Review: In Our Control by Laura Eldridge
Title: In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women
Author: Eldridge, Laura
Length: 369 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Health, Politics
Publisher / Year: Seven Stories Press / 2010
Source: Seven Stories Press
Why I Read It: Finally a chance to actually learn more about the options?
Date Read: 26/02/12
In this book Eldridge discusses all of the available birth control options from calendar based counting and more sophisticated planning methods, through other non-hormonal options, to the various hormonal options including the pill, patch, and injections. In addition to discussing the options, their pros and cons, the health implications of each one, and the people who should avoid various options and why, she also talks about the history of contraceptives, the politics behind past and present decisions, and current research (such as contraceptives for men). I can’t praise the book enough as a source of fantastic information that every girl and woman should really know. All those things we are never actually told like the full health ramifications and options in terms of contraceptives, the history behind them, and the truth about how our bodies really work and how much is still unknown.
As someone who has always had issues with hormonal birth control, which was pushed by my doctors as the only option, and who has always been on and off it as I can’t seem to stay on for long, this book was truly fantastic. Things that I thought were health issues are actually normal. I actually know what to ask my doctor about now. This is the most exciting women’s health book I’ve read since Flow by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim in 2010 (which also made me feel as excitedly nerdy about the chance to talk about things we’re always supposed to stay quiet about).
One of my favorite things about the book is how she highlights the importance of choice. While she lays out the issues with each option, she also talks about how it is the best choice for many women and how we all have to truly know all of the options in order to make real choices. She also talks a lot about how even if an option is not one she would go for, and that the health effects would make it an improper choice for some, each woman should be able to make her own choice in regards to what is her preferred option. There can never be one contraceptive for all of us because we are all different, and that is why choice is important. Side effects and negative health effects don’t mean that the option isn’t a good one for all women, just that we should be able to weigh the risks against the benefits in making our decision about what is best for us.
The history in this book showed the cyclical nature of the issues we face. Clearly we need to know more about the history to face the future.
Anxiety about the growing social freedom of women and the growing population of immigrants (concerns that are resurfacing in conservative anti-immigrant rhetoric today) converged to create a cultural environment that was hostile to birth control. (page 14)
Sound familiar? Seems to describe fairly accurately the current issues as well. Other than the history of the various methods and legal battles to get rid of or bring back contraception, Eldridge talks a lot about the negative history of birth control and it’s use in the eugenics movement. In this way she truly documents the completely varying experiences that different groups of women faced, contributing to differences in the way choices are viewed even today. In addition, Eldridge talks about the history of contraception options around the world and the ways that US foreign policy continues to affect that.
Another interesting part was the discussion about the research for contraceptives for men and the ways that side effects are seen as more of an issue. She says:
Side effects in a male pill are harder for doctors and drugmakers to justify because men don’t face the potential health problems that women do if a pregnancy results. Their risk/benefit analysis is skewed. If a new male method is ever going to be put on the market, Oudshoorn theorizes, then side effects in men should be weighed against the health difficulties alleviated in women. Thinking this way requires, to some extent, that birth control be taken out of the doctor’s office and placed back in the context of sexuality. If contraception is somehow inherently relational, then it makes sense that two people, not one, should be considered when discussing the benefits and drawbacks of a method. (page 267-8)
It is interesting to note that in today’s world contraception and preventing birth is solely the prerogative of the woman in any heterosexual relationship. The male is ignored or told to get condoms, which of course have lower efficacy rates. The legal battles being waged presently over access ignore this reality, placing the burden even more strongly on women in a world that wants all women, evidently, to simply have more babies.
Our preoccupation with PMS is related to a new focus on the importance of women’s hormones over women’s organs in defining biological difference. It constitutes an extension of historical claims about women’s instability and lack of self-control from the limited period of bleeding to the constant flux of the menstrual cycle. (page 164)
A fantastic book that should be read by all. The information contained within will teach any girl or woman how our bodies work and the options that we often aren’t even aware of, putting control more directly in our hands. More information is always a good thing. For men too, who are interested in health especially, the book would be a great read even if not as important in your own life. If you are in a heterosexual relationship, however, it never hurts to know more about what your significant other is dealing with.