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Is infertility the unintended consequence of The Pill?
December 1, 2010 8:32 AM   Subscribe

"The fact is that the Pill, while giving women control of their bodies for the first time in history, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late." New York magazine explores the connection between the Pill and the infertility industry. The XX Factor blog takes issue with the article, calling it "sexist" and "condescending."
posted by desjardins (99 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure that Amanda Marcotte read the same article as I did.
I don't see all of the ignorance and sexism the original piece is supposed rife with. Maybe somebody could clarify.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:37 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what you need clarified, since Amanda and I clearly did read the same article. Maybe you could clarify.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


SOMEBODY CLARIFY this butter, it's a little murky
posted by lalochezia at 8:44 AM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's a so-so article on a very important issue. I could do without a lot of the biased language- Sexual freedom is a fantastic thing, worth paying a lot for. But it’s not anti-feminist to want to be clearer about exactly what is being paid. or Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect. It seems someone involved in this article wrung out their teary handkerchief write onto the page.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:47 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am sure that women who use the birth control pill do not forget about the realities of being female, they have merely chosen a particular method of dealing with those realities in a manner that is convenient for them. It is also true that sometimes when you postpone something (whether pregnancy or anything else) you may wind up postponing it too long, so that it is no longer possible. (Hypothetically) I was going to see "The Phantom Of The Opera" but I waited too long, and it closed before I got to see it. So, there is an infertility industry. Personally I think that infertility is God's way of telling you that you should adopt instead. But this remains an individual choice, of course.
posted by grizzled at 8:47 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Personally I think that infertility is God's way of telling you that you should adopt instead.

Of course. Just like cancer is God's way of telling you that you should just die already.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:49 AM on December 1, 2010 [88 favorites]


@hydropsyche

Sure! I'm actually not trying to be trite or dismissive of her point, but I can see why it might seem that way. I understand the concerns about treatment of natural versus modified bodies, but other points mz Marcotte picks up on seem less obvious to me.

I'll pick one of the author's main points, rather than digressing into too many individual cases:

"...implying that women, with our wee, silly brains are too full of shopping information to realize that we totally can't have babies on the pill!"

I didn't see that the original article made this claim. The original article seemed to be saying that waiting until you're thirty before trying to have a baby can make the task more... difficult.

Not that women forget that they're on the pill, but rather that they sometimes fail to take into consideration the less obvious repercussions.

To me the gyst of the original article seemed to be that the pill, while good, can have repercussions. And that people aren't always conscious of the medical repercussions of screwing with our hormones.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Once, when I was out canvassing for gay marriage, I got into a weird argument with a woman from Australia. She thought that the shift away from discrimination against women, including giving women the right to vote, had led to a deprecation of the "natural roles" for women. She'd been a feminist, she said, and had worked in Australia's family courts, and had taken the pill herself. But women who focus on having a career put off having children until it's too late, she had realized after she married her fundamentalist husband. How sad and empty these women's lives are, she kept saying. How sad and empty.

"Es ging einen licht auf," when she told me why she was in the states — in vitro fertilization. Ah so, this is your problem, eh?

Well, yes, but it's society's problem for telling her she could have it all, and if we could only return to where women knew their place, even if we had to do things like pay them less in order for them to value motherhood more…

"And the voting?" I said.

"Well, I just vote the way my husband tells me anyway." And women shouldn't be worrying about all that political stuff, because it just takes away from their time in the home.

Usually Aussies were pretty good about equality when I talked to them, and this woman looked professional and together. It's just what I think of when I think about debates about birth control and social roles, that there are still people willing to express nineteenth century ideals out in public surprises me.
posted by klangklangston at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Personally I think that infertility is God's way of telling you that you should adopt instead. But this remains an individual choice, of course.

There are many excellent comments on MetaFilter about the difficulties of adoption and I will not attempt to recreate them since I have not had the same experience, but I do think that this statement is unnecessarily moralizing and adds little to the conversation as well as telling people who might be experiencing a very difficult emotional situation that they are wrong for feeling that way.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:52 AM on December 1, 2010 [22 favorites]


A lot of the problems with women being insufficiently aware of their biology (to the extent that they are, Amanda Marcotte's comments being duly noted) could be dealt with by better comprehensive sex ed. Unfortunately what you're likely to get if you add this information to what passes for a sex ed curriculum in my part of the country, you'll get something as close to "God hates the Pill and if you take one ever, God will strike you barren" as the First Amendment will permit. That's not going to help either.

From one point of view, I can say I aged out of having kids without planning to, although at a certain point I took matters into my own hands and decided not to. I have no regrets about either the passive decision or the active one. One of the lessons I take from articles like these, probably because it resonates with my own personal experience, is that motherhood isn't all that attractive compared to other life paths unless and until you have a strong impulse for it. It's not convenient to have kids if you don't have to, and that's not the fault of the Pill, but of the way (American) society is currently organized. The Pill only allows us to recognize it.
posted by immlass at 8:55 AM on December 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


Klangklangston - Freedom From Choice
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on December 1, 2010


The lede *is* a bit condescending. Imagine an article about erectile dysfunction drugs that started off with:

"The fact is that Viagra, while giving old men control of their penises for the first time in decades, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being old until it was, in some cases, too late."

Snark aside, while I have no doubt that The Pill is a large part of the reason many women have delayed having children, there are also other factors this article doesn't take into account such as stagnating wages for lower- and middle-class workers. I daresay there aren't as many people in their early 20s who are financially prepared to raise a child as there were in the '50s and '60s (in North America, anyway).
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


None of the women I know who have had infertility treatment used hormonal birth control pills as their birth control method, as it happens.

And I am not sure how the author of this article knows that any given woman who is having infertility treatment in their 40s would have been free of infertility issues earlier in her life; yes, there's an increased risk as one gets older, but there are women who are infertile in their 20s.

Seems like a big load o' generalization floating on a sea of hype to me.

In other news, the women I know who are in their 40s who are having, or who had, infertility treatment are all women who didn't get married until they were in their 40s. So it wasn't the magic of the Pill which kept them from having babies until then--it was their not having a partner with whom they wanted to raise children, and who wanted to raise children with them.

And none of these women were the overly picky harridans of popular media, either: in fact, I would suggest that the quality they have in common was being hopeless romantics who so much wanted to get married and have children that they spent years and years in relationships with difficult, withholding men who didn't want either marriage or children, but who displayed just enough ambivalence about the possibility that my friends and acquaintances held out the hope they would change.

But of course New York magazine goes for the faux-controversial edginess rather than exploring complicated realities of interpersonal relationships. Sells stuff better!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:00 AM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, regarding the article more directly, I am a twenty-six year old woman (although obviously I don't speak for all twenty-six year old women, just for me) and I would LOVE to have a baby but I am on the pill (and have been for over ten years now*). The reason I am on the pill is not because I have forgotten about biology or that I think that I have an unlimited amount of time to conceive, it's that right now my husband and I are in a financial and personal situation in which we believe it would be irresponsible to have a child. My being on the pill means that we can enjoy a healthy and happy sex life at a time when we are not yet able to increase the size of our family. I'm not stupid, I know that I have a limited window for kids, but I'm on the pill because right now is the wrong time, not because I've forgotten about it (also, if I had forgotten about it, that would be okay, too -- some people don't want kids or feel that it's not a priority and I think it's awesome that they have that choice). Although I respect that my beliefs about my situation may in part be a result of having access to the pill, I don't think that the cost of waiting to have kids comes from the freedom to make reproductive choices so much as the difficulty of finding enough stability to raise them.

*Second awkwardest moment of my life: asking my mom for a gynecologist appointment when I was fifteen so that I could go on the pill. It was...challenging.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:00 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not that women forget that they're on the pill, but rather that they sometimes fail to take into consideration the less obvious repercussions.

So you are saying, in a nicer way, that women as a class might be just too dumb to understand that there's a Too Old to Have a Baby age? Or maybe just dim enough that we need hand-wringing articles about it to remind us?

You really only need one question when faced with articles like this to know if they're sexist: are men subject to the same amount of hand-wringing about how they handle their reproductive choices?

(hint: no).
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 AM on December 1, 2010 [32 favorites]


Wasn't there a post (I can;t find now, of course) from I think jb that said Americans have traditionally had kids later in life and the 50s where an anomaly which coincided with the largest social welfare system in the country and countries with good social support networks tend to have kids eariler?

You want people to start families earlier? Give them to means to do so, child-care, mat/pat leave, day-care, health-care. Don't fluster your hands up in a Oh What's To Become Of The National Uterus? That is condescending.
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2010 [43 favorites]


I didn't love the tone of the article -- that women have been told that delaying motherhood would make it harder to conceive but they didn't want to hear it. Women understand biological reality, but careers, love, and family don't always operate on a schedule. To portray the pill as having the effect of "Whoops! I forgot to have a family" is incorrect and annoying.
posted by *s at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love the way that Amanda Marcotte argues against things that I can't find in the original article...

