Just because women fought for the right to control their bodies via access to contraception and abortion does not dis-include men from the conversation. And yet, that is exactly what has happened. And since the first synthetic hormonal contraceptives came on the market in the late 1960’s – women have borne the brunt of responsibility while the largest uncontrolled experiment in medical history has messed with our minds, moods, and behaviors. Now there are fingers pointing to a link between the rise in birth control use and the rise in autism. Hardly a stretch – since the common sense outcome of suppressing a vital part of the brain is going to affect the neurodevelopment of the fetus. Especially when women are put on hormonal birth control right after pregnancy. All of those synthetic hormones are going right into the infant via the breast milk.
Now – do not expect men to take a pill, implant, injection, patch or have something inserted into their gonads to prevent pregnancy. If fact, when you look at the whole birth control scene from this point of view – we have to wonder what did women buy into? And at what risk?
Expanding Options for Male Contraception
Guest writer Holly Grigg-Spall makes the case for increasing men’s responsibility for birth control
Of the twenty or more birth control options currently available, upwards of 16 of them are for women, and just three of them are for men. Women have an ever-expanding array of synthetic hormone-based choices, from the pill to the hormonal IUD to the shot. Men have condoms, vasectomy, and the pullout method.
When the birth control pill was first released in 1961 it aligned well with the feminist cause that women be “in control” of their reproductive abilities. Yet, as the years rolled on, it’s become clear that this control comes at a cost to women’s health and well-being in the form of side effects. The feminist women’s health movement was founded by Barbara Seaman, who saw prescribing the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy as “tinkering with nuclear bombs to fight off the common cold.” She understood that the risks of this method would not outweigh the benefits for many women. Where women once desired the freedom the pill offered, they may now feel the expectation to use hormonal birth control is an unfair burden.
The further we’ve moved away from the advent of the pill, the further we’ve gotten away from the facts of our fertility. Because women are only able to get pregnant on six days per menstrual cycle, to have women take such a powerful medication every single day to prevent ovulation, which occurs on just two days per menstrual cycle, seemed like overkill to Seaman.
A woman usually has three decades of fertile years, between puberty and menopause. Men, however, are fertile every single day and can impregnate women from a very early age and well into their old age, essentially their whole lives. A woman, once pregnant, cannot get pregnant again for a year, usually longer. When a man gets a woman pregnant, he can get another woman pregnant the next day, and so on, without end. This is another reason why men should be shouldering more of the burden when it comes to contraception.
And while it’s true that only women get pregnant, they never do so without the presence of sperm – so why shouldn’t the medical community better understand that men “need” birth control as much as women do, and focus a more equal share of their research efforts in developing contraception methods for men?
Use of the most effective options currently available to men – condoms and vasectomy – is on the decline. Condom use has dropped steeply since the early 2000s. Vasectomy rates are down by as much as 64% in the last ten years. It’s important to note that while vasectomy is a relatively simple outpatient procedure, as is its reversal, which if done within a few years can be up to 70% successful in restoring fertility; female sterilization is a more invasive surgery, higher risk, with reversal usually not an option, and three times as many women get medically sterilized in a given year than men get vasectomies.