Friday, September 21, 2012

Where do Babies Come From??

Allie Lane 

A new study released this week called Contraception in America has revealed there are startlingly large gaps in women’s understanding of how pregnancy prevention actually works. The study was sponsored by Teva Women’s Health (the women’s health division of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.) and interviewed both women of reproductive age—18 to 49-- and medical professionals about all manner of things related to baby making, most chiefly preventing it. 

Some of the findings aren’t exactly shocking. The study notes that accidental pregnancy is still a relatively common occurrence considering how readily available contraception is. That one is sort of a no brainer to me. This is a country where you can buy condoms at mini marts. If availability alone were the problem, there would be no unwanted babies in this great land.

As the rest of the survey’s key findings reveal, the main problem when it comes to contraception is usage. It’s not what you a have; it’s how you use it…unless you just decide not to use it. According to the survey, 40 percent of women of childbearing age don’t use contraception. At all. One of the top reasons cited for this absence of birth control was infertility. Considering the fact that the percentage of women who cited infertility as their reason was twice the percentage of women who are actually infertile, it would seem that a lot of women are just assuming, without a medical diagnosis, that they can’t have babies. And you know what they say about assuming: it makes and ass of you and me…and sometimes a baby. The study’s key findings state that there is rampant underestimation about pregnancy risk among women, which has lead to the high number of unwanted pregnancies.

This phantom female confidence is also accompanied by a lack of functional knowledge about contraception. Many women don’t understand the differences between the different categories of contraception, and when it comes to the most common form of contraception, The Pill, many women are having trouble taking it as directed. 

The lack of knowledge about different available methods is somewhat understandable. Most women in this country would probably stare at you like a stunned deer if you asked them what the difference between monophasic and triphasic birth control pills is (Hint: it has something to do with the types of hormones and it’s important!). Birth control is something that simply isn’t talked about outside of a doctor’s office and, judging by this survey, perhaps not thoroughly enough in the doctor’s office. The female reproductive system is still something of a taboo topic in the American mainstream. If you need proof of this, just look at the way it’s been talked about during this election. Male politicians refer to it in almost comically vague terms, like that “thing” or that “business.” And these are people who intend to create policy about it. As additional evidence, none of the websites for major news organizations or news magazines seem to have written anything about this survey so far. An open dialogue about birth control doesn’t exist. The education for young women simply is not there. When I was young I, like most other girls, got a little booklet with simple, concise explanations about puberty and getting my period. I’m sure the boys got their own little primer, too. Why is there not something as standard and as basic as this about pregnancy and birth control? There is a strange assumption that if we educate kids about sex at a young age, they’ll just start having it willy-nilly. That’s one of the arguments against sex education and the argument that was used against the HPV vaccine. As a nation, we sit our kids down and talk to them about puberty before it hits them so they’ll be prepared to handle it. Why don’t we have the same attitude towards sex and contraception? We should be starting young so that women, regardless of when or under what circumstances they choose to become sexually active, can make informed decisions about their reproductive future. To be trite: Knowledge is power. And this lack of knowledge is rampant. I have personally known girls whose method of contraception is only having sex on certain days based on a diagram of the menstrual cycle they found on the internet or ones who think that as long as they take birth control on the day they have sex, they’ll be fine, like the pill is some sort of sperm shield with a twenty four hour battery life.

That being said, our country’s enduring silence about contraception doesn’t account for all the problems. Personal responsibility is also partially to blame for all these birth control failures. The fact that women seem to keep taking the pill incorrectly shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has ever seen a television commercial for any sort of contraception. They always seem to complain about how pesky and difficult it is to remember to take a darn pill once a day. We can’t be bothered with that! We’re women! We’re busy! Yes, we are, but, really? Can’t you take a half a second out of your day for something important like your reproductive health? Taking a medication as it’s prescribed, and using contraception in general, is always up to you. Don’t pretend that it’s just too hard. There are people whose lives depend on them remembering to take a pill once a day. You can always seek out the information to use birth control effectively. It may not be taught in schools but it’s out there with doctors, with certain internet sources. It even comes right inside the box with your pills! Seeking out and making use of this knowledge is not only important for women but for all the men women are using that birth control with. If your partner asks you if you’re using birth control and you tell him yes, you’re on the pill, and you get pregnant because you’re not using it correctly, it will affect both of you, possibly for the rest of your lives. Yes, it takes two to tango, but it only takes one person to prevent pregnancy. Anyone, of either gender, can take personal responsibility as far as contraception goes. Ask your partner. Use back up birth control if you’re not sure. Talk to a doctor about your needs. Inform yourself, then go inform others. This chronic lack of knowledge can be fixed. Let’s all work together to make the next Contraception in America survey a little less scary, ok?

Allie Lane is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire with degrees in English and German. She hopes to obtain an advanced degree in creative writing and teach others the power of the written word.

1 comment:

  1. "An open dialogue about birth control doesn’t exist."

    Yet, you are discussing it right now, in the open. The dialogue exists; I wish people would stop complaining that it does not. You have access to this information and contraception; it's your choice to make use of it and someone else's choice to not.

    If women are subscribed to birth control and are using it incorrectly, then I don't think this is something that contraception education in school would fix. Presumably, their doctor explained the usage to them and they ignored it. Then they opened the box with the pills and ignored the instructions again. If they use it wrong, then it's there own fault and all of the education in the world won't make a difference.

    Also, did you proofread this before you posted? " It’s not what you a have; it’s how you use it…"