"And above all, freaking out about how "unnatural" it is, as if it's somehow more unnatural than every other drug on the market, not to mention air conditioning, latex, television sets, and the wearing of shoes?"

I can't see anywhere that this could be referring to (in fact the article only uses the word 'natural' once and in a different context. And it annoys me that even in her argument she names latex (that can come from trees) and "every other drug" (that includes such things as asprin).

Focusing on the complaints of side effects without checking the actual scientific studies on the prevalence? Check.

That, I presume is referring to this, since I can't see any other complaints about medical side effects...

With the pill’s relative safety today, it’s suprising that so many women still complain of side effects. Women’s blogs like Jezebel are swarming with women who attribute a whole host of side effects and medical problems to the Pill, most of which are most likely unrelated

Please, someone tell me if I'm misrepresenting these points. I've only got time to scan read stuff at work...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, I'm not transgendered or anything, but you BET I would take something that allowed me to forget about the biological realities of being female.

No amount of feminist reclaiming is going to change the fact that my body is not owned by me, but is a wholly owned subsidiary of a multinational conglomerate comprising potential kids (hello, folic acid!), any actual kids who end up inside me (goodbye, sushi and beer!), and the manufacturers of the (excellent) DivaCup and its affiliated toilet facilities.
posted by Madamina at 9:03 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


The original article seemed to be saying that waiting until you're thirty before trying to have a baby can make the task more... difficult.

Thirty isn't really a big watershed in women's fertility.

And that people aren't always conscious of the medical repercussions of screwing with our hormones.

The birth control pill does not impact fertility. There's no difference in fertility rates among a group of 40-year-old women who have used the pill as their form of contraception and a group of 40-year-old women who have used diaphragms or condoms as their form of contraception.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:04 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


The fact is that the Pill, while giving women control of their bodies for the first time in history, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late.

It seems pretty obvious that the pill redefined what a woman could be, by giving her choices. There were positive and negative side effects to that, but overall, it's a good thing.
posted by nomadicink at 9:05 AM on December 1, 2010


The very idea of the XX Factor blog -- a separate place to click for 'What women really think.' -- is also condescending.
posted by grounded at 9:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]



So you are saying, in a nicer way, that women as a class might be just too dumb to understand that there's a Too Old to Have a Baby age? Or maybe just dim enough that we need hand-wringing articles about it to remind us?

I'm not saying that at all.

Rather, I think that the contention of the article is that people are very aware that there's an age whereupon conception becomes difficult. Birth control allows people to delay having a baby, and that it's frequently more difficult by the time they feel ready to do it.

Maybe I'm giving it too much credit, I didn't like either the article or the response very much.

Regardless, I totally agree with previous posters that there are very measurable ways to show why people are delaying having babies. (Social/economic climate being the chiefest one) And if difficulties conceiving later in life is bad, well, having kids before you're prepared to would be abundantly worse.


I'd much rather see an article address the root causes of this whole mess, and not the decisions that women are making. That, I suspect, is where the "blaming women" angle comes in.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:09 AM on December 1, 2010


I'd much rather see an article address the root causes of this whole mess, and not the decisions that women are making. That, I suspect, is where the "blaming women" angle comes in.

Or not even suggest that it's a "mess". There have always been people, both male and female, who wanted to have children but who were infertile. On an individual level, it's a painful and difficult experience; but why do we need a magazine article catastrophizing about it as a social phenomenon?
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:21 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry.

This is the kind of language in the New York article that really put my teeth on edge, and made me appreciate the free wheeling sarcasm in the XX piece. This stereotype of an idiot woman, living entirely in the moment, unable to even remember to take her Pill on time, much less engage in advance family planning, is obnoxious.

By the way, though, I did think it anomalous that the Pill birthday event flashed photos of Palin. It seems unlikely that "pro life" champion and mother of five has ever taken the Pill.
posted by bearwife at 9:21 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]



Or not even suggest that it's a "mess". There have always been people, both male and female, who wanted to have children but who were infertile. On an individual level, it's a painful and difficult experience; but why do we need a magazine article catastrophizing about it as a social phenomenon?


I was just sitting here trying to figure out where that idea came from. I know that birth rates in North America have dropped, but I haven't previously heard it characterized as a problem. (Except obviously in individual cases.)

But personally, by "mess" I was referring more to the tendency for people to be unable to afford families and homes until they're well into their adulthood, as compared to previous generations that had a better deal.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:23 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Freedom is bad, see, because you might use your freedom to do something you'll regret later.
posted by localroger at 9:34 AM on December 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


The article is pretty condescending. But what the hell is this?
a male Pill, tested in Oregon prisons, turned men’s eyeballs red when combined with alcohol
Why would they test a contraceptive in a prison, on people who apparently enjoy pruno? Why would it turn somebody's eyeballs red? Am I the only one who thinks the whole thing sounds weird?
posted by enn at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Personally I think that infertility is God's way of telling you that you should adopt instead.
posted by grizzled at 4:47 PM on December 1

Of course. Just like cancer is God's way of telling you that you should just die already.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:49 PM on December 1


Personally I think infertility and cancer are god's way of telling you he doesn't exist.
posted by Decani at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2010 [32 favorites]


I liked the original author's measured response in the comments. I'm a sucker for anyone who takes a shot at 'insane, cloying mommy culture.'
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:47 AM on December 1, 2010


Infertility is a consequence of the pill in the same way that it was a consequence of my inability to commit to a relationship in the first thirty seven years of my life.

We all make choices, and for some of us, those choices help us end up the wrong side of forty with no chance of having children of our own. It's personally heartbreaking, but it shouldn't be categorised in the same way as infertility. It shouldn't be categorised as a problem society needs to solve. I have as much sympathy with women in this situation as I have with myself. We wanted kids, we didn't get kids, we're the ones to blame.
posted by seanyboy at 9:53 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


The New York magazine can call me when they start writing articles on how men "gobble down" Viagra to "unnaturally" prolong their sexual vigor and how that is a Very Bad Terrible Awful Thing to do, since it turned the field of erectile dysfunction into a "huge industry".

Until then, they can do me the favor of shoving their gendered and sexist condescension right up their ass.
posted by lydhre at 9:54 AM on December 1, 2010 [15 favorites]


The original article, and the author's response, is just baffling to me. Somehow she seems to have overlooked the thing about how women who use birth control do so because THEY DON'T WANT TO GET PREGNANT.

If they later find that they are infertile, or that they are too old to get pregnant, so what? The point is, for the 20 years prior, they DIDN'T WANT TO GET PREGNANT. That is WHY THEY USED BIRTH CONTROL.

I'm confused and annoyed that this even needs to be explained out loud. But here we are.
posted by ErikaB at 9:57 AM on December 1, 2010 [18 favorites]


You can be angry at a comment like "infertility is God's way of telling you that you should adopt instead", or you could see it as someone trying to put a positive spin on a stinky situation. I didn't really have a problem with it myself & even if though I didn't agree with it, I'm not sure why it warranted the "people who die of CANCER" hyperbole.
posted by seanyboy at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article does come off as depressingly gendered and sexist, but the sad fact of the matter is that women and men are not subject to the same set of rules when it comes to fertility. Men make sperm every day. Copious quantities of fresh, mobile sperm (well, at least they hope). We get born with all the eggs we're ever going to produce, and the longer they sit there the greater the chance that something will be wrong with them. It's a biological reality that is infuriating and inescapable. It would be nice if we could talk about fertility without sounding judgmental and sexist, but the sad fact of the matter is that women are always going to face a time pressure that men will never have to worry about to the same degree (sure, their sperm gets a little less frisky over time but it can still be fresh and up for the job at 70).

On a side note....Viagra is funded by insurance? Seriously, WTF???
posted by Go Banana at 10:03 AM on December 1, 2010


We wanted kids, we didn't get kids, we're the ones to blame.

I don't see why anyone is to blame. Sometimes people don't get what they want out of life, through no fault of their own or anyone else's. I don't think my friends who did infertility treatment "should have" been single mothers earlier in their lives (if that had even been possible for them, which they don't know); they wanted to have kids and parent them together with a partner. It wasn't their fault they didn't meet those partners at age 25 or whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


(sure, their sperm gets a little less frisky over time but it can still be fresh and up for the job at 70)

That's not actually true. Research suggests that men over 50 are at dramatically increased risk of fathering children with birth defects.

Obviously, there is a distinct fertility stopping point for women at menopause, and no such thing for men, but male fertility is also subject to age-related decline and complications.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Haven't read the articles yet, but the last time I read an Amanda Marcotte response to an article about the pill, it was a bunch of hyperbole in reaction to an article about how the pill's side effects, from weight gain to depression, have been minimized by manufacturers and doctors, for the sake of big bucks. She seemed to take great offense at that idea. I suspect that she's just not capable of looking at any critique of the pill in a reasoned way.

