The cover story of New York Magazine is called “Waking Up From The Pill” by Vanessa Grigoriadis. I personally think it is brilliant – and that is probably because I have moments of narcissism! I have been saying this stuff for over ten years – but sure don’t quote me – it’s okay!
It’s like this – the pill has turned 50 and we are now looking at what it gave us and what it took away. It’s clear – the pill revolutionized what it is to be female – and we should never forget that there are always victims of revolutions. It’s not always all good – nothing is. And the pill in the life of women is just another revolution that gave us so much with one hand and also took away with another.
So what did the pill give us? I think that part is pretty clear – the pill gave us the illusion of sexual freedom. Illusion? Well – it didn’t give us safe sex. Women could still fall victim to HIV, HPV and an assortment of STD’s. So it was an illusion of sexual freedom – we still need barrier protection or monogamy if we want to be kept free of sexually transmitted diseases. The pill protected aganist pregnancy – not HIV. And not getting pregnant when we didn’t want to be pregnant was and still is a huge, big deal. I am not going to go into all of the freedoms that the pill brought us here – you probably know them – and if you don’t – go read the NY Magazine article. It is very well done and very complete.
But the down size of The Pill revolution is that it also removed us from a relationship with our bodies. We lost track of the biology of being a woman. The natural cycles of our ovulation and menstruation – and how we will continue to feel the loss of that connection in women on the pill has yet really to be looked at.
How does that disconnection from the biology of our bodies effect our connection to our sexuality on the most fundermental of levels? And how did that ability to turn off our cycles, in some cases our bleeding time completely – and put baby-making on hold effect our fertility and our ability to create a family when we want to – is just now becoming clear.
When I was the Executive Director of The American Fertility Association I was the lead author on a study with Dr. Richard Scott from RMA NJ - on what women knew about the fertility. The findings were grim. In a study of over 12,000 women in the United States asked to answer a simple survey about their fertility – only one woman was able to score an A on the survey. Think about that. The study was big – it got me on Oprah and on Newsweek. That was in perhaps 2004 – I am not sure – but very little has changed in the way of how we give women information about their biological clocks.
The pill freed us from pregnancy and turned off our interest in our own biology – because we didn’t need to know about it – or understand it. We just took a pill to close it down. Talking about fertility and baby-making became a political hot potato. GYN’s didn’t want to have the conversation with their patients about their biological clock for fear of being called anti feminist – or frightening women into having children before they were ready. So in the end – The Pill brought a measure of reproductive freedom – in the short term – but the “culture of the pill” created women who waited too long too have children and began to fill the offices of infertility practices around the world.
But don’t worry – another revolution is around the corner waiting to really pop! And it is going to fix everything again. It’s called egg freezing. It’s happening now – all over the country and Europe – and one day young women will go to the doctor and not just pick up one prescription for the pill – instead there will be two. The second one will be for the reproductive endocrinogist with the advice to go freeze their eggs – so when they wake up from The Pill – they will still be able to have a baby.