Pros and Cons of Birth Control in Current American Culture

In recent years, American society has seen great upheavals in social change, challenging norms that have been around for decades. Times are changing as new generations enter the scene and take America into the next definition of a “modern society.” From Supreme Court decisions to the latest technological advancements, the world is changing quickly, and America is no exception.

Change can be good, but it can also mean people more easily take things for granted. Think about Gen Xers who didn’t get to go to swing dances, or Millennials who’ve never had to wait on dialup internet to IM their friends after school. It’s easy to forget things were harder not too long ago, but one thing that continues to struggle alongside modern progress is women’s access to safe and affordable birth control.

Since its invention, medical birth control has had to overcome constant obstacles to become commonplace for women. Not only is the history of birth control fraught with ethical and medical horror stories, but women still have to fight to keep it accessible today. There are different challenges for each type of birth control, and deciding what kind to use comes down to what each woman is looking for.

The Current Fight

Some doctors and drug companies have tried to make extra money over the years by abusing the system, and birth control is no exception. In 2009, the drug company Bayer became a well-known example of this. The FDA had to issue an alert that Bayer knowingly sold Mirena, a defective product, while not warning women about the dangerous side effects of the IUD. Some side effects included device migration, expulsion, increased risk of breast cancer, and increased pressure in the skull.

Generally, IUDs and all other forms of contraceptives are safe to use. Normal side effects of IUDS are usually limited to hormone levels adjusting to the new usage for up to the first three months. After that, menstrual periods are regulated and minimized, and pregnancy is regularly prevented. The devastating side effects of Mirena IUDs have affected more than 70,000 women.

Some doctors are dishonest when it comes to women’s health as well. Between 2008 and 2012, female patients of Dr. Paul Singh of Central California unknowingly received non-government-approved IUDs. Afterward, the doctor’s office would bill women’s insurance companies for FDA-approved devices to make extra money. This is known as pharmaceutical fraud, and it’s a serious offense. Although the justice system works to amend loses in these cases as much as possible, there is no price tag that can be put on the danger this sort of ploy poses for women’s health.

Pros and Cons

Ultimately, women have to choose what kind of birth control is right for them, which means they not only have to recognize challenges they might face in the doctor’s office, but also what form is right for their bodies and even their personality types. There are many different kinds of birth control to pick from, so women need to know all the facts about as many as they can before heading to their doctor.

The Pill

The pill has been around since the 1960s, and is a very common way for many women to get on birth control. It provides a daily dose of estrogen and progestin (the “minipill” has progestin only), which prevents the egg from releasing, thickens cervical mucus to inhibit sperm movement, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent attachment.

ProsCons
  • It’s easy to take the pill once a day and gives you a visual representation of when your period will start and stop.
  • The pill decreases period side effects like menstrual cramps or vomiting, making it easier to go to school or work while on your period.
  • It only needs to be refilled once a month, and most generic brands are covered by insurance.
  • It must be taken at the same time every day, and there’s only a three-hour window to take without risking pregnancy.
  • If you don’t take your pill in that window, there are rules to remember about how many to take in a certain time to make up for missing a pill.
  • Sometimes a woman has to switch her brand of pills a couple times before she finds one that works with her body. This can delay period regulation up to a month at a time.

The Patch

Like the pill, the patch delivers a steady stream of estrogen and progestin to prevent egg release and alter the uterine lining and amount of mucus in your cervix.

ProsCons
  • Only needs to be replaced once per week.
  • No patch is needed during your period week.
  • The patch can come off when you sweat, shower, or otherwise get wet, which means replacing it with the next one and messing up the number of patches for the month.
  • It can cause skin irritation and more intense side effects, such as weight gain or nausea, because the patch contains a higher amount of hormones.

Birth Control Implants

Implant sticks (Nexplanon) are small rods – about the size of a match – inserted into the upper arm that provide a time-release dose of progestin.

ProsCons
  • They are out of the way and easy to show off, which almost every woman using the stick does!
  • They last three to five years without a need for daily, weekly, or monthly replacement.
  • Implants offer an alternative to women whose bodies react badly to estrogen.
  • They can be used while breastfeeding.
  • Constant bleeding after insertion is common, as the menstrual cycle tries to sync up to the implant.
  • Many women report having the stick removed within the first year after experiencing menstrual periods that were too unpredictable.
  • Less common side effects include headaches, breast pain, weight gain, nausea, and infection or bruising around the insertion site.

IUDs

Intrauterine devices are medical devices inserted into the uterus to prevent the attachment of eggs to the uterine wall.

ProsCons
  • IUDs have the lowest pregnancy rate of any birth control, having a failure rate of less than one percent.
  • Depending on the type of IUD a woman chooses, it only needs to be replaced every three to ten years.
  • Insertion has been reported as ranging anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to downright painful. This in and of itself deters many women from even considering an IUD.
  • Some women can feel the IUD even after insertion and experience pain from it, requiring a removal.
  • IUDs can cause bleeding for as long as three to five months as the woman’s body adjusts.

Female Condom

An alternative to condoms worn by males, female condoms are soft plastic pouches inserted in the vagina to create a barrier that prevents sperm from fertilizing any eggs.

ProsCons
  • The female condom protects women from sexually transmitted diseases, much like a male condom.
  • It is relatively cheap to buy from the drugstore, with no prescription needed.
  • It can be used only when needed, and it gives women more control over their sexual health than male condoms.
  • Statistically, female condoms have a 21% failure rate. This rate can be improved with spermicidal jelly or the use of another type of birth control like the pill or an IUD.
  • Women with latex allergies will not be able to use female condoms.
  • Female condoms cost more than male condoms.

Birth Control Shots

The birth control shot (Depo-Provera) is an injection of the hormones estrogen and progestin that works for up to three months at a time.

ProsCons
  • Women can choose between two types of injections and two different doses.
  • No adjustment time needed before the birth control is fully in effect.
  • The shot can be up to 99% effective for women who take it as prescribed.
  • Shots must be administered every 12 weeks for a women to be fully covered.
  • If your insurance doesn’t cover the shot, it can get pricey.

Stay Informed and Aware

Women need to be aware of the pros and cons of each type of birth control before they talk with their doctor, and then discuss with them further to fully decide what’s right for their body. Women must also be aware of challenges they may face in getting their birth control outside of the medical side effects, because birth control in today’s culture doesn’t come without its challenges.

Kate Harveston is a young writer from Pennsylvania who mainly covers political topics, but she has written on a wide variety of issues. If you like her work, you can follow her on Twitter for updates or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.