Now to go read the articles and see if that's the case.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


this is where i have to bring up the one issue that i always bring up in vaccination debates: FDA rules around drug testing changed so dramatically in the 1990s without any real public discussion, that people still believes long-term safety is mandatory for drug approval.

all a pharmaceutical needs to do is prove that a drug is safe enough to go on the market --yes the safety requirements have changed so that what is deemed ok now in 2010 would have never been ok in 1975.

i used to work at Colgate-Palmolive (1994-1997) and did extensive research on this for their Consumer Affairs dept. unfortunately, i had no right to keep that research --the company deemed it at the time a friggin trade secret. suffice it to say that companies like them spend time and money meeting only requirements needed to have a drug or cosmeceutical approved.

for example: even though they were selling Colgate Total in Europe, it took years for the company to get it approved in the United States. the former FDA head basically didn't believe the research showed it would be safe in the long term (epidemiologically speaking). with Clinton and the new Republican Congress, that went out the window. long term effects of triclosan on mouth, skin and gastric flora weren't an issue anymore. what was at stake was proof that the toothpaste wouldnt basically kill people on contact (*joke*). the bottom line is that the company was able to get triclosan not only on their toothpastes but in their soaps as well.

now, ask any R&D researcher at the company if they've done long-term studies on the effect of triclosan on benign flora and they'll tell you not only that they're contractually obligated not to answer but that the company's only issue is to comply with what the FDA puts in front of them.

and then you'll say, well, "the market" of academics and researchers can take care of this research. well the answer is really no. because unless you know inside out what is in the product (again, all pharma recipes are trade secret) and know the exact percentages of ingredients; but most importantly, if you are cannot control for manufacturing irregularities (through production codes, etc) you cannot really do a long term study of these products.

for example: as long as the active ingredient in a pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical stays the same (because that the drug being regulated) all other ingredients in a product can change without any warning whatsoever. so, going back to toothpastes, a lot of personal injury complaints started coming in when the company changed from chalk to silica in their toothpastes. internally they track this stuff but are not obligated by any law or regulation to submit their findings to the FDA nor to any scientific organization studying/researching the use of these ingredients on body products/pharma.

all this to say that thanks to CLINTON & GINGRICH the changes in the FDA were so radical in their "free market" ways that issues like infertility in a generation that has grown using the pill may well be a fact but we will not now. they dismantled government-run R&D labs, they left it to the pharmaceuticals to police themselves and basically have made it all but impossible to TRANSPARENTLY study the long-term effects of drugs, vaccines & cosmeceuticals on the general population.

remember: pharmaceuticals keep the actual recipes & manufacturing process of their products a secret and can in effect change their composition at any time w/o warning as long as the active ingredient remains the same. how would it be possible to accurately use science to pinpoint long term effects if there's no transparency whatsoever in the way drugs, vaccines and cosmeceuticals are produced in the first place?

this country had a huge shift in their pharmaceutical culture. it's gone from saving lives to making money by any means necessary. look at the mess around TamiFlu and the selling of AIDS drugs to the poor and in developing countries.

the FDA was turned around to protect the bottom line of pharmaceuticals. sure, they'll tell you changes were needed to get AIDS drugs to market faster. but that was the convenient excuse. the government didn't need to virtually dismantle their research & testing labs for this to happen.
posted by liza at 10:11 AM on December 1, 2010 [30 favorites]


Possibly I should have used the blander phrasing that infertility is nature's way of telling you to adopt instead, rather than God's way. I still use the concept of God metaphorically, despite not believing in Him. Of course, God is unavoidable, whether you believe in Him or not, as we have previously seen in Astro Zombie's spirited defense of religion, triumphantly concluding that he speaks as an atheist. In any event, it is perfectly true that if infertility is (let us say) nature's way of telling you to adopt, then cancer could be seen as nature's way of telling you to drop dead. The extent to which one chooses to resort to medical technology in order to alter conditions that exist in your body, such as infertility or cancer, is a matter of individual choice. Not everyone wants in vitro fertilization and not everyone wants chemotherapy. Let us also remember that death is nature's way of telling you to slow down.

I have another complaint to address, which is:

There are many excellent comments on MetaFilter about the difficulties of adoption and I will not attempt to recreate them since I have not had the same experience, but I do think that this statement is unnecessarily moralizing and adds little to the conversation as well as telling people who might be experiencing a very difficult emotional situation that they are wrong for feeling that way.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl

You are clearly wrong, Mrs. Pterodactyl, in claiming that I have added little to the conversation. I must point out that although my own comment garnered a mere 2 favorties, there are two comments which reply to my comment, yours, gaining 8 favorites, and ThePinkSuperhero's, with a very respectable 20 favorites. Neither of these highly favorited comments could have been posted if they had not had my own comment to discuss. I serve a necessary purpose in these discussions, by giving people something to complain about or to amend, which they do to the delight of many.

Your complaint that I should not express my opinion because there are other people who disagree with me is a good reason why nobody should ever say anything, since it is always possible to find someone who disagrees with any statement. I am looking forward to the days of eternal silence. Meanwhile, there are excellent reasons why, in an overpopulated world with many unadopted orphans, it is actually a good idea to adopt rather than seek fertility treatments. I didn't really want to get into it since it is an incidental remark to my main point. But my opinion remains valid - even if there are people who don't agree.
posted by grizzled at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Snark aside, while I have no doubt that The Pill is a large part of the reason many women have delayed having children, there are also other factors this article doesn't take into account such as stagnating wages for lower- and middle-class workers. I daresay there aren't as many people in their early 20s who are financially prepared to raise a child as there were in the '50s and '60s (in North America, anyway).

This is exactly the case for me and Mrs. Fleebnork. We simply couldn't afford to try until just a couple of years ago, and now that we have been trying it doesn't look like things will work out.

It's probably just as well, since my work hours have been getting cut lately. We're returning to the state of not being able to afford it.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:14 AM on December 1, 2010


Your complaint that I should not express my opinion because there are other people who disagree with me is a good reason why nobody should ever say anything, since it is always possible to find someone who disagrees with any statement. I am looking forward to the days of eternal silence. Meanwhile, there are excellent reasons why, in an overpopulated world with many unadopted orphans, it is actually a good idea to adopt rather than seek fertility treatments.

I think you misunderstood what she said. Your comment was offensive and displayed a lack of understanding and empathy regarding the struggles of both infertility and adoption, and that was why it adds little to the discussion. It's not that disagreement is bad, it's that people who don't know anything add little to a conversation. And may I ask, have you adopted any of those unadopted orphans from this overpopulated world? Or is that just something infertile people should do? I take issue with discussion of adoptions that involve other people deciding who should do it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Birth control allows people to delay having a baby, and that it's frequently more difficult by the time they feel ready to do it.

Something about that phrasing really makes me grind my teeth a little. I don't think birth control "allows people to delay having a baby" as much as it allows them to avoid unwanted pregnancy. There's kind of an important distinction there. Birth control doesn't prevent desired pregnancies,* and there are a lot of personal circumstances which may conspire to make pregnancy undesirable.

If you're taking birth control, then you have already made the decision that you don't want to get pregnant, at least for some limited period of time. It's not like preventing pregnancy is some weird unintended side-effect.

Without birth control, there's nothing which says that people would want to get pregnant earlier. They might end up doing so, more or less unintentionally, and might then decide to make the best of it from that point forward, but it's hard to see that being desirable as a matter of social policy, or from a perspective of general happiness.

What reliable birth control does is unlink the sexual impulse from the reproductive one; what we seem to now be discovering is that the reproductive drive isn't necessarily as strong, or at least not as impulsive, as it used to be. When people are able to make their reproductive choices in the cold light of day rather than the warm glow of the bedroom and a few glasses of wine, they apparently make different choices. This is a good thing overall, even if some people to make it to their post-reproductive years, having made a choice (active or passive) to not reproduce, with regrets.

* To head off potential nitpicking, I'll admit that's not entirely true: if you're being forced to take it, I suppose, or are among the small minority of people who have to take birth control indefinitely for some unrelated medical reason, then it might not be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


Your complaint that I should not express my opinion because there are other people who disagree with me is a good reason why nobody should ever say anything, since it is always possible to find someone who disagrees with any statement. I am looking forward to the days of eternal silence. Meanwhile, there are excellent reasons why, in an overpopulated world with many unadopted orphans, it is actually a good idea to adopt rather than seek fertility treatments.

I apologize if that is how it came across to you; I was not trying to say that your point was invalid, I was trying to address the fact that I felt it was "unnecessarily moralizing".

