Book Review: This is Your Brain on Birth Control by Sarah E. Hill, PhD (2019)

this is your brain on birth control

Birth control pill.

Tiny little thing that has been playing a major role in a woman’s life. Gone were the days when promiscuity equals constant pregnancies. Gone were the days when a woman could not attain her desired education due to early pregnancy. Gone were the days when a woman has less control in her own life—a modern woman can now choose who she wants to be impregnated with and when.

Just by manipulating woman’s menstrual cycle—by completely skipping the ovulation phase—women have been able to achieve many things ever since. Some cultures and religions might not give their full support to the use of birth control pill, but to the rest of the populations that allows a little bit of promiscuity and recreational sex, the birth control pill has been considered one of the ways to maintain a fun, stable life, both for women (directly) and men (indirectly).

this is your brain on birth control

What Is Birth Control Pill?

Like many brilliant medicinal breakthroughs in our life, birth control pill hasn’t reached its full form yet. Women all over the globe still having different reactions to various types of the pill. Some reported increasing rates of depression over the pill, but some vowed that the pill has saved their life by ‘stabilizing’ their ‘urges’ so they could focus on something else that is equally/more important than having children.

Many of us, including researchers and experts, have been inadvertently oblivious to the long-time effect of birth control pill that is made from components of artificial hormones—the almost-similar hormones that run through our vein, secreted by our organ, dictated by (and dictating on) our brain. Many hormones regulate our life, but we are mainly talking about our sexual hormones here: our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

So here’s the thing. A hormone isn’t a sticky note stuck on your computer—personally delivered by your boss or your subordinates, so you will remember to do something later, just for you, or in this matter, one body organ of you. Secretion of the hormone is a fully-force announcement spread using the body’s wall speaker. Its order is something that has to be heard by more than one of your organs. Take example of the adrenaline a.k.a. the flight-or-fight hormone. When in a state of life-threatening event (or something like it), our body would allocate all its energy to prepare you to fight for your life. So your heart pumps faster, your digestion stops for a moment, your mind is focused on the danger so you probably a little bit hard to solve some math equations because this is not the right time. All of our hormones work quite similar to that. So it’s pretty naïve to think that the birth control pill isn’t going to influence anything but your ovulation cycle.  

What the book has to offer

Sarah E. Hill is an Evolutionary Psychologist specialized in human behavior. She’s a keen user of birth control pills herself. Been using the pill since 18 years old, she expressed in the book how the pill has helped her achieved her doctorate. Only when she finally decided to get married and prepare for motherhood, she found the vast difference between her mental/emotional version when she’s on the pill and when she’s off the pill.

Intrigued by her own experience, she decided to learn more about the effects of the birth control pill, such as:

  1. how women choose men (since the birth control pill could dull some sense and tinker with woman’s emotional state, there’s a chance that women might not choose her partner based on the procreation and immunity sakes again)
  2. the divorce rate (again, the different emotional state, some women reported unsatisfied marriage life after going off the pill – or the other way around),
  3. and the future human evolution (if we keep allowing women to choose men in this way, and delaying having children like this, what kind of genetic code that would pass on to our next generation? Would procreation still be our main purpose?)

The book contains some interesting study results about woman behavior on/off the pill, also several questions that might pick on your curiosity:

  • If most of the mammals on earth don’t menstruate, why human women need to slough off her endometrium layer (AND SEVERELY BLEED) once a month?
  • What is the truth behind mom and child connection during pregnancy? Is endometrium lining really ‘a safe and warm environment’ for the embryo like what everyone said?
  • Why modern women menstruate more often than our ancestors and what does it say about us?
  • How to take benefit of the birth control pill wisely?
  • If our thoughts and options are made by our hormones, what is an identity, really?
  • Why does the study of woman cycles and woman behavior seem to be incomplete, even in this kind of advanced era?

If most of the mammals on earth don’t menstruate, why human women need to slough off her endometrium layer (AND SEVERELY BLEED) once a month?

The Verdict

I found the book This is Your Brain on Birth Control by Sarah E. Hill really fun and informative. Sarah could be a little bit hard to read sometimes, more than once, her arguments felt repetitive and subjective, but I enjoy the book anyway. If you’re looking for alternative perspectives about the birth control pill, or maybe you’re just curious, this is a great book for you to have.

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