The Male Birth Control Pill: It’s About Time, or is It?

Photo courtesy of Gnarls Monkey

In our society women are given a larger share of reproductive responsibility than men.  This might make sense to many because men can’t get pregnant.  So, it’s logical to make a woman the gatekeeper of her reproductive health, right?

Yes and no.

Throughout history and across cultures, giving women access to safe methods of contraception have been a good thing.  Contraception afforded women more control over when to start a family in pursuit of careers, and education.  It also prevented forced or unwanted pregnancy.

Young Western women, such as myself, tend to forget that contraception wasn’t always a choice (and still isn’t depending on where you live).  But maybe this amnesia is a good indication that our society has far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.

On the flip side.  We’ve far progressed past viewing women primarily as baby makers.  Two people are responsible for every baby expelled out of a vagina.  TWO! That baby is a whole lot of pressure and responsibility for just one woman.  True it’s feasible to raise a child a la one, but it’s not pretty.

As more dads are choosing to be stay-at-home caregivers and it’s becoming socially acceptable to assume men will be (close to) equally involved parents, it’s timely that the male contraceptive has arrive.  So now men and women can share reproductive responsibilities.

One would hope…

Yesterday, I was disappointed to hear a morning radio discussion between the male and female hosts about the new male Pill.  The conversation went something like this:

Female host: How cool is this male Pill?  For years we’ve had to medicate and be responsible about not getting knocked up.  It needs a fun catchy name.

Male host: I don’t think it’s a good idea necessarily.  I mean guys are so irresponsible as it is.  We can’t even remember to take out the trash let alone a daily pill.

The female host got sidetracked and obsessed about giving it a good name.  However, she did mention that like female contraceptives, the male version will have many options to “get it” such as a shot, gel, patch, or implant.  This MSNBC article talks a bit more about it.

There’s truth to the fact that all men won’t be responsible enough to take the Pill or get their monthly injections.  And there’s also the reality that men tend to visit doctors offices less than women and have a stronger aversion to medicating.  But women also forget sometimes too.  Or as one radio caller said “husbands have to watch out ’cause their wives will secretly stop taking the pill to trap you.” But men can’t get knocked up.  Ever.  So until our society’s men are viewed to have an equally great responsibility over bringing babies into this world, there’s more incentive for women to control their fertility than men.

Pushing the male contraceptive forward is a definitely a step in the right equalizing direction.  Some women might say “no way guys can’t be trusted” and some guys can’t.  But as long as we say that, it will remain a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Price of Spa-Pedis

My afterwork pedi. Arguably a mani with those finger-like toes.

Treating myself to pedicures is a recent indulgence.  I used to find the ordeal a bit strange, but I’ve now grown accustomed to the experience: Enter the shop, pick your polish color, soak your feet in bubbly water, turn on massage chair, have someone scrape the gunk out of your nails, clip and file them.  Your feet and lower legs get scrubbed, massaged, then your perfectly groomed nails are polished with a stylish new color.

A spa-pedi session after a long and tiring work week with some girlfriends felt golden yesterday.  But after visiting the salon’s bathroom, I was reminded of some apprehensions I have towards getting pedicures (and manicures).  There were jugs of acetone polish remover and various containers of creamy, hard-to-pronounce labeled substances.

My mani-pedi reservations are because of the following:

1. It’s hard to escape the smell of chemical fumes in the salon.

2. Nail polish contain harmful ingredients to our health (such as Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, and Toluene), albeit in “safe” doses.

3. I feel a bit awkward having people service my feet.

4. Why pay for a pedi when you can buy a good bottle of nail polish for a third of the cost?  And then you can keep painting your nails and your girlfriends’ nails too.

These are reasons (among others) many women avoid or limit getting pedicures, and I would still put myself in the “limit” category.  Like eating chocolate mouse cake, I’ll enjoy this in moderation.

But to address the first two points of my reservations (which bother me the most), nail polish is still considered “safe” and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

By law, nail products sold in the United States must be free of poisonous or deleterious (harmful) substances that might injure users when used as labeled or under the usual or customary conditions of use…Many nail products contain potentially harmful ingredients, but are allowed on the market because they are safe when used as directed. (FDA)

Even if products are used “as directed” our skin and nails are permeable to toxins, meaning they can be absorbed by our bodies.  Small amounts may have little or no health impact. Unfortunately small amounts of toxins are also found in cleaning products, shampoos, soap, detergents, and pesticides on food, which can all add up.

Potential risk for:

Formaldehyde – It’s a suspected carcinogen; can cause breathing difficulty (wheezing and coughing); induce eye, nose, and throat irritation; some develop fatigue, skin rash, severe allergic reactions.

Toluene – Acute and chronic reactions vary depending on exposure and can range from nausea to impaired speech, hearing, and vision; may affect reproductive development (generally for women who abuse solvents).

DBP – Evidence of adverse health effects are limited, however animal studies show reproductive issues associate with exposure.

With growing concern over increased exposure to toxins found in beauty products, as consumers we can push for safer alternatives.  Many local health food stores and (natural) spas now carry organic or natural nail polish brands, such as No-Miss nail polish, Suncoat, or Zoya.  If you have concerns, it’s worth Google-ing “natural spa (your location)” and asking before your appointment if the salon’s products are DPB, formaldehyde, and toluene free (especially if you’re pregnant).

I’ll definitely get a pedicure again.  It’s hard to resist the lure of sitting in a massage chair while you get your feet scrubbed, and then leaving with nicely groomed and painted toes.  This is especially tempting during times when I’m treating myself for working like a donkey.  However, among the many other beautifying luxeries (like hair cuts and waxing) I’ll have to examine the cost-benefit ratio.  Costs = monetary and health impact and benefits = having nice feet and feeling like a queen for an hour.