The Birth Control Conundrum: Pregnanting Ourselves Out of the Middle Class

Leslie Carol Botha: Ryan raises some good points in her article. So why do women suck at taking birth control?  Well, I have my thoughts of course. Perhaps because we intuitively know the synthetic hormones are not safe? Perhaps, psychologically, we want our partners to be involved and accountable as well… What are your thoughts?

Why Do We Suck at Taking Birth Control?

Erin Gloria Ryan
July 25, 2012

According to a new government report, American women, as a population, are not awesome at taking birth control. Okay, I’m not being fair — it’s not American women in general who are bad, it’s unmarried women who live with their significant others who are exceptionally not awesome at taking birth control. In fact, they fucking suck at it. What gives?

Over the last decades, keeping the VACANCY sign lit outside of your uterus has gotten progressively easier — now, in addition to the Pill (of which there are approximately a bajillion varieties for a bajillion different types of women), we’ve got The Ring, and The Patch, and The Shot and The Implant and The IUD. Some allow women to only have their period four times a year. Others may cause a woman’s period to stop completely. Some occasionally end up hilariously around the end of your partner’s penis after doing it, like a ring toss. All are completely reversible and mostly safe and much more effective than the old “pull out n’ pray” method . So why are 1/3 of births in the US still the result of unplanned pregnancies? Are women just really, terribly bad at reading and following directions?

The report highlights some stark contrasts between the birth control habits of married women, single women living with a partner, and single women living separately, in addition to differences between women’s levels of education and age. And, as you might expect, the young, the poor, and the uneducated are much more likely to experience unplanned pregnancy than the older, the wealthier, and the more highly educated — as we’ve discussed, only about 23% of births to married women were the result of unplanned pregnancies, whereas half of births to unmarried women who (as my grandma would say) live in sin were the result of surprise pregnancies. And among women between the ages of 15 and 24, almost 79% of births were the result of unplanned pregnancies.

NBC refers to them as “oopsie babies,” but the repercussions are much less cute than a thing a babysitter says when a toddler poops in the dog’s dish. Unplanned pregnancies, as a general rule, occur when a family isn’t prepared for a child — they’re not planned. Additionally, women who plan their pregnancies are much less likely to accidentally harm their pregnancies by smoking, drinking, or engaging in other unhealthy activities because they’re unaware that they’re eating/smoking/drinking for two. Kids aren’t cheap, either, and having an unplanned baby can have pretty dire financial effects on a family, especially if the child’s mother is young, uneducated, and poor and the child’s father is statistically unlikely to stick around. We’re pregnanting ourselves right out of the middle class.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.