Here you say "there are excellent reasons why, in an overpopulated world with many unadopted orphans, it is actually a good idea to adopt rather than seek fertility treatments"; this is a perfectly legitimate point and, while I think that the reality is more complicated, I don't necessarily disagree with it in all cases and I think it is certainly worth discussing. I am sorry if you feel like I was trying to keep you from expressing an opinion; I wasn't, I just felt that the way in which you did so was judgmental and potentially hurtful.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2010


Having posted, thanks to ThePinkSuperhero for clarifying my point (probably much more clearly than I did).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:34 AM on December 1, 2010


The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test

You're doing it wrong.
posted by maryr at 10:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure that Amanda Marcotte read the same article as I did.

I'm not sure that Amanda Marcotte ever reads more than a headline before launching a rant.

On a point of confusion from another commenter:

I got into a weird argument with a woman from Australia..."Es ging einen licht auf," when she told me why she was in the states..

I wasn't aware that German was the native language of Australia, just as it is in Austria.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:40 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The article is both condescending and attributes use of the Pill to women waiting longer to have children, which is not a cause, merely a correlation (as Mefites are alway ready to note: correlation does not equal causation!). Women take the Pill because they want to wait, they don't wait because they are on the Pill.

That being said, I would like to see MUCH better Sex Ed here in the US. A surprising amount of women here think that it is fine to wait until late thirties or 40 to have a child, and while women of this age can often still conceive, it certainly isn't the optimum time for it. Some of this misinformation has to do with the media coverage of actresses who conceive late in life, to great fanfare, without any coverage of the donor eggs or other procedures they went through to get pregnant.

Any ob/gyn will tell you not to wait until over 35 before trying to conceive, as the risk for Down Syndrome and other problems becomes significantly greater with age, and amniocentesis becomes a matter of course for women in their mid-thirties, itself a risky procedure in that it can (infrequently, but it does happen) cause miscarriage.

There are also a lot of women who assume that the moment they go off of any birth control they will be able to conceive, and the article is right in that the Pill causes problems here. Some women have to go through several cycles after discontinuing the Pill before they will be able to conceive, and that should be taken into consideration.

But most of these problems could be dealt with by doctors spending longer than a few minutes with each patient to fully inform her (and her partner, if necessary) of the risks and benefits of birth control, including the long-term ones, rather than just writing out that Rx. Just because the Pill has become commonplace does not mean we should forget it all the risks and side effects that come with any Rx.
posted by misha at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Let us also remember that death is nature's way of telling you to slow down.


Isn't death nature's way of telling you you're done?
posted by stormpooper at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2010


The Pill is awesome. Thanks, Pill, for 10 years of childless marriage. It was great. Sorry we had to part ways, Pill, but the wife decided it was kid time, so we had to say goodbye. Now that Kid is in our lives, we reconsidered our relationship with you; we're sorry, but as much as we trusted you before, we've decided that we're better off with your cousin IUD. Stay in touch though, really.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:45 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rather, I think that the contention of the article is that people are very aware that there's an age whereupon conception becomes difficult. Birth control allows people to delay having a baby, and that it's frequently more difficult by the time they feel ready to do it.

I think the article and its tone were pretty clear that when a woman is on the pill and delays attempting conception until it might be difficult, this is not a tradeoff that the woman faced about how to manage her life, or a difficult consequence of choices that were reasonable at the time, or a reflection that in modern American society there is a very narrow window where conception and childbirth seem financially reasonable and physiologically tractable. Rather it is simply her error. It's her mistake, because in her feminine stupidity she forgot about her body, whoopsie.

in fact the article only uses the word 'natural' once and in a different context

I'm too lazy to grep it, but it sure seems to use "artificial" and related terms quite frequently in regards to the pill.

On a side note....Viagra is funded by insurance? Seriously, WTF???

Yes, viagra is commonly funded by insurance. Not because boners are laughable nonsense, but because sexual health is an important part of men's lives, even old men, even single men whose sex life consists of masturbation. Too lazy to go look it up, but erectile dysfunction is connected to numerous measures of psychological and physical health.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on December 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


while I have no doubt that The Pill is a large part of the reason many women have delayed having children.

Really? Why do you not doubt it? I doubt it very much. This article is totally illogical. It seems to imply that in the past women mostly had children because they didn't have any control over their own fertility, ergo they had no choice. I would maintain there were plenty of reasons they had children earlier, only a few of which were to do with being 'in touch with their own biology'.

But now, when they have that choice, they choose to delay. So what's the root cause here? The mechanism of that choice (the pill and other kinds of contraception), or other factors influencing that choice? Surely the latter? If women want to have children, they can. The pill (or any other kind of contraception) doesn't cause fertility amnesia. Do condoms divorce men from their biology? Are men losing sight of their masculinity every time they don the rubber?

Other peeves: I can't bear articles that don't even start making their argument till ten paragraphs in. I don't need the real-world colour, just give me quotes. I also can't bear journalists that 'couple x', instead of 'couple of'. It drives me MAD.
posted by Summer at 10:52 AM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, regarding the explanation from the Pink one that people who don't know anything add little to a conversation, what makes you think that I don't know anything? I know quite a lot. I don't say everything that I know in every comment that I post, since that would run to millions of words and would take far too much time for me to type, aside from being far too lengthy for anyone to read. You should always understand that I do know more things than what I am posting in any given comment.

It's remarkable how often people turn to ad hominem arguments rather than discussion actual issues. If you wanted to argue that it is indeed better for infertile couples to seek fertility treatments and have their own biological offspring rather than adopting, you could have done so rather than falsely accusing me of not knowing anthing. Who knows, you might have a valid argument to make, if only you had bothered to do so.
posted by grizzled at 10:53 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test

You're doing it wrong.


Heh, but it's so fun! Gobble gobble those pills, like they're candy. Then a 3 a.m. stop at CVS, hells yea! Glitter on the floor, party 'til the break of dawn. So much fun, I forget to have children.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:00 AM on December 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


Meanwhile, there are excellent reasons why, in an overpopulated world with many unadopted orphans, it is actually a good idea to adopt rather than seek fertility treatments.

Grizzled, you obviously don't know much about the adoption industry if you think the world is full of orphans who are just waiting for a family. In international adoption, children who are called "orphans" are often only legally orphans--they have parents whose rights have been terminated, often through legal processes that would leave us aghast here in the US (sometimes the same attorney who gets paid for providing a baby to a waiting family is the same one that petitioned for and got rights terminated, for instance). Stories of coercion of birthfamilies in order to obtain babies for the international market are rife. Much of what happens in international adoption is driven by the desires of North American and European families for babies, rather than by the needs of adopted children, and like any market where there is more demand than supply, that leads to some pretty dicey activities.

If you wanted to read one single book on the subject that would help you understand the complexities and even ugliness of the system by which people in the US adopt babies, I'd recommend Blue Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love by Christine Ward Gailey (don't be frightened by that crazy price--it's available from libraries or as a 9.99 e-book), which, while it focuses on families who have adopted, manages to shed a lot of light on the adoption industry.

I have an adopted daughter. I tell you, if I had known before I started that process how racist, classist, and rife with incompetence and ethical abuses the adoption industry is, I don't know that I would have done it. Daughter: amazing. Adoption: a big stinking shithole of a mess.

If you are interested in critiques of adoption by adult adoptees, a good place to start is with John Raible's blog. He is an adult adoptee, an adoptive father, and a scholar on adoption issues. His blogroll will lead you to other adoptees' writings. I disagree with him, and other activist TRAs, about a lot of things, but I think if you want to have an informed opinion on adoption, especially transracial and international adoption, you need to have given some respectful attention to these voices.

i have written quite a bit about adoption, both ours and in general, on my blog, which is linked in my profile if you're interested. Search for "adoption" in tags, or for a post called "Things I Hate to Admit."

This is just by way of recommending that when people insist on having an opinion on something, it is probably better if it is at least a somewhat informed opinion.
posted by not that girl at 11:01 AM on December 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


So, the old-fashioned natural way isn't exactly going to work in my relationship, due to its gender configuration.

I have, however, discovered an even *easier* way of having kids, which bypasses my even having to go through all the painful and messy bits, which is to say, if you really want kids to happen with no effort, just date people who already have kids.

Seriously, "simplicity" is not something that I make a huge priority in my family configuration. I'm willing to deal with complications. I will take complications any day of the week over having kids just because you think you're supposed to.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:06 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


But now, when they have that choice, they choose to delay. So what's the root cause here? The mechanism of that choice (the pill and other kinds of contraception), or other factors influencing that choice? Surely the latter? If women want to have children, they can. The pill (or any other kind of contraception) doesn't cause fertility amnesia. Do condoms divorce men from their biology? Are men losing sight of their masculinity every time they don the rubber?

