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Review: In Our Control by Laura Eldridge

March 8, 2012

In Our Control coverTitle: 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
Rating: 5/5
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.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2012 11:45 am

    Many articles I’ve read about male contraception go on about the side effects of making sex less enjoyable, yet never does the fact that women’s contraception can do the same or worse for women get included in the equation, so to read what you’ve discussed here is excellent. Hopefully the whole topic of contraception will be readdressed when and if male contraception happens.

    Glad this book has been written and published!

    • March 10, 2012 4:40 pm

      Yes, it’s always seen as either women ‘making it up’, or as something that shouldn’t matter for us. Frustrating! Thanks for your comment Charlie.

  2. March 8, 2012 12:10 pm

    You can just hear the excitement in this review! It sounds fascinating, and I’m putting it on the wish list for sure.

  3. March 8, 2012 2:42 pm

    Oh wow — this sounds great! I’m not much for non-fiction but I do like to understand the issues that are hot in our world today and boy, isn’t this one of them?! A coworker of mine who is struggling with her own BC choices would also love this — thanks for the review and recommendation!

    • March 10, 2012 4:41 pm

      Yes, it definitely is a big issue for us these days Audra. I hope you and your co-worker too perhaps find this book useful.

  4. March 8, 2012 3:14 pm

    I think this is such an important book, and you make a great point in saying that just because one option is not for you, that’s not reason for you not to be educated about ALL the options. I think this would be a great book to give to my daughter when she is a little older, and though I don’t have to worry so much about this issue myself, this book would probably be very interesting and exciting for some of my friends. Fantastic and very thoughtful review today, Amy! I enjoyed it immensely!

    • March 10, 2012 4:42 pm

      Yes, it’s so good for us to at least know, right zibilee? I definitely think it would be a great book for your daughter. Eldridge is also good at pointing out that for younger girls it can take time to even understand what is normal, so it is good not to jump into contraceptives as a way to ‘control’ menstruation too. And how knowing about how your body works does not mean you’re going to have or want sex, just by knowing!

  5. March 8, 2012 8:58 pm

    I love books like this. With a young daughter, I definitely want to make sure she has all the options and full knowledge to make informed decisions. I am going to add this to my wish list immediately. Thanks, Amy!

    • March 10, 2012 4:44 pm

      Glad to hear it Michelle, I hope that you find the book useful for you and your daughter!

  6. March 8, 2012 8:59 pm

    Very timely–I’ve been considering going off hormonal birth control as I’m concerned about the long-term effects on my body. Thanks so much for bringing such an important book to our attention.

    • March 10, 2012 4:44 pm

      So glad that I could bring it to your attention Stephanie! I think the book would definitely make you aware of the issues you may be going through, as well as of all the options that exist (if only there were more!).

  7. March 8, 2012 11:58 pm

    Thanks for reminding me that I have Flow sitting on the shelf waiting to be read!

    I’ve been fortunate that the pill works really well (in a number of ways) for me…still, the book sounds interesting. I’ve been on the pill for so long that I’ve totally ignored all of the other options!

    • March 10, 2012 4:45 pm

      So glad to remind you of that one softdrink, it’s a great book :D And also glad to hear that you’ve had no issues with the pill. My biggest has always been remembering to take it… hehe

  8. March 9, 2012 1:31 am

    FASCINATING. Excellent review, Amy. I’m really interested in reading this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  9. March 9, 2012 5:27 am

    Sounds great. This is one I’ll definitely have to read even as we set to plant the family.

  10. March 9, 2012 11:11 pm

    I’m officially past the time I’ll need contraception, but this sounds like a fantastic and very valuable book–glad you highlighted it!

    • March 10, 2012 4:52 pm

      Thanks Florinda. Yes, it’s a book that I hope all women who need can access :)

  11. March 11, 2012 10:40 am

    Excellent post, Amy. I love the points you make about how important it is to be aware of the cyclical nature of the current anti-contraception arguments.

    • March 11, 2012 10:53 pm

      It’s scary to think of isn’t it Ana, how cyclical it really is?

  12. April 2, 2012 7:28 am

    You really made me feel that I should read this book right now.

    Very interesting point about the cyclical nature of anti-contraception arguments. And about male anticonception. The fact that I had never even considered that a possibility just goes to show how it has become socially acceptable to make it a women’s issue.

    • April 8, 2012 6:14 pm

      Yes, it really is framed as a woman’s concern these days but why is that? Interesting things and such a great read Iris. Definitely more focused on what the available options are in the US, but still relevant as similar options are available in other places too – maybe not the same branded drugs, but similar generic options anyway :)

  13. chrisbookarama permalink
    April 2, 2012 8:34 am

    I get the feeling this will come up in the next few years with my daughter (scary to think that that time is getting closer!). I do not know a lot about BC so this would be a good read for me. It always bothers me when I hear a story of a doctor pushing the pill on a girl or woman (and I’ve heard a few). I always have a “Wait now!” moment since I am always weighing the pros and cons of any medication I take. It needs to be considered carefully.

    • April 8, 2012 6:15 pm

      Heh I bet it would be scary Chrisbookarama, to think of her ageing so quickly :) That being said, yes, I wish so much that I’d had a book like this when it first became a concern for me. I would have done things differently for sure. I didn’t even know at 26 reading this book this year that so many of these options were available or their efficacy rates and all that!

  14. RogueAnthropologist permalink
    June 30, 2012 11:39 am

    This is exactly the book I’ve been looking for without knowing I was looking for it! Thanks–can’t wait to find a copy.

    • July 7, 2012 11:21 am

      So glad I could bring it to your attention RogueAnthropologist – it was also exactly what I wanted without knowing :)

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