A recent study has found that women who take the contraceptive pill are 23 per cent more likely to be treated for depression. The link has been shown to be more than simply causal, meaning that we now get to add depression to the long list of risks that women who take the pill face.
This latest confirmed by-product of oral contraception is even more worrying when we consider that mental health in women does not have a history of being taken seriously. Indeed, the concepts of ‘women’ and ‘mental illness’ seem to be two of the most elusively difficult to understand, so although there is an acknowledgement that the pill leads to depression, what is this recognition actually going to achieve in real terms?
It is also worth stating before further analysis that not all people that menstruate identify as women and not all women have periods.
It is accepted that the burden for contraception falls excessively on women, despite the fact that on average, we are fertile just six days a month, compared to men who can be fertile every day.
Clearly this is predicated on the outdated notion that pregnancy is merely a woman’s concern. Such a sense of detachment is why the results of this study will simply be remarked upon for a little while, before business as usual resumes. In response to the findings, women have been told to remain calm, keep taking their doses and not worry about the potential damage to their mental health that their contraception may invoke.
Infuriatingly, the people handing out this advice are all too often the male doctors and researchers who never have and never will experience anything like this. Not least because, as a recent Guardian article pointed out, the World Health Organisation trial into the male pill was halted due to concerns over their wellbeing.
Of course, a legitimate response to studies such as this is that the side effects of the pill far outweigh an unwanted pregnancy. It has been said before, but, although we managed to put three men on the moon in the last decades, we cannot 100 per cent stop a woman from getting pregnant in 2016. Clearly, current methods of contraception are woefully inadequate and yet if anything, technological progress surrounding contraception is in fact slowing down. This is perhaps because a male dominated scientific community deems the situation under control.
It may be a cliché but let us pretend the shoe were on the other foot – it is difficult to imagine men accepting the nausea, headaches, weight gain or mood changes often associated with taking the pill.
It is even more difficult to imagine them allowing something to be embedded under their skin or placed deep within the recesses of their genitals. Were men subject to the often gruelling consequences of available contraception, we can safely assume that there would be more outrage at the current situation.
As it stands, women are forced to make the decision between having less intrusive forms of contraception such as condoms or the pill, at the cost of reliability or, as has been revealed now, their mental health.
It is time that we stopped viewing women’s wellbeing as secondary to men’s. Progress is needed in all aspects of contraception, not just the pill, and we can only hope that this study goes some way toward highlighting this.
Image credit: Beppie