Drugs: they're amazing and terrible, all at once. But when you're talking about different birth control medications, they're mostly just written about like they're terrible.
As gynecologist Jessica Kiley and writer Amanda Marcotte point out (and as any woman who has taken birth control has learned), there are plenty of reasons to take the pill/get an IUD/use the Nuvaring the fall outside of the drug's primary purpose. This shouldn't be something we need to be reminded about; after all, there are numerous other medications that are prescribed for reasons other than what they were created for. Here's some stuff birth control has been found to help with that's (sometimes just slightly) mostly unrelated from the "goal" of birth control:
- lowered nation-wide abortion rates
- treatment of anemia
- treatment of alopecia
- better skin
- prevention of ovarian cysts
- bigger boobs (if you're into that sort of thing)
- decreased risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer
- regulating of periods
- reducing painful period symptoms associated with heavy periods
- reduction of premenstrual symptoms
- relief of symptoms related to uterine fibroids and endometriosis
- hormone treatment for women going through menopause
- better bone mineral density
- better sex that comes from peace of mind
There's tons of other, more vague stuff that birth control can help with too, like allowing for better family planning, which means happier lives for male and female partners. But because birth control is so politicized, what's talked about far more often are all the horrible things that can happen because of it. Because, as we know, the underlying scary message here concerns sex. As Marcotte writes, the biggest benefit of birth control that no one likes to discuss is how it can help the sex lives of the people taking it:
There's so much social anxiety around the idea of women enjoying sex that even condom companies shy away from talking about it. As long as that anxiety exists, reasonable discussion about the actual risks versus rewards of contraception use will remain elusive.
Side effects are important and drugs that are dangerous should be policed and recalled. But all types of birth control have managed to consistently get the bad press that other categories of medication manage to avoid. And as long as birth control is associated with women's bodies (which, even when you're talking about periods, uterine cancer or bigger boobs, they will be) and SEX, it'll stay that way.
Image via Monik Marcus/Flickr