Talk Books: Sweetening the Pill

I haven’t actually read this book yet, or even obtained a copy, but I am intrigued enough by the promo spot that I’m doing a short blog post about it anyway! I’ve struggled with the question of birth control for some time. I took the pill for about six years and then after having my first baby in 2003 and going on the minipill, I had the sudden “epiphany” that if I was so committed to natural birth and breastfeeding and natural living and trusting my body, why the heck was I okay with filling said body full of hormones?! (The same epiphany, but including cloth diapers, led me to start using cloth moon pads rather than disposable as well. Never looked back!) We started using natural family planning instead (really, the Billings method) and it has been excellent for nine years—no “accidents” and more babies exactly when we decided we wanted them. And, no side effects, no money, and no hormones. Now that our family size feels complete, I find myself struggling with whether or not NFP will continue be “enough” until natural infertility takes over. NFP was fine when an accidental pregnancy was an acceptable option. At this point, an unexpected pregnancy would still be an acceptable option, however fast-forwarding the clock, I really, really, really, do not want to be someone who ends up having her first unexpected pregnancy at age 45 or something! I also do not want to engage in any permanent body-modification efforts (for either myself or my husband) when my own fertility will be up in the next 15 years or so (but body modification is forever!). So, I feel very optionless at this point…Anyway, on to the book I haven’t read. Here’s the promo copy I got that piqued my interest!

Book Description: Millions of healthy women take a powerful medication every day from their mid-teens to menopause – the Pill – but few know how this drug works or the potential side effects. Contrary to cultural myth, the birth control pill impacts on every organ and function of the body, and yet most women do not even think of it as a drug. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, rage, panic attacks – just a few of the effects of the Pill on half of the over 80% of women who pop these tablets during their lifetimes.When the Pill was released, it was thought that women would not submit to taking a medication each day when they were not sick. Now the Pill is making women sick.However, there are a growing number of women looking for non-hormonal alternatives for preventing pregnancy. In a bid to spark a backlash against hormonal contraceptives, this book asks: Why can’t we criticize the Pill?

Carol Downer of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands makes a really important that our feminist health commitment to birth control access may blind us to the actual poor health impacts of the Pill:

“We discovered in the ’70s that the personal is political. Holly Grigg-Spall starts with her and other women’s personal experiences with the Pill, then thoughtfully and thoroughly considers it scientifically, medically and philosophically to discover the political truth of the Pill. She shares strategies for finding new ways to control our fertility while regaining control of our destiny. Grigg-Spall’s careful study on the Pill’s effect on women’s health is long, long overdue. We are so busy fighting to keep hormonal birth control available that we don’t want to question what it is doing to our health and our lives. After reading this book, we can never see the Pill in the same way again.”

Comments and resources welcome! 🙂

7 thoughts on “Talk Books: Sweetening the Pill

  1. I’m going to read it! I’m way past needing it for me, but I worry about my daughters. And like you, I want to reconcile birth control with honoring nature and our bodies. I very firmly believe that we should be able to do both.

  2. I’m very excited about this book! We need more discussions around the pill – I think too many women and girls take it blindly.

    There’s also always the vasectomy option! My husband offered so I wouldn’t have to be burdened with it. Hint for men: your woman will LOVE you for this!! It was very minor discomfort for one day and now we have no worries and blissful sex!!

  3. Definitely an important subject. I had a similar experience to you, having taken the Pill for the first three years of our marriage and then learning the Billings Method of Natural Family Planning. This was wonderful for understanding my cycle, achieving and avoiding pregnancy and co-operating as a couple in managing our fertility. We had six children, about three years apart, spaced by ‘lactational amenorrhea’ while being fully aware of the hormonal interplay in my body. When we felt our family was complete, we continued to make use of Billings. However, like you, we were a bit nervous of getting it wrong and sometimes ‘supplemented with a condom’ if in doubt! Saying that, I do believe the natural method is very reliable (just a confidence thing). I am now 59, not very far into menopause (which, by the way, has been trouble free) and enjoying grandparenthood. My organs are intact, I would still happily have a baby if I could and I have been ‘chemical-free’ since 1979!

  4. I went on the pill when I got engaged, having been told there was really no other option. I suffered through weight gain and cyclical migraines for *years*, having no clue. NFP has been great for me. One other thing to be wary of, though, is that there can be devastating side effects to tubal ligation and vasectomy! Some people are fine, but I have friends of both genders who are absolutely miserable. One has periods that never end, I guess because the hormones that use the fallopian tubes are not able to get to wherever they’re headed. Even uterine ablation didn’t fix things for her. The other is a man who has an autoimmune reaction to all the sperm that are being released into his body instead of outside it. It causes a constellation of side effects including very severe joint pain. Nothing is a sure deal 😦

  5. Pingback: Tuesday Tidbits: Women’s Health | Talk Birth

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