Posts tagged: birth control
A recent article on Jezebel, entitled The Aweful Reasons Teen Moms Didn’t Use Birth Control, presents the outrageous reasons why female teens avoid using birth control.The findings were compiled by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. The “answers from 5,000 teenage girl who experienced unplanned pregnancies and gave birth between 2004 and 2008” were their target. Luckily, only 13% cited lack of access to birth control as the problem, but it only gets worse from there.
Roughly a quarter of these teen mothers did not use birth control because their partner did not want them to. This is scary because not only are these girls being manipulated by their partners, but their partners also do not care about their health or safety. While most sex education programs discuss manipulation between partners, I am not aware of any that talk about the difficulty of facing a partner who does not want to use birth control in the heat of the moment. Perhaps programs should help develop communication skills between partners, so when it comes to birth control, they can make the best decision together.
While partners encouraging each other to not use birth control is nerve-wracking, the most obscene reason these teens do not use birth control is that they believe they are immune to pregnancy. In fact, one-third of those surveyed believed that. One-third! It seems when it comes to sex education, the programs need to be busting the myths that surround “immunity” to pregnancy. Some of the reasons cited that they can not get pregnant the first time they have sex or while they are on their periods. Clearly, neither of those are true.
If I have learned anything from this article, it is that we should be educating young women on how to stand their ground when it comes to their sexual health. No one should have to face a sexual encounter protection-free because of pressure from a partner. We should also be focusing on teaching young men the importance of protecting their and their partner’s health. These efforts combined would keep many teen pregnancies at bay.
Veronica,* 28, was about three years into a serious relationship when she started getting less careful about taking the Pill. She didn’t necessarily want a baby, but she felt OK about rolling the pregnancy dice. “If it just ‘happened,’ it would have worked out,” she says. And even though she and her boyfriend recently broke up after five years together, Veronica still thinks if she had gotten pregnant, it would have been meant to be: “You can have a child when you’re not 100 percent sure of things. You just work it in.”
This laissez-faire attitude about the life-changing act of becoming a mother may seem shocking, but it’s far from unusual. Nearly 50 percent of American pregnancies are unplanned, and three quarters of those are in women 29 and younger. And get this: Research shows that women with a college degree are more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than those who haven’t attended college.
With plenty of birth control options available, you’d think those numbers would be dropping—but they’re not, says Kelleen Kaye, senior director of research for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. In fact, the number of unmarried women who had had sex in the previous three months with no contraception rose by 36 percent between 1995 and 2008.
The reasons are startling even to sex-health experts. Turns out many women aren’t quite sure about when and how they want to become a parent, with the upshot that many are simply deciding not to decide. “I expected a lot of women would say, ‘I don’t want to get pregnant,’” says Kaye, who oversaw a survey of 897 women for the campaign’s report about unplanned pregnancy, “The Fog Zone.” “And I expected that others would say, ‘I do want to have a baby.’ I didn’t expect that the same people would say both. There’s this push-pull going on.”
What concerns public health officials and women’s health advocates is that an unintended pregnancy is far from the ideal way to make a healthy baby. Beyond the issues of pounding too much wine or taking dangerous medications before you realize you’re expecting, which are serious enough, there is the huge question of how you want to enter into the biggest commitment of your life. With so much at stake—financially, emotionally, professionally—why do so many women have an “if it happens, it happens” attitude? The answers may force you to take a hard look at your own views on when, and whether, you want to become a mother.
What’s behind the discrepancy? The study found that young women have a strong longing for motherhood: More than half of them said they would like to be a mom right now “if things in their life were different.” And even among those who said it was important to avoid pregnancy, 20 percent of women (and 43 percent of men) admitted that they’d be at least a little pleased if they found out they were going to have a baby. While celebs have helped glamorize babies as the ultimate accessory, Kaye thinks a major reason women feel this way is simply that they are waiting longer to begin the whole family thing. “In the past, you got out of school, got married and started having kids, so the drive to start a family wasn’t an issue,” she says. “Now many young adults wait to marry until after they develop their career, so that urge to procreate gets put on hold for much longer, but it’s still there, whether consciously or not.”
And women aren’t exactly encouraged to talk about that urge. Alison, a 21-year-old college senior, feels the push-pull between baby-making and a career in her life, even though she hasn’t even graduated yet. She doesn’t want to get pregnant until after she’s established in her career, and yet she takes chances; she and her boyfriend use condoms only sometimes. “When I’m in the moment, it’s a matter of being lazy,” she confesses. “But there’s also a little part of me—maybe a big part—that secretly wants to get pregnant. That would make the decision for me, and I’d deal with it. Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom sounds easier than having to compete out there in a tough job market.” But it’s hard to admit those dreams to her crowd of ambitious college classmates. Veronica agrees: “There’s a sense that it’s not cool to get married and have kids right out of college. But if you just ‘get pregnant,’ you don’t face society’s judgment. If anything, it becomes kind of heroic: ‘Wow, what a sacrifice. She made the choice to raise her baby!’”
The decision to become a mom “is such a big one that women are afraid to be purposeful about it,” says Julia McQuillan, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who has researched women’s feelings about parenthood. “So it’s almost like they’re tempting fate.” But this kind of deciding by default can backfire, says Mary Nettleman, M.D., chair of the department of medicine at Michigan State University. “By being careless with birth control, women are putting themselves in a situation in which they’ll be forced to make some hard choices, like: ‘Will I drop out of college? Will I stay with this guy who’s maybe not The One? Will I have an abortion?’”