I'm not so positive that the Pill has no influence on the decision to procreate. This is all anecdotal, mind you, but I went on the Pill at 18, before I ever had sex, and tried half a dozen brands over eight years. And I believed fervently in it--I was terrified of the idea of getting pregnant and, as time went on, became increasingly vocal about my desires to remain child free.

I ended up going off it two years ago because my blood pressure was high--my gyno wanted to have me try yet another brand, but I was getting sick of switching, of the hormonal torment I'd go through every time I switched pills. I asked about barrier methods, the cap and the diaphragm, and was told that their clinic didn't prescribe them anymore (further research online helped me to discover that only one brand of diaphragm is currently marketed in the US, and that you can't buy the cap here. Harumph) and she wouldn't give me a non-hormonal IUD for the usual stupid reasons that gynos won't and I didn't feel like searching around, so we've been using condoms ever since.

The changes to my body and my attitudes about sex and reproduction have been interesting, to say the least. For one thing, sex is infinitely better. I was on the pill for the entirety of the time that I was sexually active, so I thought that really terrible dryness was normal, as was the gradual fading of my libido. My low level depression lifted (I enjoyed music for the first time in years), and, weirdly, within a few months--after trying to cajole my husband into getting a vasectomy previously--I started to come around to the idea of having kids for the first time.

I acknowledge that much of this might be correlative, not causative, but my instinct about my body is that many of these things were at least influenced by the constant levels of artificial hormones that I put it in. And while we've had no problem using condoms, I can more easily conceive of how conception can happen. Like, sex is really good now--I get really wet, especially when I'm ovulating, and I want it more, especially when I'm ovulating, to the point where I often wake up the hubz in the middle of the night for it. And I have stronger desires for kids now and that sort of thing.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad the Pill exists. It was great for me for a long time, but I do think that American perspectives on contraceptive choices have become increasingly limited to hormonal methods. What do we have besides the Pill (or its sisters, the patch and the ring)? Two forms of IUD (one hormonal), and the diaphragm, which can be difficult to find. And doctors love to put women on the Pill. Just last month, a dermatologist was pushing me to start taking Yaz (ugh, Yasmin was the worst pill I was ever on; no thank you!) for the really, really minor lower back acne I get in the week before my period. The truth is, like the author of the original article, I don't mind all of these indicators of my fertility, even the messy ones, like zits. One of the things I forgot while on the Pill was how much I liked, back in high school, how my body would tell me what was going on with it--the cramps I'd get every thirty days, just before my period. It's been interesting to learn these signs again, interesting to notice how I lose weight right before ovulating (like a noticeable 2-3 lbs!) or changes in discharge or mood. Deep down, I feel like my body is working like it should.

Not that what's right for me is right for all women. All I'm saying is that taking hormones on a daily basis really can change your mood and your libido and have other impacts on health, and that it's not outside the realm of possibility that this would influence the decision to have children.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:29 AM on December 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


The comment by not that girl makes many valid points about adoption, and it is a positive contribution to the discussion, although I am also disappointed by it in some respects, as I will elaborate upon. There are a lot of problems associated with adoption, but it is still true that there exist many orphans who are in need of adoptive parents. There are also people who are classified as orphans inappropriately, because of a desire for financial gain from the international market. That is a terrible abuse which should not be tolerated. Yet, this still does not mean that no actual orphans exist. Merely because I suggested that it is better to adopt than to seek treatment for infertility, you infer that I don't know anything about the problems relating to adoption. What if I were to lecture you at length on the problems relating to childbirth? Since you are so critical of adoption, this (by similar logic) must mean that you are completely unaware of the many serious medical problems which are related to pregnancy and childbirth, which in many cases actually result in the death of the pregnant woman! Amazing but true!

Even aside from the problems of how to get a child (by giving birth or by adoption) there are also lots of problems associated with raising children, and since you didn't discuss these problems, it follows (by the same logic that is being applied to me) that you must know nothing about them (despite the fact that you have an adopted daughter). If we do not discuss the various financial, emotional, medical, or other problems associated with raising children, then we have not adequately assessed the issue of whether people should have children, which they obviously have to decide first, before they can then progress to the point of deciding how they wish to obtain children.

Since it is offensive for me to express the opinion that infertile couples should adopt rather than seek infertility treatment, can we therefore conclude that adoption is actually a bad idea? Or perhaps we are to conclude that I am just not allowed to state an opinion on this subject. But if adoption is actually a terrible thing that should never be done, what is to become of actual orphans, children with no parent or guardian to raise them? I guess they should stay in orphanages. But I think that they would prefer to be adopted. Still, what do they know?
posted by grizzled at 11:34 AM on December 1, 2010


On a side note....Viagra is funded by insurance? Seriously, WTF???

Yes, viagra is commonly funded by insurance. Not because boners are laughable nonsense, but because sexual health is an important part of men's lives,


The "WTF" is probably due to birth control not being covered by many of the same insurance plans, not a disregard for men's health. When men want to address obstacles to sexual activity, they are seen as treating a disease. When women do the same, it's a "lifestyle choice."
posted by almostmanda at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


How sad that out of 50-some comments, only a handful actually get what the real problem is here:

Babies are expensive. Most women under the age of 30 and their partners could not bring home enough money to comfortably raise a child and buy a house (or even rent a larger home), not in this economy or any economy we are likely to see in the next decade or so.

Some just have the baby, consequences and lifestyle be damned. Some are fortunate enough to find a partner with an income that will allow them to drop out of the workforce. For the rest, the baby waits until after grad/med/law school, after the next pay raise, after the down payment on the house.

You want more women to have babies? Fine, you start paying more taxes so we can have paid maternity leave like pretty much every other wealthy country. Make it an attractive proposition. As it is, lots of women wait and wait for perfectly good economic reasons, and a portion of them probably decide somewhere along the way, actively or passively, that babies just aren't such a hot deal and that maybe their lives are fine just the way they are.

Taking the pill just gave them time to think with those dangerous lady-brains.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:37 AM on December 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. Please do not turn the thread into an argument about your feelings about mefi or other users; if anyone needs to have a public discussion about something along those lines, go to Metatalk.]
posted by cortex at 11:40 AM on December 1, 2010


grizzled, I wish you all the best and hope you have a good day.
posted by not that girl at 11:41 AM on December 1, 2010


I found these lines in Amanda Marcotte's post telling:

"Every hand-wringing article about the pill follows the same formula."

"Grigoriadis doesn't veer from the formula one bit."


It's almost like she had some preconceived notion of what she wanted to argue about before even reading the article. It's almost like she had constructed the entire conversation in her head before reading the article she wanted to critique, and only had to fit the article into her narrative of how these discussions go in order to write her post. I get that the New York cover used the word "crisis" in an inflammatory way to draw eyes to the magazine, but the article itself isn't the one that Marcotte decided to critique. That article might be out there, and it probably does exist. Marcotte would do well do find it and apply her formula to it.
posted by the thing about it at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was on birth control pills for 10 years. When I was 30, I was diagnosed with infertility.

There was no correlation between these two facts.

I was infertile because I had blocked fallopian tubes. Period (no pun intended). It had nothing to do with being on birth control.

I have seen the gamut of reasons why women deal with infertility, and the percentage of those who have bad eggs because they postponed child bearing was exceedingly low. There are so many other reasons why someone might be dealing with infertility: PCOS, endometriosis, uterine abnormalities, premature ovarian failure (not due to old age), they are habitual miscarriers, etc. That doesn't even cover the MALE side of infertility.

As usual, the reality is so much more subtle than the headline.
posted by Leezie at 12:08 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


How sad that out of 50-some comments, only a handful actually get what the real problem is here:

Babies are expensive. Most women under the age of 30 and their partners could not bring home enough money to comfortably raise a child and buy a house (or even rent a larger home), not in this economy or any economy we are likely to see in the next decade or so.


This, a million times over. Other factors: the prospect of being left by said partners holding the baby, having given up or postponed the career that may support us; the demonisation of 'welfare scrounging' single mothers and the idea of being forced onto welfare at some point if things don't work out; the prospect of having to shell out thousands in education fees and the high turnover of relationships (because we no longer have to put up with second best).

There are a million emotional, social and financial reasons women put off having children that are more compelling than this ridiculous, woman-blaming pill argument, which is frankly remedial.
posted by Summer at 12:15 PM on December 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have finally Rthefirst3pagesoftheTFA, and that writer really likes caricatures.
Starting with, "These days, women’s twenties are as free and fabulous as they can be, a time of boundless freedom and experimentation, of easily trying on and discarding identities, careers, partners. The Pill, which is the most popular form of contraception in the U.S., is still the symbol of that freedom. As a young woman, you feel chic throwing that light plastic pack of dainty pills into your handbag, its retro pastel-colored wheel design or neat snap-to-close box sandwiched between lipstick and cell phone, keys and compact," at the top of page 2.

