The Birth Control Business and the Pill’s Past, Present and Future – SheKnows

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When the first birth control pill hit the market in 1960, it was considered revolutionary. Liberation for women. They emancipated themselves from the bondage of their procreative bodies and were able to assert their autonomy over their wombs to regain control of their lives. Now, more than 60 years after the first iteration of the pill was approved, there has been little to no innovation in contraception to meet the needs of today’s modern users.

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These are the issues exposed in a new documentary film from director Abby Epstein and executive producer Ricki Lake. The team behind the 2008s The business of being born is back with The business of birth control. The new movie, streaming in the US and Canada, explores the history of birth control from its eugenic beginnings, the well-documented side effects of anxiety, depression, and death, and how holistic feminism and reproductive justice movements require more than one easy access to abortion and contraception.

She knows spoke to Epstein days before the film’s streaming release. She said the spark to chase the second The company of . . . documentary came when she received a 2013 advanced copy from Holly Grigg-Spall book Watering Down the Pill: How We Got Addicted to Hormonal Contraceptives.

“I read his book on a plane, heading to Ricki’s house in Los Angeles and it was just light bulbs going out the whole book and I was like, ‘Holy shit, like this story doesn’t hadn’t been told,” Epstein said.

The 90-minute film begins by explaining that before, only married women could get a diaphragm and only with the consent of their husband. With the release of the pill, women were able to regain control. CDC records show that nearly 65% ​​of women in the United States use some form of birth control.

Since 1960, the birth control market has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. It is no longer advertised solely to prevent pregnancy. The film notes that birth control is pushed as a lifestyle drug, with 35% of women being prescribed the pill for non-contraceptive reasons. A supposed remedy for everything from heavy menstrual cycles to PMS, from acne to anxiety.

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Watering Down the Pill: How We Got Addicted to Hormonal Contraceptives



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In fact, hormonal birth control side effects include anxiety and depression, clitoral shrinkage, painful sex, blood clots, and more.

It’s at this point that the film’s stakes are highest because blood clots related to hormonal birth control can and have been deadly.

“If you look at the number of women who die every year, it’s like about two planes, like two 737s crashing,” Epstein said. “If you’ve talked to most women and talked about a blood clot, it doesn’t even sound that bad. What is a blood clot? You don’t understand that this little something that starts in your calf muscle can travel up to your heart and kill you in five seconds. Five seconds!

Between three and four hundred women die each year from hormonal contraceptives. Interviewed in the film are the surviving relatives and family members of women who died of blood clots linked specifically to Yaz, Yazmin and Nuva Ring. The film includes footage from congressional hearings where these products were determined to be safe. Such hearings have been going on since the 1970s, when the first generation of birth control pill users complained about side effects.

Suicidal thoughts and suicide, strokes, diabetes, and heart attacks are all side effects of hormonal birth control. Other side effects include conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and fibroids; a problem that affects black women at a rate two to three times higher than white women.

Gessie Thompson, a nutritionist featured in the film, said one of the underlying causes of all three conditions is birth control pills.

Thompson is one of many black women featured in the documentary talking about the intersectionality of how modern gynecology and the science behind birth control are rooted in the suffering, experimentation and humiliation of black women and brunettes. It is also noted in the film that the current reproductive justice movement was started and is led by black women with credit for the work of Loretta Ross in the 1990s.

Epstein noted the history of segregation within the feminist movement. This is why some black women consider themselves women (a term coined by literary icon Alice Walker, author of The purple color) than feminists. However, Epstein believes the two causes come together to work collaboratively towards the same end goal.

“I can’t say that white women and women of color are impacted by the system in the same way. We know that is not true. But I think there is a common ground that we find and I think what we have to realize is that nothing is going to change inside this system, ever.

Finding common ground and working for collective change, Epstein said the focus of the documentary was education, information, access and options.

  • People need to be educated about how hormonal birth control works and its effects on their bodies, including unwanted side effects, including death.
  • This information should be readily available and not written in medical jargon in a folded leaflet and stored inside the contraceptive package.

Epstein and others in the film advocate black box warnings similar to what’s on a cigarette box to warn women of the risks of hormonal birth control, but they know that’s a long shot.

  • People need to have easy access to birth control.
  • People need to understand that they have more options than hormonal contraceptives, including copper IUDs or using the Fertility Awareness Method – which requires a woman to track her menstrual and ovulation cycles to understand which days she is really fertile.

By making the case in this way, Epstein argues that women and people with vulvas could finally force a system change in how they are treated. At the moment, there is no incentive to do so.

“If millions and millions and millions are taking this pill and using the products that are on the market, and NuvaRing is making $600 million a year, then why fix it?”

Without education and information, many women are not fully aware of their options and believe they may only have access to one type of contraception. It’s not true. What is true is that women have been sold a product that they may not like but take anyway because they believe they have no other options. This has created a multi-billion dollar industry reluctant to change because the prevailing argument is, What else are they going to do?

The answer: lawyer.

Epstein said: “You have to figure out what’s right for you and not give in to fear or pressure that you have to be onto something.”

Check out some of the best and hottest sex scenes from the film:


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