Misconceptions about birth control lead to social stigmas (Opinion)

An in-depth perspective on the benefits and hardships of birth control can open a path towards understanding and acceptance


DJ Gallegos

Birth control is not only used for pregnancy prevention.

Melia Sloss and Jorja Haskin

Birth control, typically viewed solely as a contraceptive, has various other uses that are unknown to many.

Complications that might arrive in individuals, such as irregular period cycles, heavy blood flows, painful cramps, and acne can also be managed with birth control. With one of the more popular methods of birth control being an oral pill, birth control comes in many alternative methods that can adjust to what specific individuals prefer. IUDs, arm implants, shots, and pills are of the main methods that individuals utilize; these medications actively change and balance (or imbalance) hormones in the body.

In 2017, 64.9% of 72.2 women aged 15-49 in the United States were on some sort of contraceptive, and 12.6% were using the oral birth control pill. While a majority of women use the pill to prevent pregnancy, 14% use it for other non contraceptive purposes

Aside from its obvious task of preventing pregnancy, many birth control side effects such as lighter bleeding during one’s period and reduced cramping allow it to be prescribed to women to help manage problems that don’t pertain to pregnancy. Often referred to as “the pill”, the oral pill holds estrogen and progestin that is absorbed into the body. Similar in a progestin IUD, effects from the changes in hormones enact many emotional and physical differences such as weight gain, weight loss, and changes in acne, as well as mood swings. Since everyone’s body is different, individuals may have to switch between different birth control methods which can take a toll physically and emotionally. 

Finding a method that works for you is a constant trial and error. It’s never known ahead of time what will work for specific people. There’s always the chance that you’ll have to keep trying method after method and pill after pill. For many individuals, birth control is a necessity. Menstrual cycles aren’t always forgiving or manageable without it. 

Along with the relentless and unmanageable side effects that come with a period and its reaction with the selected method of birth control, individuals have to also manage the backlash and standards of culture and traditions surrounding them. 

The idea that this medication is solely taken as a contraceptive perpetuates stigma and shame towards individuals who use it. Birth control is never about the overall picture and the possible effects of one using it, it’s typically about if one is using it for what another might deem the “wrong reason.” This assumption forces women into a double standard they can’t escape from. Some feel trapped and misunderstood and are afraid to seek advice and assistance. 

“I didn’t have the language to ask some of the questions I really wanted to ask,” Nicole Coletti stated in a testimony on The Lily for an interview about women’s exploration of birth control. “I didn’t understand the difference between the pills. So I didn’t have the confidence to advocate for myself,” she continued. 

This stigmatized environment that society has created has led to a culture of young individuals being ashamed of asking and discussing their problems with and without birth control. There is almost an unspoken consensus that although birth control is a pertinent matter, it is delicate and should not be talked about because it’s “inappropriate”. This uncomfortable atmosphere has forced people to stay silent instead of seek answers. 

This pressure imposes a dilemma because in order to proceed, one must talk to a parent or doctor to attain accurate details on the birth control or receive any of the medication itself. Without being able to speak about the topic in a comfortable manner, inaccurate information is able to spread and add to the stigma.

It can be daunting for someone, especially teenagers, to seek assistance with someone they trust to help them through their experience. Feeling as if they’ll face judgment or a lack of support can be discouraging in their pursuit of understanding. Forming a welcoming environment that is educated on birth control and sheds a positive light on this medication can alter this experience and help individuals be more comfortable in their skin. 

To help expand the acceptance of birth control and establish an understanding that the topic should not be as sensitive as people make it out to be, we, as a society, should be open to looking into different perspectives and sympathizing about why someone might need it. Using anecdotes to apply judgment on someone else’s account can be inaccurate, especially dealing with something as versatile as birth control. 

What works for one person won’t work for another.