds, I regard it as wholly justified to recommend lactation associated with a vigorous mammary function" as a reliable contraceptive measure, and submit that Dr. Marie Stopes's outburst was hasty, gratuitous, and (even if she entirely overlooked my important qualification) absurdly overtoned.