I got as far as "Most mothers, who were at least tangentially part of feminism’s early waves, know better than to stress women out about when they’re having children, even if an aunt puts her foot in her mouth from time to time. And, of course, bosses would rather women were around all the time, thumbing their BlackBerrys in the off-hours," before I had said, "Oh, really?" so many times that I'd used up my day's allotment, and had to stop.
posted by not that girl at 12:25 PM on December 1, 2010


If they later find that they are infertile, or that they are too old to get pregnant, so what? The point is, for the 20 years prior, they DIDN'T WANT TO GET PREGNANT.

"Didn't want to get pregnant" and "wanted to get pregnant but not for many years" are two very different preferences. If the latter preference is more accurate (it often is) and if it may be based on incorrect assumptions (it currently often is) then providing information which corrects those assumptions will help people better satisfy their preferences, which is a good thing.

So you are saying, in a nicer way, that women as a class might be just too dumb to understand that there's a Too Old to Have a Baby age? Or maybe just dim enough that we need hand-wringing articles about it to remind us?

This awful strawman argument could be used with minor modification to make an equally vicious attack on anyone giving advice to anyone. Worse still: the more the advice is based on objective facts, the more applicable the argument seems! Unfortunately, although it unavoidably sounds arrogant to claim that many people are not perfectly informed about important factors in their lives, it's also often correct.

I notice that, after claiming that only dumb people don't understand the Too Old to Have a Baby age, this paragraph doesn't actually mention what that age is. What's the percentage of 40-year-old women who can successfully get pregnant naturally? 45? Did you know off the top of your head, or did you have to Google it? Do you think most people know off the tops of their heads, and are accordingly making life decisions that they won't regret based on later discoveries?

There is evidence to the contrary. Surveys of women who are facing trade-offs between work and children have found that way too many of them haven't been well-educated about the statistics underlying those trade-offs. That doesn't mean the women are flawed, it means their education was! It might be easier to find, report, and correct such flaws if it was possible to attempt to do so without being insulted for it.

I got a nice graph showing the exponential rise in birth defects vs maternal age... in the Ob/Gyn office, but not in high school health class. Metafilter's pretty good at scaring away conservatives, so we're all on board with the belief that teaching girls how they can reduce their risk of becoming mothers unintentionally is a good thing, right? Teaching girls how they can reduce their risk of becoming childless or having an unhealthy child unintentionally might not be as important, but it probably does belong on the same curriculum. People might not even make very different decisions when given all the facts, but at least they should be given the choice.

You really only need one question when faced with articles like this to know if they're sexist: are men subject to the same amount of hand-wringing about how they handle their reproductive choices?

One tough thing about evidence is that it doesn't care about your theories of sexism and paternalism. You might as well call cancer researchers sexist - men get breast cancer too; why don't those condescending NCI researchers recommend equally frequent mammograms for them? Some of the reasons for women to worry more about childbearing age are mostly cultural (the average age gap at marriage), others are mostly biological (the weaker inverse relationship between fathers' age and fertility/children's health), but a lot of them are real reasons.

Getting mad at the people who tell you about them is just shooting the messenger.
posted by roystgnr at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


One tough thing about evidence is that it doesn't care about your theories of sexism and paternalism. You might as well call cancer researchers sexist - men get breast cancer too; why don't those condescending NCI researchers recommend equally frequent mammograms for them? Some of the reasons for women to worry more about childbearing age are mostly cultural (the average age gap at marriage), others are mostly biological (the weaker inverse relationship between fathers' age and fertility/children's health), but a lot of them are real reasons.

Getting mad at the people who tell you about them is just shooting the messenger.


Ah yes, the "it's science woman!" argument, as sexism in science reporting just never happens. If it's got real facts in it, why, how could it be sexist??

Here's the thing; women who want to have children are perfectly capable of educating themselves about their fertility. The information is easily available. They may choose not to; they may regret not starting sooner. They may realize that not starting sooner was not a result of their bad choices but their bad luck (not having a mate, a good job, maternity leave, or what have you).

But what those of us who walk around in women's bodies do notice, due to its omnipresence, is that we are constantly deluged with warnings about the bad things that happen when women get choices, particularly choices concerning sex and reproduction. It's rather odd, actually, how much concern people who are not the ones making those choices seem to have about us. Almost as if they (the people not making the choices, usually but not always men) felt that they had a right to dictate, monitor, and approve of our choices. Almost as though we lived in a society in which we we were not quite considered competent to manage these affairs on our own.

If we shoot the messenger, perhaps it's because he's insisting, over and over, that we don't actually know what we are doing when it comes to our bodies and that he refuses to listen when we tell him that we are doing just fine, thank you, and would appreciate being allowed to proceed in our lives with dignity and respect, rather than being constantly nagged and fretted at about what we're doing with our uteruses.
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2010 [23 favorites]


It seems unlikely that "pro life" champion and mother of five has ever taken the Pill.

There's no way to prove it, but I'd bet dollars to donuts (OK, maybe $100) that Sarah Palin has used a birth control pill.

Now that Kid is in our lives, we reconsidered our relationship with you; we're sorry, but as much as we trusted you before, we've decided that we're better off with your cousin IUD.

There's a cousin? Nobody told me!!

I acknowledge that much of this might be correlative, not causative, but my instinct about my body is that many of these things were at least influenced by the constant levels of artificial hormones that I put it in

That would be a fascinating article. In fact, that's what the cover of the magazine hints that the article is about.

Unfortunately, that's not what the article is about, and it's not true anyway. Obese men are likely more of a factor than the pill.

Also, what "fertility crisis"?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2010


Almost as though we lived in a society in which we we were not quite considered competent to manage these affairs on our own.

I really hope you take my word for it that this sentiment is shared by basically everyone in society, except for the people who run society. Not just women.

Further, I really, really don't understand getting angry at this article. I've taken Prozac for the last 15 years (off and on). Every few weeks an article comes out that makes me afraid I've made the wrong decision in using a pharmaceutical product in order to improve the quality of my life.

When that happens, my first assumption is generally not that the researchers/writers in question are acting on some agenda of contempt, questioning the ability of sufferers of depression to make decisions for ourselves.

The birth control pill is a product used exclusively by women, but that doesn't mean that concerns about its long term adverse effects are automatically sexist. It also has a significant role in the cultural narrative of the 20th century, and not to acknowledge that fact would be to fail to fully understand the subject matter.

If anything, the uniquely modern and genderless (and frighteningly unproven in terms of health and safety) phenomenon of pharmaceutical 'life enhancement' is what's being critically examined here. Not the mental competence of women.
posted by silentpundit at 2:12 PM on December 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Since you are so critical of adoption, this (by similar logic) must mean that you are completely unaware of the many serious medical problems which are related to pregnancy and childbirth, which in many cases actually result in the death of the pregnant woman! Amazing but true!

No offense, and I know it has nothing to do with your original comment, but I think you are arguing from ignorance again.

"Maternal conditions" are not a trivial cause of death (particularly via infection in undeveloped countries), but childbirth is not nearly as dangerous as the movies might have you believe (there are far, far too many characters whose mothers died at birth. ... I know I just saw another one ... The Kite Runner!)

"In the United States, the maternal death rate was 11 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005." Or 0.011% (1 in 9,091).

The (unvetted) odds of an American dying by falling is 1 in 246, or 0.4%

The odds of an American dying from a firearm assault is 1 in 325, or 0.31%.

Point being: childbirth in developed countries is not that dangerous at all. In Ireland, the lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 47,600.

I'm not critical of adoption in theory, but in practice it is not very feasible for the majority of us. According to Adoptive Families Magazine, the cost of an international adoption is $25,000-45,000. The average cost of a domestic adoption (US, I assume) is $20,000-$25,000. (An adopted child ... or rent for two years ... or a downpayment on a $125,000 home.)

Foster parenting is a very worthy (and financially reasonable) endeavor, imo. Permanent adoption is a great thing, but temporary foster care can be a lifesaver too. And almost everyone can afford it.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2010


Oh, also:

John Rock's Error: What the co-inventor of the Pill didn't know about menstruation can endanger women's health.

previously
posted by mrgrimm at 2:55 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Also, what "fertility crisis"?"

They're my new punk band. Check out our EP, "Knocking You Up!"
posted by klangklangston at 3:05 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Point being: childbirth in developed countries is not that dangerous at all.

There's a difference between something being not dangerous and it being dangerous but with its risks highly managed. Like flying or heart surgery, childbirth is dangerous but with many elements around it to assess and manage the risks.

I'm not going to dig it up again, but in the US carrying a child to term and delivering, even after the vast resources thrown at identifying risky pregnancies and ameliorate those risks, has about the same risk of death as being a firefighter for a year.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:26 PM on December 1, 2010


there are far, far too many characters whose mothers died at birth. ... I know I just saw another one ... The Kite Runner!

