The Sexist Burden of Contraceptive Care

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Weight gain. Migraines. Nausea. Acne. Dizziness. Increased cramping. Breast tenderness. Ovarian cysts. Vision problems. Decreased libido. Depression and anxiety. Mood irregularities. Infertility.

The birth control pill, the IUD, the arm implant, and the NuvaRing are the most common drug-based contraceptives used in the U.S. and most developed countries. Although their level of effectiveness and the ways in which they prevent pregnancy usually differ, all of these options yield the same negative side effects for the people who take them.

Since the development of the birth control pill in 1950 and the subsequent development of other birth control methods, this is the list of side effects women have been subjected to. Some women experience symptoms for fewer than three months or simply quit the method. Many of their counterparts battle severe migraines, depression and mood swings, and in some unfortunate cases, infertility. Recently, researchers halted a study on a male contraceptive shot due to reported rates of the following symptoms: acne, pain in the injection site, depression, and increased libido. The interruption to this study caused a major outcry due to the reporting rate of symptoms and the basic fact that the majority of women using birth control experience similar side effects. Beyond the study, the larger point here is that women have had to combat severe repercussions from their contraceptives (mood disorders, vision problems, and infertility) but have received no real regard by drug companies and researchers.  It takes two to tango, so why doesn’t it take two to equally share the goal of not getting pregnant? Females are responsible for using the right birth control, taking a morning after pill if there is a concern a contraceptive method has failed, and possibly terminating an unwanted pregnancy. While these dynamics do not discount the side effects experienced by the men of the study, pausing this invaluable research demonstrates the double standard of accountability that places the burden of pregnancy prevention almost entirely on women.

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Opponents to accessible contraception argue  no one is forcing women to use birth control, that, for cisgender heterosexual women, avoiding pregnancy is easy if you don’t have sex, or people using contraception could simply use a non-drug based method. There are multiple issues with this  line of reasoning but here are just a few of them:

1. A woman’s desire to have sex and not get pregnant should not automatically subject her to damaging side effects by the method she chooses. Additionally, the lack of  efforts to diminish the number and severity of side effects of the contraceptive methods is problematic to say the least.

2. Pregnancy is not the only use or concern: birth control is used for a variety of reproductive health concerns such as endometriosis, severe incapacitating cramps, and ovarian cysts. We as patients have risked essentially poisoning our bodies because these medicinal methods are some of our only options to alleviate painful medical issues.

3. In heterosexual relationships, women stopping birth control coupled with the unfortunate number of men who resist wearing condoms, would lead to many of the accomplishments in reducing unwanted pregnancies being almost entirely undone.

The results of the male contraceptive study have once again highlighted the physical and emotional strain for women when it comes to birth control. To ignore the unsafe implications of a drug for any gender is grossly immoral and unacceptable, so why are so many people so complacent when it comes to the implications for women?

Sources:

All of the goddesses that have had our periods last for months, have battled or are battling depression and anxiety, or have had a piece of plastic shoved into our uterus or their arms.   

 

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Amari O’Bannon is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and is a member and blog contributor of H*yas for Choice.

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