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In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women – Book Review

By Laura Eldridge.

I was glad to delve into this up-to-the-minute guide to what’s out there in the way of contraceptive options on the market, because every feminist knows that contraception is a political need that desperately calls for development. But I wasn’t expecting it to be a particularly interesting read.

Well, I take my hat off to Laura Eldridge who managed it with finesse, bringing in relevant anecdotes, behind the scenes stories and all the perspectives necessary to understand that what is offered to us in the way of birth control is intimately tied to who wins the elections and who has industrial relationships with which medical establishment.

But this is not just a exposé of the big picture. It is structured as a thorough guide to all the female birth control options, with more organized information than you would get in any single meeting with a gynecologist on any given method. Its got the pros, the cons, and some easily-relatible stories to illustrate different women’s experiences. From there it goes on to spread out the bigger picture: who made it, how it made its way to the market, who loves it and who, of course, doesn’t.

The book opens with Eldridge’s personal contraceptive history which is very endearing. It made me want to call her up and bond with her over mine, but then I laughed at the thought of all the readers who probably would do the same if they could.

The beauty of the book is how it simplifies what appears to the general consumer to be a wide range of options. Placing all hormonal methods into just a few groups, it is easier to understand the difference between how a method works and how it is delivered into the body. It clarifies that new entry points are not the same as new options, especially for the growing number of women and girls who are boldly saying “no” to synthetic hormonal use.

I loved the seamless way in which the book extends to discuss other female reproducutive health issues which reinforce the political, economic and social justice facets of contraception, namely menstruation and menstrual suppression, abortion technology and the new HPV vaccine. She makes elaborate arguements for understanding the complexity and long-term effects and takes care to mention and respond to the simplistic dogma from both the religious right and some rejectionist feminists.

A few terrific chapters that deserve special mention include one on the environmental consequences of hormonal birth control. This is something we all need to pay attention to when considering the big picture surrounding our personal choices. In the chapter on male pill options, she raises the ludicrous fact that so many male-based technologies have been rejected because they effect his sexual functioning. Yet, the oral contraceptive and many of her newer versions are guilty of reducing women’s libido, and this hasn’t stopped it from becoming the most prescibed medication in history. In fact, how many of its users even know that loss of sexual desire is to be expected during use?

The subject of Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) fertility control is something that is often ignored in discussions on realistic options because it is so often not understood (or perhaps not wanted by the pharmaceutical providers of the infromation). Eldridge’s explanation is perhaps not sufficient as a full course, but it is clear and furbished enough to teach all the principles. It can let a potential practitioner decide if she’d like to invest in learning it properly. This, in my opinion, is a great advance for women’s health and body integrity.

I recognise that “In Our Control” is not a simple read that every teenager can be expected to read between the time that she, or he, decides to start contracepting and them making their choice. But in a perfect world, every one of us would have all this information before making the mistakes that are so well documented in the book, sometimes years of side effects and unacceptible risks.

 

Features

    • Written by a women’s health activist and writer
    • Guide to female contraceptive choices for users and professionals
    • Recommended resource for practitioners of reproductive medicine, public health,
    • Powerful case for action in gender activism
    • Language gets technical but stays humorous
    • Completely up-to-date
    • Includes historical review of contraception
    • Interspersed with anecdotes about different methods

 

Publisher

Seven Stories Press; 2010

 

Dinah Rates      


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