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The Battle of Birth Control

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November 2, 2016

Birth control is a reality that many people take into consideration each day, with almost sixty two percent of reproductive age women taking a contraceptive and ninety nine percent of sexually active women ever using a contraception. Since it’s creation and distribution, the hormonal birth control pill has been revolutionary, giving many women a new freedom when it comes to their bodies. It has also had effects that were not so welcomed by many women, and it’s been a struggle that only those who are able to take it must deal with. Until recent years, at least.

Male birth control has been a hot topic on the rise, with more and more trials starting to test the effects of possible methods. Injections, implants, and pills are among the methods being tested around the clock nowadays. The most notable one in recent news was a synthetic testosterone injection, used to trick the male body into a lower sperm count.

That’s not why it was notable, however.

It was the sudden stop of the project that put it in the headlines. Cited by one of the authors of the study, the side effects were the cause to reevaluate the drug trial to create a “good balance between efficacy and safety,”

The side effects that caused the halt of a birth control that proved to be 96% effective included increased libido, acne, muscle pain, pain at the injection site, and depression. “They terminated this study once it showed 3 percent depression for the men,” a professor of biology and philosophy at Indiana University–Bloomington, told sources.

And in that moment, anyone that has ever been on a hormonal birth control collectively rolled their eyes at that statement once the study was released.

Speaking from my own research, my Implanon birth control implant has 26 listed side effects. Many of those side effects include the common muscle pain, headaches, and weight gain, but also go as far to hair loss, infection, and depression.

Countless other birth control brands have the same side effects, as well as many others. In short, the side effects caused by the male birth control trial are very real for female birth control methods. It’s the positive outcomes that outweigh the risks, and thus make hormonal birth control methods still more popular than any other.

That still doesn’t answer the question of why their trial was stopped after 3% of men showed symptoms for depression, but it’s a widely accepted symptom for ours? If we all hold the same responsibilities in preventing pregnancy, why are the standards for consequences so uneven?

I can’t give the complete answer to this question, but I believe it comes down to the idea that women are obligated to handle the side effects, and risk the side effects to maintain the responsibility of their own bodies. Complaining of the headaches, depression, and muscle pain makes them complacent, not simply demanding a better living.

Men, on the other hand, are able to make such requests and be heard.

Yes, the side effects of birth control should always be noted during the trial stage of development, and nobody should have to choose between reproductive control of their bodies and mood disorders like depression. Keyword in that last sentence being nobody.

This situation is especially complicated due to many different factors, but that doesn’t mean this dichotomy isn’t completely impossible to erase.

Protecting people from adverse side effects is a noble, well intended, and ethical practice of medicine, however this practice needs to be applied across the board. If the side effects are adverse enough to cause the stopping of a trial to keep a group safe, all others should receive the same treatment.

In upcoming years, we’ll hopefully see progress on many different grounds in terms of birth control. I hope that in upcoming years, we’ll see birth control for all genders that don’t make them choose between a healthy body or mind and control over their fertility.

Birth control is a fantastic, revolutionary advancement in medicine, and the multiple choices that women have to choose from make it an even more fantastic time to be a reproductive-aged woman. However, when we’re faced with blatant inequality when it comes to who has to bear the side effects, that is when we begin to lose a battle we didn’t know we were fighting.


Image via Wikimedia

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