A new study confirms that deciding not to have children takes more of a physical and mental toll on women than men.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Sex Research, draws on 52 contraceptive counseling visits with women who said that they did not envision themselves having children in the future. The results show that not only do women shoulder most of the physical responsibility of preventing pregnancy by using some form of contraception, but that they also take on most of the mental and emotional labor.
“It’s not just about having the medication in your body, it’s about the time, attention and stress that is associated with it,” Dr. Katrina Kimport, the author of the study and an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, told Elle.com.
According to the paper, one of the reasons that women are required to take on both the physical and mental responsibility of preventing pregnancy is because the options for male contraception are limited to condoms and vasectomies The fact that there are so few options for men, the study noted, is the result of gender norms that suggest preventing pregnancy is a woman’s responsibility. That means that there has been little research done to develop new contraceptive methods for men. “This structural outcome, in turn, makes the discursive assignment of responsibility for preventing pregnancy to women seem like common sense,” the study said.
In order to remedy this, the report suggested that doctors can ease mental pressure on women by recommending long-acting reversible contraception. It also advises health professionals to push to change laws to allow women to access a one-year supply of birth control, which would reduce the frequency of pharmacy and doctor visits. Finally, the study encourages men to take a more active role by attending “contraceptive counseling” when appropriate.
Read the full study here.
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