Lately, I have been reading a lot of reviews of Holly Grigg-Spall’s book Sweetening the Pill: how we got hooked on hormonal birth control. Big surprise: a lot of people aren’t taking it very well. Generally, people think that it is propaganda to tear down the feminist movement and “reduce women to their biological functions.”
So why does everyone make it so personally? Generally, when those of us who do not like the pill make claims about it it can get pretty nasty. You’re setting yourself up for cancer, you are going to have no sex drive, you will have a completely different personality, it’s going to deplete all of your vitamin stores, and it’s making you a tool of patriarchal culture. Pretty grim, right?
While those things do happen to many many more women than we like to realize, there are some that are perfectly happy on the pill – and good for them! They found a method of birth control that they love and that works for them. Yes, they can’t really know what it may be doing to their body that isn’t immediately noticeable, but if they are happy at the time and have nothing that works for them as an alternative, that’s just the way it’s gonna be.
Unfortunately, many women looking for the right birth control option are generally uninformed about potential adverse affects of hormonal contraceptives. If they are having any problems with them they are generally switched to different kinds of hormonal contraceptives, advised to take more hormones to alleviate any difficulties, or given lame non-hormonal options that sound less than satisfactory.
Since our culture around family planning tends to err on the side of hormones, many women who would like non hormonal contraception are uninformed. They are uninformed of the adverse effects, both immediate and long term. They are uninformed that they have other options, and this is the big one. Doctors themselves dissuade women, particularly young women, from choosing anything other than hormonal methods, condoms, or the copper IUD. While this can be adequate for some women, what about the ones that don’t want one of these three options (yeah, all hormones are being grouped together. Most women who don’t want to be on hormones just don’t want to be on them, whether you offer them a patch or a shot).
Everyone that I have come in contact with that has opted for a contraceptive option off the beaten path has been warned, criticized, and/or had massive attempts at dissuasion by their typical gynecologist. Personally, I was told to go on hormones, made to go through all kinds of rigamarole, and than asked gravely “how ok [I would] be with an unplanned pregnancy.” Why don’t they ask EVERYONE going on some form of contraceptives how ok they would be with an unplanned pregnancy?
For one thing, we have the negative speak setting people up for trouble. If a method is deemed as “too difficult,” it most probably will be, whether it inherently is or is not. If a women has an easy time with a method though her doctor deemed it too difficult, she may wonder if she is really doing it right. This is nothing to say of whether the women would even decide to try something that a doctor says is too hard.
Next, It can cause utter dissatisfaction for those that are “forced” to use something that someone thinks is better for them. Often the women who don’t want to use these methods, but are persuaded to do so will end up being non perfect users. What’s the issue with this? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: of ALL birth control methods, those who use their chosen method perfectly only account for 5% of the unplanned pregnancies. The whole other 95% of the unplanned pregnancies belong to those who don’t use their intended method well. So, rather than trying to convince women to get the most long lasting and “fool-proof” birth control method, they need to be counseled more to truly find what is right for them, with an un-biased physician or other health care practitioner. This will help us have more perfect users, and not just a bunch of people without control over their reproductive options.
What method is right for you? That’s only up to you to decide. But people like me, people like Holly Grigg-Spall, and any other people offering information about hormonal contraceptives that is counter to our culture are trying to make sure that women have the education and information they need to make a choice that is right for them. If that is hormones; fine, but make sure that you have taken in the existing information and made a choice for yourself and not because you felt it was the only acceptable thing to do.
This issue, and the world in general, really, is less about some people being right and others being wrong. It’s much more about having the ability to be exposed to enough information from either side (and everything in between) so that you can make an informed decision that is right for you. Does the anti-hormonal contraceptive side sound a little harsh? For most people, yes. And that tends to happen when here is one dominant worldview and very few dissenters. So, do your research, make sure you are happy, and know that if you find something that works well for you and you can use it perfectly you can tell your doctor and the dominant culture to shove it. I give you my permission.