I sat on a paper-covered table in the examination room of the medical office. I listened halfheartedly—instead, focusing on my newborn son who lay nearby—as the nurse chatted while she filled out paperwork. All of a sudden, the nurse asked a question which broke through my happy mood.
“What kind of birth control are you planning to use?”
Such a simple question, which I’m sure countless women are asked by their medical providers. After all, according to what I’ve heard from various organizations, using birth control to prevent the conception of a child means that women are confidently empowering themselves to live how they desire.
However, when the nurse asked this question, I did not experience the feelings of elated empowerment, confidence, or strength that I have heard about. As I was asked how I wanted to artificially regulate my fertility, I was struck by the sad assumption that lay behind the nurse’s words: That I am unable to control my actions or urges, and so I need to turn off the gift of my fertility.
I’ve heard laments from other women about the negative side effects of contraception, like nausea and fatigue. When I first heard these complaints, it did not appear to me that contraception was empowering these women; instead, it was becoming a burden on them. Later on, when I read about a recent Danish study that linked depression to birth control, I failed to see the confidence-building, uplifting effects that are often attributed to contraceptives. Instead, I continued to notice that many women are being downtrodden and controlled by artificial birth control methods.
Should the idea of “female empowerment” presume that women need to manipulate their fertility in this way? I do not believe so. Using birth control and succumbing to its negative effects is not empowering. Being treated like an unruly animal who cannot control itself is not empowering. Using contraceptives because some medical professionals and one’s peers all support it is not empowering.
Alternatively, there is a fantastic way in which women can positively empower themselves regarding their bodies: knowledge. Instead of putting contraceptives into or on their bodies, women can learn about how their fertility naturally works.
When I began reading about the female fertility cycle, I was awestruck. I saw why I would experience certain sensations throughout each month, as hormones caused subtle changes in my body. I learned how, a handful of days after an egg is released, a woman will experience a time of infertility before her body launches into the next cycle. As I learned more and began observing my fertility signs, I grew empowered. I knew what my body was doing, and I knew why changes were happening. I became more confident, because I could prepare and work with my natural fertility cycle, instead of working against it.
Contraception shields our eyes from the incredible gift and beauty of the female body and its fertility. By living in ignorance of how the fertility cycle naturally works—and by using contraceptives to tamper with it instead—women are not empowering themselves. There are many websites, apps, and books which can help women learn and chart their natural fertility cycles. If women grow in knowledge of how their bodies naturally work and cooperate with that process, they will be far more confident, healthy, and strong than if they bought into the culture’s message of birth control.
AnneMarie Miller enjoys the epic adventures of young married life and motherhood with her incredible husband and son. A writer, blogger, and casual geek, she enjoys discovering small moments of beauty and joy in each day. When she’s not chasing after her baby, reading, or tackling never-ending housework, AnneMarie shares her quirky musings on her blog, Sacrifice of Love (http://marianninja.blogspot.com).