Book Review: The Pill Problem

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by Cascia Talbert

Before I started reading The Pill Problem by Ross Pelton I had just finished Drugs for Life by Joseph Dumit. I was slightly apprehensive about the message of the book, thinking that Pelton would promote solving one problem by perhaps encouraging the use of various drugs, but I was wrong. Pelton acknowledges the fact that the pill plays an important role in the lives of women, but states that the side effects are many and varied. Pelton’s mission with this book is to educate women on the side effects of the pill and hope that they will switch over to safer, healthier forms of contraception.

We often hear about side effects associated with the pill, but we are rarely told why women taking the pill are more likely to have blood clots for example. Pelton states that research has shown that nutrient depletion is common for the majority of women taking the pill, and that nutrient depletion can cause a range of undesirable symptoms and illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, depression, birth defects, cancer, osteoporosis and more. 

What Pelton suggests is that women on the pill, whether they are suffering from side effects or not (not all women associate say fatigue or depression with being on the pill because they have been on it for so many years) take daily multivitamins and mineral supplements to counteract the nutrient depletion caused by the pill. At first, such preventative measures sounded similar to Dumit’s conclusion that pharmaceutical companies aim is to have people use as many medications as possible for an extended period of time, with the main goal being financial gain for the company, rather than healthy clients.

Pelton’s claim is different. If taking the pill leads to nutrient depletion for most women, then it is important to replace various nutrients as they are exhausted, especially since doing so is an easy and fairly inexpensive way to stay healthy.

Pelton writes in a manner that is accessible and easy to understand. The connections he makes between the pill, nutrient depletion and serious side effects and illnesses are quite jarring. When first testing out the pill before its approval in 1960, side effects were common and quite readily noticeable. Today’s pills contain lower doses than the early ones, but it is frustrating and upsetting that the issue of nutrient depletion has been researched for years, but rarely addressed in public discussions. Therefore, Pelton’s contribution to women is an important one, and I fully agree with his statement that “All women deserve the right to be healthy” (p. 81). My only wish is that Pelton would include a section about other types of contraception that are safer and healthier for women to use, but perhaps that will be another book.

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