The contraception shortage endemic isn’t being taken seriously

As if accessing contraception could be any more of a drag, on the 6th of February, there was a declared shortage regarding a number of pills and injectable contraceptives. With next to nothing being done about it, it is high time for some moral and medical clarity on female contraception.

Conclusive evidence of the effects of contraception is practically impossible to find. Though contraception has had a pivotal role in making gains for women’s sexual autonomy, its history is marked by a lack of medical research regarding its risks. Individual women must ‘take it on the chin’ that the chances of debilitating side effects are not that slim, often without these effects being explained in the doctor’s surgery. Sadly, it remains something of a paradox that women choose to take contraception to gain control over their bodies, and instead find the opposite.

It is also a brutal sting that the distribution of sexual responsibility between men and women is still so unfair. Continuing to take pills that cause acne or keeping IUDs in that cause cramps has become the line of least resistance to not getting pregnant. It is a fundamental issue that society remains disinterested when women’s bodies are doing the ‘biology thing’ and not the ‘sexy thing’.

I decided to interview three women on their experiences of contraception. Shockingly, all three reported serious negative side effects of the pill and the negligent treatment from doctors that followed consequentially.

One woman reported that she had not been asked about her allergies before being prescribed a pill with a 22% lactose content. She said, ‘had I not read the fine print I would have been poisoning myself every single day’.

This is not an isolated testimony—lots of women experience the sloppy administration of contraception. Another woman I interviewed was told to stay on the pill for six months in spite of telling her doctor it made her feel ‘very queasy’. She went on to be prescribed anti-sickness medication which caused her to nearly faint in a shop. She reported that she missed around ‘six days of work’ because of illness and trips to the doctors, only to come out without the results that she wanted.

So, what should we make of women being told to ‘just try something else’ when their contraception is currently unavailable? Comments like these are at best unthoughtful and at worst incredibly dangerous. The final woman I interviewed experienced bleeding for ‘one month straight’ before doctors put her on another pill that made her feel ‘incredibly nauseous’.

It is a sweet relief to find a contraceptive method that does not react badly with your body. To find that this contraceptive may not be available for some indefinite amount of time is very distressing. Women rely on contraception not only to prevent pregnancy, but also to help their skin, migraines, and to control heavy and painful periods.

Because of the contraception shortage, the mental and physical health of many women is hanging in the balance. It is shocking but not surprising that this is not being taken seriously. But this is a serious issue with serious consequences, so attempting to placate women with vague timelines of ‘your pill may be back in March’ is not good enough. Women deserve better. Period.

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