A Shot of Reality
Though birth control has existed since ancient times, it’s still a taboo subject in our society.
Increasing in popularity throughout the 20th century, a 2013 report from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that more than 99% of sexually active women in their childbearing years (15-44) have used some form of contraception. This includes religious women, with 89% of Catholics in the group and 90% of Protestants reporting contraceptive use at the time.
Among all women who use some form of birth control, the most popular methods were nonpermanent (67%), including the pill and condoms. And yet while women are left to bear the brunt of unintended pregnancies and child rearing, they are often excluded from the discussion of if, how, and where they can buy their birth control, starting with the Comstock Act of 1873. They may have options, but they bear all the responsibility even as politicians refuse to let their opinions count. Regardless of progress, nearly 50% of all pregnancies in the United States are still unintended.
Wouldn’t it all be easier if there were birth control for men? Well as it turns out, aside from condoms, vasectomies, and withdrawal, hormonal and non-hormonal methods are in trials. But one recent study, albeit highly successful, was called off after the men reported mood swings.
A History of Birth Control
Long considered immoral due to religious beliefs, contraception has continued to be practiced since antiquity. As family planning became a popular subject at the end of the 19th century, various methods of birth control became more available and accepted, often aided by activists and clinics that knowingly broke the law and were often arrested and shut down because of it.
The American Medical Association stopped condemning birth control in 1936, and various presidencies such as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and later President Lyndon B. Johnson were known to publicly support contraceptives. Today, birth control is extremely common, with over 99% of sexually active women reporting using it in a 2013 study.
Since their earliest days, the pill and other popular forms of birth control have had negative side effects that were often dismissed by physicians and companies as difficult to prove.
Just recently, a Danish study proved the relationship between certain contraceptives and depression in women, but chances are you didn’t hear about it.
What you may have heard about this week is the study on male birth control published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that was cancelled after some participants exhibited dramatic mood swings and signs of depression after receiving the hormone injections. According to the study, “the most common adverse events
were acne, injection site pain, increased libido, and mood disorders.”
Although only four out of the 266 men who participated in the study got their partners pregnant—showing an amazing 96% efficacy rate—the research was called off because of the side effects. And women aren’t happy about it.
This isn’t the first time a study on male birth control has been cancelled due to unwanted side effects, health hazards, or general failure. But it goes to show that, while women have suffered from the hypocritical debate around birth control for centuries, they’ve still been putting up with related mood swings, yet when men experienced the same side effects, the drug was quickly dismissed.
When it came to the 20 men who backed out, the study explains, “Of these 20, 6 men discontinued only for changes in mood and 6 men discontinued for the following single reasons: acne, pain or panic at first injections, palpitations, hypertension, and erectile dysfunction.”
Of course, these are valid health concerns, and it would be ethically wrong for the research to have continued knowing that the subjects were suffering such adverse effects. For many women, however, the sudden concern and widespread discussion about the issue represents a cruel double standard by which politicians control women’s bodies and society prevents them from discussing birth control or airing their grievances in public lest they face backlash and ridicule.
Among the many opinions pouring in on Twitter, these caught our eye:
“‘Birth Control Shots for Men Prevent Pregnancy But Cause Mood Swings, Depression’ ok fascinating to see people suddenly care about this” – @tancredjess
“did y’all think that women’s birth control was made of sugar and spice and everything nice or what????” – @Saisailu97
“‘Men’s birth control proves effective but causes mood swings and depression.’ Oh.. bummer. So exactly like women’s birth control” – @mlreinert24
But that’s not all they had to say.