Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Pill and its Discontents

How the birth control pill has turned out to be more about social control than about genuine freedom, causing more women to deal with lifelong infertility. (Via Pentimento, who offers some commentary.) To quote New York Magazine:
The fact is that the Pill, while giving women control of their bodies for the first time in history, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late. It changed the narrative of women’s lives, so that it was much easier to put off having children until all the fun had been had (or financial pressures lessened). Until the past couple of decades, even most die-hard feminists were still married at 25 and pregnant by 28, so they never had to deal with fertility problems, since a tiny percentage of women experience problems conceiving before the age of 28. Now many New York women have shifted their attempts at conception back about ten years. And the experience of trying to get pregnant at that age amounts to a new stage in women’s lives, a kind of second adolescence. For many, this passage into childbearing—a Gail Sheehy–esque one, with its own secrets and rituals—is as fraught a time as the one before was carefree.

Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect.


Christina said...

An intriguing article. I do find it bitterly ironic that so many women try for so long not to get pregnant - and then when something changes, they resort to all kinds of artifices to achieve what they were trying so hard to avoid not long ago. Ultimately it's all about control - or at least, the illusion of having control. Nature doesn't work that way, though.

I am happy that FAM/NFP was mentioned but less than thrilled that it was referred to as "an updated version of the rhythm method." Um, not quite! I am observing that more women my age are open to the idea of NFP. Even if they have no religious objection to birth control, they balk at the idea of flooding their bodies with artificial hormones. So there is hope.


Amazing article. Too bad you just don't hear about this kind of thing in the mainstream.

elena maria vidal said...

Christina, even if I were not a religious person, the bottom line for me would be staying away from as many artificial chemicals as possible. The natural way is the healthier way.

Really, Joy, I agree. I think it is amazing that such an article made it into New York Magazine. Women need to know these things.

tubbs said...

There is also a growing fear that all these hormones, released into the ecosystem, are causing a considerable drop in male fertility rates.

Theresa Bruno said...

I liked the article, but both of my grandmothers accidentally got pregnant when they were in their 40s. I guess what I'm saying is, for a good portion of woman, their fertility fails after 40, but not everyone.

I have a friend who is 37, never been married or on the pill for that matter. She didn't get married or have children in her twenties because she was suffering from a condition.

She now feels ready to get married and have a child. Since her mother was in her 40s when she had her, she is quite confident of her chances. maybe she'll have a baby maybe she won't, but I don't think she'll get her panties in a twist over it either. As she has told me, she didn't think she would have been a good mother in her twenties.

elena maria vidal said...

I had my first successful pregnancy at age 40 and never used the pill in my life. So I know that there is a lot of infertility that comes naturally.