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Questioning Birth Control Is Not Anti-Feminist

Ricki Lake is at it again, doing what she did for hospital birth in "The Business of Being Born," now with hormonal birth control. This time, she's looking to put the mainstream idea that hormonal birth control is best for women to the test, with her documentary, "Sweetening the Pill," based off of the similarly named popular book.

"We believe that the birth control pill was one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century," Lake and her film partners declare on their Kickstarter campaign, which ends July 3. "But we think women deserve more and better options, not less of them."

While mainstream media has covered more stories of women who are unhappy with their birth control options and women who have suffered the fatal side effects we often hear about, not all women are convinced that questioning birth control can be called a feminist move. Slate dubbed Lake as the "newest hero of the anti-choice movement" based on the fact that she is backing the project, which c'mon, is a bit extreme.

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Any documentary that is going to force drug manufacturers to be more transparent, especially when it comes to women's health—something they don't have the greatest track record for—is a good thing. And any documentary that will give women even more options when it comes to birth control instead of simply telling us all that we need to stick pieces of copper in our bodies and deal with the resulting increased bleeding or circumvent our own natural cycles of hormones and deal with the risks is also a good thing.

Questioning birth control is not anti-feminist; it's just common sense.

I got pregnant before I was married simply because I didn't know the specifics of how my body worked. And looking forward to the future, I know that I want my daughters to understand exactly how their bodies work. I plan on sitting them down (as much as I know they will love this experience) and making sure they know the ins and outs of cervical mucus, body temperature and ovulation.

My daughters shouldn't look at their natural cycles as "wrong" or fear pregnancy so much that they have to medicate themselves every day.

Fertility shouldn't be a mystery; I look at it as one more piece of empowerment and body self-love. My daughters shouldn't look at their natural cycles as "wrong" or fear pregnancy so much that they have to medicate themselves every day when the truth is, you can only get actually pregnant about six days a month. (Although, to be fair, when those days actually occur vary widely for every woman.)

Honestly, despite the fact that we like to depict anyone who chooses not to use hormonal birth control as some kind of religious freak, plenty of religious women use hormonal birth control. For me, it comes down to the fact that I just have no desire to completely alter my body's very basic biochemistry with hormones. Why are we so gung-ho to buy hormone-free chicken and obsessed with the hormones in cow's milk and convinced that vaccines are probably killing us all, yet we promote synthetic hormones in our bodies for all of our reproductive years as totally risk-free guys, really? I just don't get it. Birth control is medication, plain and simple, and like any other medication, it has risks and side effects that need to be considered.

"I got a blood clot from the pill in college," relates Taylor Hengen Newman. "That's a real thing. The pill is pushed on young girls for all kinds of reasons beyond pregnancy-prevention (hint: big money for big pharma) and it really does carry health risks. Messing with teenagers' developing hormone levels may be better than unwanted pregnancy but it's not ideal, no? Meanwhile sexual education or simply education for women about how our bodies work is mostly nonexistent."

Now that my husband and I are officially on a "baby break," I have started using Daysy, a fertility monitor (disclaimer: the company sent me the thing for free, probably because I have four kids and they felt bad for me?) that literally gives me a green light on the days that I can have unprotected sex without getting pregnant. On "red light" days, when pregnancy could occur, couples can abstain or use a barrier method if they want to avoid pregnancy. It's really that simple.

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There are lots of ways to use a fertility awareness model of birth control and even though most of them are extremely effective (Daysy, for example, has a Pearl Index of 0.7, which is similar to hormonal or IUD options), I'm not saying that every part of using such a method is completely awesome. It has drawbacks, like not really considering that women may actually enjoy sex more during ovulation or trying to remember to take my temperature before I get out of bed in the morning when the baby is crying. I even seriously looked into a copper IUD for a while as a non-hormonal option, but for me, I ultimately decided that no birth control is without inconvenience and I'd rather mine be something I can control, not the other way around. And I'm not the only one—even CNN recently reported that if more women knew about other, natural options, they would use them.

Bottom line, I just don't get the backlash against a movement to empower women to make an informed decision about birth control. I mean, aren't choices and options kind of the point of feminism in the first place?

Image: Guigo.eu/Flickr

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