This is ridiculous nit-picking and not even associated with your main point, but doesn't the death in The Kite Runner take place in Afghanistan? Even before the Taliban, the mortality rate for childbirth there would be significantly different from in the US.
posted by meese at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like flying or heart surgery ...

Flying commercially is a fair comparison. (And who would argue that you shouldn't fly because it's dangerous?) Heart surgery is not.

I dunno about firefighting, and like you, I'm not gonna dig. I can guarantee that firefighting is a far less dangerous job than delivering pizzas, though.

What were we talking about again?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2010


on picking nits, yeah, the death takes place in afghanistan. i still posit that the number of movie orphans whose mothers died in childbirth are outrageously out of proportion with reality. the drive home from the hospital is usually more dangerous than the birth.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:43 PM on December 1, 2010


As an odd point of trivia — the childbirth mortality rate in Afghanistan is higher the mortality rate due to the war (though the amount that the war has impacted women's health isn't factored in there).
posted by klangklangston at 4:00 PM on December 1, 2010


The economic concerns of having children are really the true cause of this fictional "fertility crisis." Which is to say: women who want economic stability plan ahead in order to ensure they're capable of caring for a child and therefor delay having children until they're more established in their careers. There are still plenty of women out there who have children without as much planning, but I think doing so puts a woman at risk for struggling financially her whole life.

I think this is really more a case of classist hand-wringing, that the "right" women aren't having children.

Please note that "right" isn't my judgment. I doubt you would see a similar article lamenting that low-income women with little more than high school educations aren't having enough children.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


The obnoxiousness of this article has nothing to do with the pill. It has everything to do with the fact that this yet another scare-mongering article that urges women to rethink whether putting of childbearing to, you know, have a career and stuff, is really worth it. Whether the article is couched in terms of "having a career is going to make you infertile!" or "taking the pill is going to make you infertile!", they all have the same point: Ladies, stop worrying about your silly "jobs" and "personal lives" and "ambitions." Don't you know that nothing can make you as happy as a baby, and you will die miserable and alone if you end up not being able to have a baby?
posted by mandanza at 4:27 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whether the article is couched in terms of "having a career is going to make you infertile!" or "taking the pill is going to make you infertile!", they all have the same point: Ladies, stop worrying about your silly "jobs" and "personal lives" and "ambitions." Don't you know that nothing can make you as happy as a baby, and you will die miserable and alone if you end up not being able to have a baby?

That being or not being the case for 'all' other articles, that doesn't seem to be the point of this one at all.

The last page, as I recall, focused on having eggs frozen at a young age, which is becoming more reliable and more affordable. Which seems to me to be a perfectly viable (ha!) method for a modern woman to enjoy a sexually active career-driven 20s and 30s, while still having the ability to become a mother even after menopause.

It sort of struck me as a happy ending, in fact, where everyone wins.

BUT ESPECIALLY THE PATRIARCHY AMIRITE
posted by silentpundit at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2010


I can't take The Pill because it makes me insane (I think it's the freedom that causes that, along with the bloating), but whatever. I like that it exists.

I also chose to start having a family young for some of the reasons mentioned in the article: I didn't want to be 39 and wondering if I could get pregnant. I wanted to be pregnant when my ovaries wanted me to be pregnant. (Granted, they started that dance in my very early twenties and I did hold them off until I achieved something resembling stability.) I would never presume to tell any other woman ever how to manage her reproduction, but I do think that with the "fertility industry," it's easy to forget that the female body really has a built in window of opportunity and widening that window is still not completely do-able all of the time.

I dunno if I really blame The Pill itself though. I think that's kind of a simplistic way of looking at women being able to make actual reproductive decisions. No one really anticipated how hard it would be to get pregnant at 39 because people hadn't done it before. It's pretty easy to see how women thought it could just wait. Now it's different and maybe the next generation will swing back around and have kids younger, or maybe fertility science will get better, or both. In any case, it's incredibly important for reproduction to be an actual choice for women and I applaud The Pill for that.

Though, this... You’re not going to find anyone, male or female, who isn’t a little grossed out by the words egg-white cervical fluid, but it’s just basic biology.

Yeah, I'm not grossed out by it at all.

And I was tracking my cervical fluid for years - not to know when I was ovulating specifically (though that was a nice bonus for when I did want to get knocked up), but because it changes texture again before menstruation and it was pretty much the easiest way to know when not to wear white underpants. Pretty much foolproof. And no, cervical mucus doesn't gross me out in the least.
posted by sonika at 4:57 PM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf, I agree that klangklangston's comment is a bit oddly-worded, I had to read it a few times to get it. However, "Es ging einen Licht auf" is not a quote from the Australian woman, but rather klangklangston's way of saying he had a revelation ("A light went off").
posted by dhens at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2010


Which seems to me to be a perfectly viable (ha!) method for a modern woman to enjoy a sexually active career-driven 20s and 30s, while still having the ability to become a mother even after menopause.

It sort of struck me as a happy ending, in fact, where everyone wins.


Sort of? I chose to become a mother young, so I can't speak to this, but... mathematically, if you have babies very late in life, you'll still get to spend time with that baby, but what about the adult human? If you have a baby at 50, would you be alive to meet your own grandkids (especially presuming that they might also wait until they're older to have kids)? I guess if you're ok with having approximately 30 years with your kid instead of 50 or so, it's a moot point.

Anyhow, that's where I get stuck thinking about having kids much later in life. Yeah, you'll have kids but then what happens when they grow up and you run out of lifespan? Are you prepared to go through that and more importantly, are you ok with putting your kids in the position of saying goodbye to their parents when they themselves are relatively very young?

(And hey, if you're cool with that, I'm down. I just think it's something worth thinking about as I'm pretty damn grateful that my family has had kids at the traditional late 20s-ish age as it means my grandmother is still around to meet her great-grandson, which I find to be pretty awesome. But everyone's family and priorities are different so maybe this doesn't bother other people or whatever.)
posted by sonika at 5:05 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I notice that, after claiming that only dumb people don't understand the Too Old to Have a Baby age, this paragraph doesn't actually mention what that age is. What's the percentage of 40-year-old women who can successfully get pregnant naturally? 45? Did you know off the top of your head, or did you have to Google it? Do you think most people know off the tops of their heads, and are accordingly making life decisions that they won't regret based on later discoveries?

In addition to this, I see women using anecdotes all the time to encourage each other--sometimes I see it on AskMetafilter. "I'm X old, I know I want kids, not sure I'm quite ready, but the clock is ticking, what should I do?" and women will chime in with, "Oh, wait until you're ready, medical science can do wonders, I had this one friend..." I cringe a little. Yeah, sure, you shouldn't have kids before you're ready...but I think there probably are good reasons to move the clock up a bit.

If you have a baby at 50, would you be alive to meet your own grandkids (especially presuming that they might also wait until they're older to have kids)? I guess if you're ok with having approximately 30 years with your kid instead of 50 or so, it's a moot point.

As someone who had my first kid at 35 and my last at 42, I hope to God they reproduce younger than I did, if they're going to. I don't want to be 70 when I meet my first grandchild! I hope to be young enough to enjoy my grandkids.
posted by not that girl at 5:43 PM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Pill DOES NOT affect fertility, but if you are going to wait to have kids? Think 30, not 35 or 40 (according to this recent study, anyway).
posted by misha at 6:07 PM on December 1, 2010


Things I know:

1. The Pill is awesome.
2. That's not just because it has allowed me to have a lot of awesome, worry-free sex over the years, but it totally has. Go Pill!
3. The bigger reason is that it allows women to have greater control over their bodies.
4. Women's bodies are entirely their own. Case closed. The only person who can make a choice about what does or does not grow in a woman's body is the woman involved. Any argument that leans against less freedom and opportunity for a woman to make those choices is automatically highly suspect, and probably stems from indignation over the thought of women's bodies being entirely their own.
5. It's unclear, but evidence seems to lean against The Pill causing any infertility in later ages that wouldn't have already been the case.
6. That said, it's not only educated women taking The Pill, and women choosing to go on it, many of whom are teenagers, should probably be advised about all information, which again will probably show that it is entirely safe.
7. The sexual revolution still has a lot of conservatives scared shitless, 50 years later.
8. The new form this has taken is blocking of the HPV vaccine.
9. Just about every woman I know (and probably almost all of the men, though it's more or less impossible to test for in men, last I checked) have contracted HPV.
10. While HPV is usually pretty much harmless, I know several women who have had to undergo cancer treatments as a result of it, and at very young ages.
11. Those legislators pushing to block the HPV vaccine are fucking evil, and are more concerned with ensuring that sex is risky than with protecting women's lives.
12. This HPV thing might be a bit of a derail.
13. Adoption is awesome, and I wish more people would choose it, but it is a very personal choice, and the whole supply/demand issue makes it really one of the thorniest issues imaginable.
14. The freedom The Pill offers isn't just about putting off pregnancy until one is ready for a child. In fact, having a child makes one get ready for it in a hurry, from what I've seen.
15. What it does is to make sure that women remain in control of their own bodies, and also, less importantly, keeps them from having to have a child with a man who should not have that child with them. In other words, it allows women to be young, and to figure out what they want, and to follow what they decide to do. To tell the truth, it offers men the same option, though they're not the ones taking the pill as part of their morning ritual. Most people want to have children some day. Some don't, and The Pill gives them that option, but for those who do, it gives them the option to have children with those who they choose. Shotgun weddings are no good for the child, usually. Single-parent homes are considered, at the least, to be not ideal. (All of this depends on the parent or parents involved, of course.) The Pill offers people the ability to plan.
16. The Pill is pro-family. The fact that it's not pro-family-right-now doesn't change that.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:16 PM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a late 20s female, I am so, so, so tired of these articles that act like it's breaking news that fertility declines with age and I better not "forget" to have a baby before I'm too old. Women do not "forget" to have babies or generally delay have babies for trivial reasons.