And while it’s great that the stigma around being a single mom has lifted, society still sends mixed messages about the challenges of parenthood. “Young women see these famous single moms who have more resources than the average woman, and it looks downright easy,” says Kaye. “That can really undermine a woman’s consistent use of birth control.”
Women seem to be confused about their fertility, too. “There’s also a lot of magical thinking, like: ‘I couldn’t get pregnant because my periods are irregular, or I have fibroids,’” says Sharon Sassler, Ph.D., a social demographer at Cornell University, who has studied attitudes toward family planning. “And there’s been so much emphasis on celebrities who are having trouble conceiving that quite a lot of young women think they’ll need major help just getting pregnant.” The Fog Zone report showed that 59 percent of women surveyed think they could be infertile, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 8 percent of 15- to 29-year-olds actually are. “There’s this angst among young adults: ‘What if I wait until I have the perfect relationship and my career is all lined up, but then I can’t conceive?’” says Kaye. The accidentally-on-purpose pregnancy is a way of not having to face that fear.
The bottom line? When it comes to having a healthy baby, every day absolutely counts: Nettleman’s research has shown that the earlier a woman realizes she’s pregnant, the healthier she and her baby will be. Recognizing a pregnancy six weeks or more after conception, for instance, is associated with a higher risk of premature birth.
And there’s your own health and happiness to consider, too. If you’re feeling baby-ambivalent, experts suggest you ask yourself the tough questions: How would a baby affect your career goals, your bank account, and your future with your boyfriend? In short, do you want to be a mom right now? If the answer is no, then you can’t play baby roulette. “The women’s movement was all about giving us choices,” says Marjorie Sable, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Missouri, who studies pregnancy intention. “The choice to become a mother—or the decision not to—is equally legitimate.” The point is to make a choice, not let chance make the choice for you.
Here’s another interesting statistic from my medical textbooks: the failure rate of condoms in preventing pregnancy is 2% (over a year) with perfect use. It’s 10-18% with typical use.
Holy shit! Condoms fail up to 18% of the time! That’s pretty bad! I wouldn’t get in a car that crashed 18% of the time! Condoms must be pretty crappy birth control!
Well, no. Condoms are 98% effective. The catch lies in the concept of “typical use” as opposed to “perfect use.” It makes it sound like “perfect use” is some theoretical expert condom application, where the condom is applied with absolute precision by a team of professional condomifiers in a way that mere “typical” civilians could never replicate.
Nope. All “perfect use” means in the case of condoms is using them every time, and using them for the entire duration of PIV sex. There’s a few more catches—you shouldn’t reuse condoms, you should throw them away instead of turning them inside out if you put them on wrong the first time, you should use lube but nothing oil-based, and you shouldn’t double-bag—but honestly, most of those are statistically minor. The biggest factor in “perfect use” of condoms is actually using them.
So what’s “typical use”? Well, if someone says that condoms are their primary method of birth control, but only uses them sometimes, they’re counted as a “typical” user. When they get pregnant, they go in that 18%. The number one cause of condom “failure” is not using a condom[…]
“Condoms fail all the time.” This one is enshrined and exaggerated in abstinence-only education, but not limited to it. I’ve had a doctor tell me that condoms alone aren’t “really” birth control. Hell, until I did more reading, I believed this one myself. And of course condoms aren’t perfect—but they’re a lot better than I thought.
The problem with this one is that it encourages fatalism. If a condom doesn’t really help, why bother? Might as well have unprotected sex and take your chances, since you’re taking them anyway. Abstinence-only education has been repeatedly shown to discourage condom use, and this is one of the reasons—when they say “condoms don’t work,” they aren’t telling kids “don’t have sex, even with a condom.” They’re telling them “don’t have sex with a condom.”
In this way (and it affects adults too), the 18% statistic is feeding itself. The more people believe condoms don’t work, the more often people who use condoms for birth control won’t really use them. The more people feel like condoms are a crapshoot, the more comfortable they’ll feel taking real crapshoots.
“Behind the flimsy arguments stated above are the things social conservatives truly believe about contraception and women. Concerns include 1) how will we punish women for having non-procreative sex if it doesn’t result in a pregnancy? 2) If women have access to contraception, we won’t be able to force them to breed and thus largely take away their ability to be present in the public sphere and 3) this will cause women to stop everything they are doing and have sex with anyone or anything in sight.”
Stephen Colbert takes on free birth control
Fox’s anti-birth control “expert,” Family PAC Federal Vice President Sandy Rios, however, found her own reasons to lambast the policy as “ridiculous.”
Here’s my favorite of the many unbelievable things she said:
“Why in the world would you encourage your daughters, and your granddaughters, and whoever else comes behind you to have unrestricted, unlimited sex anytime, anywhere and that, somehow if you prevent pregnancy, that somehow you’ve helped them. I would submit to you that uncontrolled sexual behavior is what is harming our girls, not our lack of birth control — which by the way they don’t seem interested in taking anyway. Having a baby is not the worst thing. I think having multiple sex partners without any kind of restraint or responsibility is much more damning, why would you support that?”
To that I reply:
“Have you had an orgasm? Don’t you wish for every person in your life to experience that as much and as often as they want?”
AND “Have you had to raise a child when you were 16 or when you weren’t financially stable or when you were with an abusive man or when you just plain didn’t wanna?”