So frequently we are inundated with contraceptive language in our daily life. If you have managed to avoid seeing advertisements on TV, in magazines, or the targeted content for young women on the sides of your internet browser and apps, then congratulations! You may have been able to avoid the societal ideas that the most dangerous disease of our day is not, in fact, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc., but actually the natural physiology of female fertility.
This message comes to us in many forms. First, there are the condom boxes and magazines on the sides of aisles in drug stores that we start seeing as young girls. Sure, my mom, like many others, did her best to shelter the eyes of her kids from the messages on these ads of promiscuity and empowered women unafraid of the “risk” of pregnancy. But with headlines proclaiming to share the 30 best ways to satisfy a man or the top 10 reasons why your blind date was a flop, can you really expect kids to not pick up on the idea that free love is the best kind of love? And of course, free love always has no strings attached – it is especially free from the complicated mess of having a BABY! Next we begin to encounter TV ads on network stations that show these strong females walking through the day-to-day taking care of trivial things like grocery shopping, getting the oil changed in the car, oh and managing that pesky problem of their fertility. One simple pill can solve that! If we make it past the commercials, we then get story lines on these TV shows that include women having casual encounters with men, serial relationships, and occasionally a pregnancy scare. And even more frequently now, since I am a young female with a Google search history and a Facebook profile telling the data analysts that I am married and of reproductive age, I am bombarded with targeted ads for various forms of contraception, because to the rest of world, no reasonable woman in her early 20s wants to think about her fertility for at least another 10 years, right?
Now the issue is not that these advertisements and story lines are showing me how simply contraception can work for me – for all intents and purposes, it is relatively simple. Contraception kills sperm, traps semen, stops ovulation, changes the lining of the endometrium, or a number of other actions that similarly work to minimize or destroy the couple’s fertility. The issue is that this contraceptive language that is so common in our culture is actually telling healthy, fertile women that their functional reproductive system is something to work against for the sake of convenience or the elusive concept of control. And the potentially more damaging issue is that this message of contraception actually tells women with infertility that their condition is something to be desired. It implies to these women that their circumstances are what all women seek if they want to be strong, powerful, or career-savvy. How damaging is it to these women to see the idea of an “unwanted” pregnancy or “oops” baby on the market’s magazine stand when many of them have sought treatment for years for the true disease of infertility? And when will we start acknowledging the irony that our medical providers frequently seek to help women recreate the circumstances of medical infertility by means and methods of “protection” from the “disease” of which fertility is now considered after taking an oath to prevent disease whenever possible?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not scoffing at the idea of family planning and discerning appropriate times for achieving and avoiding pregnancy. The call to parenthood is a daunting one. What I am calling into question is the contraceptive language regarding natural fertility that damages a healthy woman’s view of her body and causes immeasurable damage to the psyche of women truly living with the pains of the disease of the reproductive system – infertility. And I scoff at the idea that the only way to responsibly plan a family is through using contraception when millions of couples effectively use natural family planning as a way to ethically plan their family while respecting and fostering the natural beauty of a healthy reproductive system. In a world so preoccupied with labeling GMOs for what they are, for distrusting big Pharma, and for seeking liberation from the idea that womanhood is an inferior condition, let us begin to bring to light the truth about fertility and infertility. Fertility is a state of health, to be respected, nurtured, and advocated for. Infertility is a devastating disease not to be sought after.