Dissatisfied With Birth Control? You’re Not Alone
Mental and emotional health matter just as much as reproductive health
The staggering number of people dissatisfied with their birth control often goes unrecognized. Thirty-seven percent of women ages 23–44 who had ever used hormonal birth control stopped it because they felt dissatisfied according to a study I conducted in 2012.
I was reminded of the depth of that dissatisfaction last week when I was a guest talking about the social history of the birth control pill with 1A (a radio show from NPR and WAMU). While some listeners jubilantly celebrated access to birth control they could rely on, others called in or tweeted to vent their frustration.
The culprit? Mostly side effects. That wasn’t a surprise. Side effects are the most common reason given for dissatisfaction in my research on young women’s use of birth control.
Over the course of more than a decade of our work on contraception, my colleagues and I have found that feeling mood changes on birth control or having issues with irregular bleeding are considered serious problems that cause some women to stop or switch methods. Other research shows that 78% of women felt that it was extremely important that their birth control method not have side effects.
As many birth control users know, almost all methods come with the possibility of side effects. Headaches, nausea, sore breasts, and bleeding between periods are just some of the side effects that people can experience. Despite the prevalence of dissatisfaction, our society doesn’t take people’s frustration seriously.
Hearing people’s voices during the NPR conversation was just the latest reminder that our society is basically radio-silent about dissatisfaction with birth control for people who can get pregnant. We’re not just silent because no one is speaking up, though.
The Bias in Our Silence
Instead, gender bias plays a role. There’s gender bias in the way that we think about women’s bodies and in the way that we think about…