News Health/Medical Women Quitting Birth Control Amid Misinformation
Women's health

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Women Quitting Birth Control Amid Misinformation

By Lauren Weber and Sabrina Malhi

March 21, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Search for birth control on TikTok or Instagram, and you'll encounter a deluge of misleading videos vilifying hormonal contraception. These videos perpetuate harmful narratives:

  • Blaming the Pill for Weight Gain: Young women attributing weight gain to birth control.
  • Infertility Claims: Right-wing commentators suggesting that certain birth control methods can lead to infertility.
  • Depression and Anxiety Testimonials: Personal stories lamenting depression and anxiety supposedly caused by hormonal contraception.

Instead of evidence-based options, many social media influencers advocate for “natural” alternatives, such as timing sex with menstrual cycles. However, this method is less effective and could result in unintended pregnancies, especially in a country where abortion is restricted in nearly half the states.

Physicians are witnessing an alarming surge in birth-control misinformation online, particularly targeting a vulnerable demographic: people in their teens and early 20s. Algorithms feed them a stream of videos that often lack scientific backing. While hormonal contraception (including birth-control pills and intrauterine devices) is safe and effective, patients increasingly turn to unqualified online communities for information.

The backlash against birth control occurs amidst rampant misinformation about basic health principles, exacerbated by poor digital literacy. Additionally, the broader political debate over reproductive rights fuels the fire. Far-right conservatives argue that widespread acceptance of birth control has altered traditional gender roles and weakened the family.

Although data on the scale of this phenomenon is scarce, anecdotal evidence suggests that more patients arrive at clinics with misconceptions about birth control, influenced by online influencers and conservative commentators. Dr. Michael Belmonte, an OB/GYN, observes direct consequences of misinformation, with women seeking abortions after believing social media warnings about hormonal birth control dangers and the effectiveness of period tracking to prevent pregnancy. Many of these patients come from states that have either completely or partially banned abortions.

Physicians emphasize that listening to patients’ concerns is crucial for dispelling misinformation. Some patients worry more about birth control side effects than its effectiveness, highlighting the need for transparent communication.

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