Over the pill

Is the nation's most popular form of birth control on the way out?

Published February 1, 2006 8:13PM (EST)

Yesterday, New York Post reporter Sara Stewart had an interesting story exploring some women's growing ambivalence about the birth control pill -- the contraception innovation that many credit with kicking off the sexual revolution and doing a good deal to liberate women.

Trouble is, studies are beginning to back up observations that many women have made privately for years -- that for a percentage of women, the pill can cause depression, a seriously diminished libido and an increased risk of stroke, especially for smokers. Stewart claims that some women are choosing to go off the pill because of an increasing health consciousness and awareness of what they're putting into their bodies.

Of course many of us, and many of our mothers, have sworn by the pill -- and many still do. It's an invention that changed our history and our opportunities. It helped open doors into workplaces, helped alleviate the financial, physical and emotional burdens of unwanted children, and opened us up to our sexuality.

But what Stewart's piece and some recent research seem to be getting at is that hormones are not -- and should not be -- the only option for women. Many of us can't take them, many shouldn't. And it is incredibly frustrating that so much of the research being done into new kinds of contraception revolves around different methods of putting the same stuff into your bodies: patches, rings, etc.

Equally frustrating, if totally expected, is Stewart's companion piece yesterday, in which she checked in on how that long-fabled pill for men is coming along. Surprise, surprise: It's still held up at the lab.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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