I was 11 years old, waiting for the doctor to call me and my mom to come to see him. It was an exciting day that every relatively tall 11-year-old would experience; the day you get a glimpse into the future.
They must have run a handful of tests, but I only remember finding out about how tall I would grow to be. You’re easily going to outgrow your mom; there’s a good chance you’ll grow to 1.84 cm! That’s about 6 feet tall. I don’t remember thinking much of it at the time.
I wasn’t yet at the age that I cared deeply about my appearance, but we did take some time to adjust to the news. There are worse things in the world, but we live in a sometimes-cruel society and it’s not easy belonging to the tallest 1% of females in the world.
The doctor gave me the option to take hormone pills to pull the breaks on my growth. There weren’t any risks involved, so he said. I would just grow to be 3–10 cm (1–4 inches) shorter. We considered it. The forecast of always being the tallest girl in the room didn’t sound incredible but luckily, my brain wasn’t in full puberty mode yet, meaning I wasn’t desperate to blend in yet.
In the end, we decided not to go for it. We let intuition guide us, letting my body do whatever it wanted to do.
I’m now 1.88 cm (nearly 6’’2). I think my body got word that I almost flooded it with growth stoppers and this was her way of giving me a big fat middle finger. My years as a teenager were mostly spent bending my knees in group pictures, buying the flattest shoes I could find, and feeling insecure about my height. Standing out of the crowd is not exactly what you want when you’re a self-conscious teen.
I’ve always lived with a hint of regret. I wish I had taken those hormones. I can’t even begin to count the times I fantasized about what life would be like if I was a ‘normal’ height. Then I’d have been able to date more. Then I’d have been able to look normal dancing. Then I’d have been able to buy pants at any random store.
All of those (absurd) thought patterns came to an abrupt halt a couple of months ago.
A treatement that causes infertility in women
There was an item on (Dutch) TV about these growth-stopping hormones. In a study done by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, they interviewed and studied hundreds of women who had undergone this estrogen treatment when they were younger, comparing their results to women who had never had any such treatment.
The results were clear as day: estrogen-treated women were three times as likely to have potentially failing ovaries, based on hormone levels.
Comparing the fertility of women who had been treated to women who had never been treated with estrogen…
- 82% of treated women successfully conceived, compared to 95% of untreated women who conceived.
- 71% of the treated women gave birth to a live baby, compared to 90% of the untreated group.
- 56% were able to conceive in less than a year of trying, compared to 79% of untreated women who got pregnant over that same time span.
Let that sink in. 3 out of 10 treated women who got pregnant didn’t give birth to a live baby.
I’m well aware there’s always a chance of having fertility issues, but the fact that this chance gets so much higher purely for aesthetical reasons is heartbreaking. The fact that none of these women were properly warned of the risks — after all, nobody even knew about this — is heartbreaking.
How come there are so many issues with this treatment anyway?
Well, maybe it’s because taking these growth-blocking hormones (most women take ethinylestradiol) is similar to taking 7 birth control pills or 1 morning after pill per day. Years on end. Daily.
Combine that with the young age at which women take these hormones, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Dr. Donna Baird, head of the Women’s Health Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences made the following statement about taking hormones during puberty:
“The time when the ovary is developing in adolescence is clearly an important time. Anything that a girl is exposed to at that time has much more effect.”
Girls are basically prescribed little uterus bombs daily for years so that they can be a couple of inches shorter to satisfy the aesthetic standards of society.
I’ve written about the twisted logic on birth control before and since I’ve found out about this study, it’s becoming overwhelming how far removed we still are from a truly modern and equal society.
Blessing in disguise
I have learned that all those years of regretting not taking those pills in time were all for nothing. One study was all that I needed for my perspective to do a full 180°. Whatever the reason was at the time, I’m incredibly grateful that I didn’t go for it.
I’d rather be tall and have the same shot at fertility than anybody else than being a couple of inches shorter and risking my fertility for the sake of blending into the crowd. I’m sure all women, now knowing this, would feel the same way.
Putting the practicalities aside for a minute, this whole thing has woken me up to an important realization. If you take anything away from this article, let it be this:
Everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t know the reason right now.
Nothing has to make sense right now, but someday it will. If I could have told my younger self what I know now, I could have saved years of regretful insecurity getting the best of me. Things are working out for you in the way that they should — this just proves that more for me.
Only time will tell, and it may take years or even decades for things to click together. But one thing is for sure: I’ll never spend another day regretting things, thinking I should have done them differently. When you believe that everything is meant to go as it is, it’s much easier to be at peace with the trajectory of your life.
As for the treatment: While the number of girls getting prescribed these treatments is already significantly lower than it used to be, it hasn’t stopped yet. If you reading this only even prevents 1 girl from taking this treatment, I’d consider it a success. Pass it on — and stand tall!