Social media vs. medicine: The online attack on birth control 

Birth control is an important drug that has been widely accessible for many reasons. Recently there has been lots of misinformation being spread on the internet about birth control. Illustration by Van Nguyen/The Daily Campus.

It’s a drug prescribed to nearly 50 million women ages 15-49 in the United States. Six prescribable types exist with a variety of options to take. For 63 years, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed this drug to be on the market and accessible to women for a variety of reasons. There are countless success stories, scientifically-backed research and innovative methods that hold up the safety and effectiveness of it. So why have misinformation and bad-mouthing on TikTok become the determinants of whether or not birth control is “good?” 

Promotion of medical misinformation isn’t an uncommon sight on social media; however, the encouragement of fears over the use of birth control seems to be particularly strong on TikTok, preying on young people who use or are looking to use it. Videos on the app often include clickbait-driven claims that focus on the potential side effects of birth control, making it seem like possible effects are instead certainties. Regardless of the sources of these messages, they may be scary enough to discourage someone from taking birth control altogether. 

Take for example a viral video that amassed over 16,000 likes and 520,000 views. Content creator and self-proclaimed “Spiritual DJ” Sahara Rose and her friend talk about the claim that birth control can change what kind of man you’re attracted to based on preference to pheromones. However, recent studies focusing on appealing facial structure show otherwise. A 2018 study from the Association of Psychological Science found “there was no evidence that women’s preferences varied according to levels of fertility-related hormones, such as estradiol and progesterone.” A second study published in 2019 that focused on attraction to facial features supports the APA’s suggestion. Additionally, don’t forget to consider the fact that among the many stories sharing experiences using birth control, finding a partner unattractive isn’t an issue that’s discussed. 

More videos tend to attack birth control as a whole with claims that it’s “unnatural” or toxic, like a video by user @nataliehdz4 that has over 322,000 views. In the video, business and mindset coach Natalie Hernandez states she has done away with “toxic birth control”, opting for an “all natural effective preventative” instead. Like Hernandez, other TikTok creators promote non-hormonal options such as fertility awareness methods on top of claiming that birth control is dangerous. But, when done correctly, FAMs are only 77-98% effective. With correct usage, birth control is over 99% effective. 

At the heart of these toxicity claims is a hyperfocus on side effects that may occur and the notion that your body should only be going through its “natural” process. 

First off, when someone is prescribed birth control, it’s because the prescriber has determined that the benefits one could receive outweigh the costs of the potential side effects. Keep in mind that those effects also change with each type of birth control. For example, some of the side effects of hormonal birth control don’t occur with non-hormonal contraceptives like a copper IUD. Not every everyone will experience side effects either, and what one does experience can be caused by a multitude of confounding factors. 

Secondly, the claim that the body should go through its natural processes is a pseudoscientific attack on one’s choice to go on birth control more than anything else. The decision to start birth control is made because the user wants to have the outcome they desire. An opinion focused on “what’s natural”  is not and should not be of the user’s concern. Plus, such claims invite shame to the decision women make for their own bodies while simultaneously ignoring the fact that some go on birth control for reasons other than contraception.  

Regardless of what information users look at, the choice to go on birth control is typically well-thought out and oftentimes scary. After all, it’s a commitment to not know what could happen when starting medication and acknowledge that changes to one’s body may occur. With that said, women shouldn’t let social media add any more stress onto this decision.  

If you’re someone who is looking to take or is on birth control, trust the science. You will most likely have questions or concerns, and when they arise, your best bet is to seek out information from your doctor or a trusted medical professional. If that’s not an option, Planned Parenthood has an anonymous chat and text line where questions about conception, pregnancy and sex education can be answered. And in the very least, for your own peace of mind, stay away from TikTok videos that thrive on fears and worries. 

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