November 2010 Archives
Nov 30 2010Blaming the Pill, Yet Again
Just the one sentence description of this week's New York Magazine cover story is enough to make my blood pressure rise a bit--"Fifty years ago, birth-control pills gave women control of their bodies, while making it easy to forget their basic biology--until in some cases, it's too late." Given that half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned (PDF), it hardly seems as though the pill has made it easy for women to forget their basic biology. First of all, it's definitely not easy to remember to take the pill. Sure, a lot of women use the pill and have worked out a system where they can use it accurately and manage any side effects that they might experience. However, taking a medication every day is hard to do--one adherence study found that women miss 4-5 pills per month, which could limit the efficacy of the pill and increase the risk of unplanned pregnancy. Clearly the promise of the pill isn't some easy, magical ride into reproductive freedom as this article might have you believe. Women must actually consciously take the pill every day for it to work its "magic".
This brings me to the second part of the sentence, which states that the pill allows women to "forget their basic biology". The article implies that it is because of the pill that women become wrapped up in the "freedom" of their lifestyles and are sorely surprised when they try to have children later in life, but it's harder than they thought it would be. Given that 86% of births in the United States are to women under the age of 35 (PDF), this hardly seems to be a scenario that applies to the masses. True, there are more births to women over the age of 35 and over the age of 40 now than there were in the past, but I would argue that this is not due to women having "forgotten" that their fertility is limited, nor to their decision to party their 20s away with different men every night. Instead, many women are delaying childbearing so they can pursue their education, perhaps get a higher degree, and begin their careers.
In a society where health insurance is so important, I wonder if the author considered what the loss of a job or change in a job might mean for starting a family. Anecdotally, I'm aware of health insurance plans that require an employee to have worked at a particular company for at least a year before maternity care is covered through the plan (note that all other health benefits are covered, just not pregnancy). What does that mean for a 30-year-old woman who has just switched jobs? It might mean that she'll need to wait a while before getting pregnant. That hardly seems to be "forgetting basic biology". Perhaps if the United States had more family friendly policies, it would be easier to work and have children. Until then, women will probably rely on fabulous scientific advances like the pill to help us decide when and with whom we'd like to start a family.
Then there's the cover of the magazine: "Fifty Years Ago, The Pill Ushered In a New Era of Sexual Freedom. It Might Have Created a Fertility Crisis as Well." This just seems to be sensationalizing an issue that needs no further sensationalizing and is borderline irresponsible. Sure, the article itself talks about some of the benefits of the pill, but the cover alone is probably enough to continue spreading rumors and misinformation about the pill and other hormonal methods of birth control (don't worry, there are plenty of other misconceptions out there). Given that there isn't any research suggesting that the pill is in any way associated with infertility, the cover is more than a bit misleading.
While I certainly appreciate the discussion of infertility and the fact that the article highlights the growing desire of some women and men to delay starting their families until later in life, connecting this with the pill strikes me a disservice, not only to good discussion of this issue, but to the pill itself. Check out Amanda Marcotte's review of this piece as well for a bit more information.
Nov 22 2010Something to Consider As You Stand in Line at the Airport
The new TSA security regulations have me thinking about birth control. No, the enhanced airport pat-downs don't involve sexual congress (yet?), but to hear people talk about it, you'd think otherwise.
And by "people" -- I mean men. Women have had to endure all sorts of invasive touching in the name of security since 9/11. I've been felt up going into concerts and baseball games as well as at the airport. And not the timid 7th-grade style of getting felt up -- the kind that happens with a light touch and a nervous laugh. I'm talking serious, lift-and-separate inspection, with no real regard for comfort or embarrassment. For the past nine years women have dealt with this and moved on, enjoying their concerts, ballgames, and flights -- after re-adjusting their shirts, of course.
Nov 22 2010Home Visiting Program Helps Young Mothers Space Pregnancies
There is a growing body of research showing that home visiting programs can improve child and family well-being. Through the Affordable Care Act, states have the opportunity to support evidence-based home visiting programs. Home visiting programs have a variety of goals--including improving maternal and child health, parenting skills, and self-sufficiency of parents and reducing child abuse--and have shown success on a variety of measures.
In this fiscal climate, it is worth underscoring that home visiting programs have been shown not only to help families thrive, but to save states money on costly social problems (PDF). Carefully-designed evaluations in several sites showed that the Nurse-Family Partnership model, a voluntary program through which nurses help low-income, first-time mothers with prenatal care and early childhood development, resulted in fewer subsequent unplanned pregnancies, increased intervals between births, and healthier pregnancies. Add to the already impressive evidence results from a new study showing that when this program was replicated on a large scale across the state of Pennsylvania, mothers participating in the program were more likely to delay having a second child for at least two years. The results were especially strong for young mothers (18 and younger) and those living in rural areas.
As states move ahead with their plans for home visiting programs, this new research is a good reminder that helping parents plan for and space their children is a valuable and effective component of home visiting programs (PDF). Doing so helps parents accomplish other goals, including education and employment, and improves outcomes for their children.
Nov 18 2010Staying Teen In 2010 and Beyond
Aaah, the olden days. 2007, to be exact. Back when Paris Hilton was sentenced to jail, Britney got her kids taken away, Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the US Congress, a film starring Al Gore won an Oscar...oh, and Apple unleashed the iPhone on the world. It was also the year that our Campaign launched Stay Teen--a user-generated PSA campaign and online destination for teens that urged them to stay exactly as goofy, bratty, idealistic and slackerish as they wanted to be. To enjoy their teen years, and not to grow up too fast by getting pregnant and becoming parents too soon. To help get our site launched, MySpace (then the king of the social network world with nearly 50 million users...) sponsored a "create your own Stay Teen ad" contest. Submissions rolled in from MySpace users and we got a brand new "Stay Chicken" ad for our national campaign.
Three calendar years later (about 100 years later in the digital world), much has changed. The term "user-generated content" is quaint and practically obsolete, now that everyone and his dog can--and does--create content multiple times a day. Teens expect a lot more from their media, and they assume that they'll be interacting with it, not passively consuming it. Stay Teen has become a trusted place for teens, an adviser on sites like ABCFamily.com, and the slogan on Gossip Girl's tank top in her virtual bedroom. This summer, we launched a fresh new crop of Stay Teen PSAs (created by our very own Youth Leadership Team) and just this week, we relaunched our award-winning Stay Teen site. We hope teens will take part in its evolution, and we're ready to hear from them. Play games, voice opinions, contribute stories--be part of it. Take a look. Add your voice. Post comments. Keep us current. And come back often.