Here's why most women delay having kids:

1) they haven't found the right partner and don't want to be single mothers

2) financial constraints, including the need for higher education and the delayed start of their careers

and not "to party"

If the New York Magazine, and every other news outlet probably at some time this year, has a quick fix for me on either of these two fronts, well maybe they can write an article on that and actually be helpful. Articles like this are patronizing and utterly detached from reality.

Articles like this are basically subtly suggesting that women having unplanned pregnancies under less than ideal circumstances is better than a percentage of women having fertility problems because the right time for them to have kids was unfortunately too late in their lives biologically. So they are saying that women having children that they can't afford or with partners they don't want to have children with or at a time that seriously impacts their education, career, and earning potential is better than some of those women needing to seek fertility treatment or adopt or not have children.

I don't want downplay the pain and expense of infertility or the difficulty and expense of adoption, but I'll risk that any day over having an unplanned pregnancy in my 20s and becoming a single mom before I'm emotionally or financially able to handle it. Not too mention its almost certain consequences of being a young single mother on my education and career.
posted by whoaali at 10:23 PM on December 1, 2010 [12 favorites]


The fact is that the Pill, while giving women control of their bodies for the first time in history, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late.

Because there are apparently no other "biological realities of being female" aside from pregnancy? Congrats to Ms. Grigoriadis for managing to be laughably condescending thanks to her breathlessly polite euphemism for getting knocked up.

(That "knocked up" thing was a bit of cheek, in case the author is reading. There are other biological realities to being female beside pregnancy. But see, even just taking pregananc as an example, preventing unwanted babies before the pill required you to either not have sex at all, convince a guy to wear a condom in an era in which there were no deadly STDs, or, rely on the so-called rhythm method. Or you could be a good girl and get married before having sex, but if you want to delay pregnancy, you'd better pick a husband that agrees to that.)
posted by desuetude at 11:03 PM on December 1, 2010


I was quite surprised to see the big focus on fertility awareness and every woman deserving to know when she's ovulating towards the end of the article. Having thought about it I can see how it fits into what she's saying, though: women might know that fertility declines with age, on some abstract book-learning level, but we don't know it, deep in our bones, because we're out of touch with the Biological Realities Of Being Female. And that's why women don't like like birth control methods that stop them having a period every month, because we're 'half-consciously rebelling against the artificiality of the Pill’s regime.'

Which is still bullshit, but at least it's a slightly different kind of bullshit.

The idea that hormonal contraception has divorced us from 'the biological reality of being female' for the first time in human history is ignoring, well, most of human history. For hundreds of thousands of years, the biological reality of being female was that for most of your fertile adult life, you would either be pregnant or nursing. Having a period every month is a relatively new thing; if anything, the birth control methods that trick your body into thinking you're pregnant for long stretches of time are probably closer to what our ancestors would have dealt with.

Also, the knowledge and technology for using something like FAM/NFP effectively is, likewise, not exactly something our Pleistocene ancestors had down pat. How many women in the history of the species have ever been able to tell when they were ovulating?

I don't see any problem with charting your fertility or not being continually pregnant/nursing, myself, but hey, I'm not the one arguing against the 'artificiality' of the Pill. It's inaccurate to talk as if life immediately pre-Pill was the default state of human existence, and it's disingenuous in the same way that claiming the gender roles of 1950s American suburbia were the default state of human existence is disingenuous.
posted by Catseye at 4:54 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


9. Just about every woman I know (and probably almost all of the men, though it's more or less impossible to test for in men, last I checked) have contracted HPV.

*raises hand* Not me, for a data point. I was actually deemed "too monogamous" or something when the vaccine was in trial phase and I volunteered to be a test subject. I was married and was gently told that I wasn't the "right kind" of sexually active for the purposes of the test. By the time the actual vaccine came out, I was border-line too old to get it and was again advised to skip it due to the whole "married and only having sex with one partner*" thing. Anyhow, been tested and do not have HPV.

As for the "biological realities" of being female - not many women knew when they were ovulating even before the pill. If you have a very obvious cycle or get distinct signs (I always want to have sex and eat cheese when I'm ovulating. Or have sex with cheese.), you might have a clue, but as mentioned in the article it wasn't until the 20s that doctors realized that women ovulate in the middle of their cycles. So there was what, a window of opportunity of a mere 40 years, for women to get all in touch with their fertility? Something tells me it wasn't really the norm during that time. (Being as it was also the time of the Lysol douche. *shudders*) As for whether or not it should be the norm to know what your cervical mucus looks like on any given day? *shrugs* If you roll that way, sure, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with regulating your periods medically if that's what appeals to you. Pro-reproductive choice means being pro-people not making the choices you would make.

*Yes, I know you can't assume this about married folk, some people have open relationships. I was not one of those people and was upfront with my doctor about my boring monogamy.
posted by sonika at 5:31 AM on December 2, 2010


And no, cervical mucus doesn't gross me out in the least.

Seriously. Cervical mucus is cotton candy compared to meconium.

as mentioned in the article it wasn't until the 20s that doctors realized that women ovulate in the middle of their cycles. So there was what, a window of opportunity of a mere 40 years, for women to get all in touch with their fertility? Something tells me it wasn't really the norm during that time.

Probably not. That was a nightmare time for childbirth. Scopolamine was introduced in 1902.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:29 PM on December 2, 2010


That was a nightmare time for childbirth. Scopolamine was introduced in 1902.

Do you (or anyone else, for that matter) know a good book on the history of childbirth? I'd really like to know more about this.
posted by meese at 1:58 PM on December 2, 2010


I'm sure this isn't the spot for it, but as I have mentioned before, infertility is an extremely difficult process and those who have not faced the pain of realizing that all of the dreams you had for a family made from your DNA mixed with the DNA of the person you love very much should probably hold their tongues on the subject.

Going off half cocked about how adoption is the humanitarian way of raising children is just as heartbreaking a process as infertility. One does not simply walk into an 'orphanage' and say "I'll take that one please."

This may be a little too candid, but they do demand that you undergo psych evaluations these days and being turned down as a potential parent for one of those orphans because you were a victim of childhood sexual abuse and therefore are statistically more likely to become an abuser yourself is devastating.

So in summary, being infertile because you were scarred from the abuse you endured as a child and then being turned down as an adoptive parent because you were abused pretty much makes me want to throat punch anyone who says things like infertility is just a great opportunity to give a home to one of the world's unwanted children.
posted by empatterson at 3:43 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rock on that XX article. Marlys and I say RIGHT ON!
posted by agregoli at 5:13 PM on December 6, 2010


but erectile dysfunction is connected to numerous measures of psychological and physical health.

Female sexual dysfunction is equally connected to numerous measures of psychological and physical health, but there is fuck-all research on pills to help that. Men aren't the only sexual human beings.
posted by agregoli at 6:23 PM on December 6, 2010


Actually, agregoli, lots of research is going on in the field of female sexual dysfunction, because there's a lot of money to be made there--but will the options be covered by insurance should they become widely available? We can only hope. There's definite disparity in this area.
posted by misha at 8:30 PM on December 6, 2010


I'm sure there's money going into it, but not a lot of progress, last I heard. And I'd bet it wouldn't be covered by insurance, is the thing. Female pleasure not being a prerequisite for "still capable of having sex."
posted by agregoli at 2:07 PM on December 7, 2010


bringing the two threads (98241 and this one) together:

"A new study (PDF) finds that delayed marriage and childbearing are leading to increased stress for American men and women in balancing work and family obligations."

- Delayed Child Rearing, More Stressful Lives, Economix blog, NYT, 12/1/10
posted by mrgrimm at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2010


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