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This is from Jan Matney’s Parenting: Living With Your Zen Master about the emotional ramifications of oral birth control (and I’m not just linking to it because she references me!).
From Jan Matney:
I worked for fourteen years as a psychotherapist, and when dealing with women with depression and/or anxiety, I never, in all those years, asked the question “Are you taking birth control pills?” In recent years, I’ve become more concerned about the hormonal imbalance and resultant anxiety and depression that can happen from birth control pills. Statistics indicate only a small minority of women are negatively emotionally impacted, but that’s not the feedback I get from the women in my life.
If you have daughters who are considering birth control medication, you might want to read the discussion below that women, boyfriends and physicians are having. It’s different news than the published stats.
One young man watched the transformation in his girlfriend after going off birth control medication, and when he was asked about taking the pill for men, he immediately said, “No way.” He’s not sexist, just wary of suffering as she did.
Not taking birth control pills may seem antithetical to the Feminist Movement and certainly, the medical establishment’s view, but sussing out your own answers for your own body is important.
This doesn’t address the issue of adolescent sexuality, and how to advice our children to protect themselves emotionally and sexually as they grow and mature (Check out www.adolescentsexualitytoday.blogspot.com for a conversation with Dr. Karen Rayne on this issue.) It’s just a different cut–Even if children make seemingly healthy choices with their burgeoning sexuality (i.e., “yes!” to birth control pills), that particular choice may not be the best choice for their mental health. It’s important that we, as parents and professionals, pay attention and sometimes let go of “the way it’s done” so we notice the way it is for that particular person.
This issue is so under-discussed, and I understand why. When encouraging teenagers to use birth control, it is hard to make your presentation nuanced enough to adequately discuss the potential ramifications associated with hormone-based contraceptives.
I see this as being particularly problematic in our society which presents oral contraceptives as the basic pregnancy prevention method, which can be supplemented with condoms if STD/STI prevention is also needed. Teenagers have internalized this message, and often say the only reason condoms should be used is in sexual relationships that are not monogamous. In other words, they associate their partner’s request to use a condom with their partner cheating on them.
I prefer to recast the condom as the most basic birth control method, because it doesn’t have the potentially negative hormonal side effects and it very handily protects against STD/STIs as the same time. I do suggest supplementing condoms with hormonally-based birth control for teenagers who don’t experience negative side effects.
As someone who suffered from debilitating depression while taking birth control pills, I am greatly relieved that this topic is getting press.
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