Social media makes it sound like women are quitting the pill en masse. But the numbers tell a different story.

The internet is rife with misinformation about the birth control pill right now.

By Sarah AschMay 23, 2024 11:40 am,

Social media sites like X and TikTok have recently seen an uptick in women posting about quitting the birth control pill.

But according to data published in The New York Times, prescriptions for birth control pills are not actually declining at all right now; quite the opposite. So where is this online chatter against the pill coming from?

Alisha Haridasani Gupta, who covers women’s health for the Times, said the posts often include misinformation about the pill.

“You see these posts on almost every social media platform – that’s TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and what was known as Twitter and is now X. Influencers who are acting as experts post advice on these platforms, even if they have no medical background,” she said. “And they claim that the pill has affected their fertility, that it caused a tumor, that it ruined their gut health, and that it led to something like copper toxicity. Seeing this proliferation of misinformation all over my feed was, in fact, the reason we decided to do this piece.”

Experts Haridasani Gupta spoke to said the influx of posts against the pill may have to do with something called “negativity bias,” or being more likely to report a negative experience than a positive one.

“The medical institution has known for decades that women hate the side effects that come with the pill, and now women have easy access to platforms where they can share their frustrations,” Haridasani Gupta said. “And I don’t want to undermine how they feel about the pill, but the point is that it might just be harder to find a positive review of it.”

Despite this influx of negative posts, the numbers tell a different story: Prescriptions for the pill have steadily increased since 2018.

“We saw that this uptick was quite steady across the board. It was seen for women of all ages, including millennials and Gen Z, who you would expect would be most exposed to the social media chatter,” Haridasani Gupta said. “We also learned that right after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn abortion access, women started stocking up on the pill. So they were getting prescriptions that were longer than one month. You know, it seems like they didn’t want to be in a situation where they didn’t have access to their birth control.”

Haridasani Gupta said birth control prescriptions rose faster than the national average in a lot of the states with the most restrictive abortion laws.

“We found that a total of nine states that had the most restrictive abortion bans really saw these larger than average increases in prescriptions,” she said. “For us to see the two maps side by side was really fascinating. It sort of speaks to this moment of time that we’re living in, where, again, like I mentioned earlier, women are being more proactive about trying to prevent pregnancy.”

Haridasani Gupta said she also heard from a lot of women after her story came out reinforcing that for many the birth control pill has been life changing.

“It really helped them manage painful periods. It helped them with conditions like PCOS. It allowed them the freedom to pursue their life goals,” she said. “So I think despite this chatter on social media, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that for many, many women, the pill is still an effective and useful tool.

“And we’re living in a time when the pill, there are so many formulations of it. There are very, very low doses of it. There is the mini pill that is now available over the counter in stores. So women have more options. And they should be speaking to their doctors and consulting and figuring out what’s best for them.”

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