THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON BIRTH CONTROL by Sarah E. Hill

This Is Your Brain on Birth Control: The Surprising Science of Women, Hormones, and the Law of Unintended Consequences by [Hill, Sarah]

Really great book that falls into the genre I like most (readable/personal scientific book written by an academic, like 9 Months in 9 Months Out & Never Enough). This is written by a psychologist who studies birth control and begins with her own experience being on and off it. Basically, she says what a lot of women say who go off the pill–that they feel better and more alive. This book explains why some people would have that experience.

A couple of the main reasons are because you are trapped on a repeated week 3 hormone dose (that’s the one that comes after you ovulate). Since you never ovulate on the pill, you never go through the normal range of hormones throughout the month (that make you more sexual then more relaxed–you only get the relaxed feeling). That affects your sex drive, your energy, your attraction to others, your mental health, and just about everything else because so much of who we are (men and women) is based on our hormones (men’s hormones are more related to things like marital status, if they have kids, etc.).

The other larger consequences of being on that static hormonal level is that you make different choices. You are different. You might pick a different kind of partner, maybe one who is less traditionally attractive and more financially well off. But then, when you go off the pill, you realize you don’t actually like him. Or you’re off the pill and pick a sexy dude, then that you go on the pill for him and lose your sex drive, thus ending that relationship. Then you get off the pill cuz you broke up and now you wanna have sex again. She ultimately recommends that people taking the pill try getting off temporarily to see how it makes them feel. Keep a journal especially to write out your mood while still on the pill and then when you get off. And same for those considering going on–journal.

The most surprising thing she explains is how much scientific research is centered around men as subjects. Part of the reason (beyond just how sexist science always has been) often ONLY men are used in studies is because of menstrual cycles. It’s theoretically cheaper and faster to work with men if hormones are a factor because you have to catch women at a certain time of month to get consistent results. And if there is any nuance in results (like that women are affected differently than men), journals don’t like it because it kinda sounds like they didn’t come to a clear singular conclusion.

In academia, there’s so much pressure to publish all the time, which exaggerates that issue. Academics are pressured for time, money, and quick publications that they don’t take the time to sort through demographic variations. And even if you don’t read academic studies, so much of our cultural understanding of science is based on “new” studies that get watered down for mass consumption in online magazines and elsewhere.

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