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In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women

The pill is turning fifty this year, and article upon article is being written trumpeting how hormonal contraception has revolutionized women’s lives. While this is true, perhaps the bigger story is how for many women, the pill is the default contraceptive option – despite potential side effects or inconveniences.

Laura Eldridge wants to change that. Believing that women should take control of their contraceptive health by looking at the political, medical, and social implications of birth control, she set out to write a book that both challenged and informed women about something so few of us actually talk about. Her final product, In Our Control, brings a straightforward, nonjudgmental, and honest look at the pill, the patch, the ring, and, yes, even fertility awareness methods.

In Our Control isn’t content to simply discuss contraceptive options as if they exist in a vacuum. Instead, Eldridge traces the history of birth control development, painting a backdrop of the political context and gender inequalities that are inextricably intertwined with each birth control option.

Nuanced discussions of medical side effects and precautions are deftly arranged between critiques of the medical-industrial complex. Eldridge walks readers through the thought process within her critiques, which allows the reader to become a smart consumer of contraceptive options. For example, her discussion of the HPV vaccination and the pharmaceutical industry’s rush to push it to the public is critical, yet evenhanded and well researched. The chapter on menstrual suppression drugs casts a wary eye towards the way feminist themes of empowerment have been misappropriated in advertising for such products.

While the main focus of In Our Control is on a discussion of contraceptive options, I felt the book really shined in its final chapters on the HPV vaccination, birth control options for men, environmental concerns about contraception, and international issues in contraception. It was in these chapters that Eldridge combined her inquisitive and unorthodox style of writing with a critical look at contemporary issues in contraception. I found myself unable to put the book down through these chapters.

Eldridge’s fresh voice was apparent on every page of In Our Control, and evoked the pro-woman, community-oriented feel of a volume of Our Bodies, Ourselves. By placing exhaustive information about contraception into the hands of her readers, Eldridge is ensuring that women can approach their health professionals fully armed with all of their options, enabling them to have an honest conversation about which method is best for them.Gwen Emmons

Written by: Gwen Emmons, June 14th 2010

If you want to hear from the author herself, or ask questions, share community on this topic, she is doing two book readings this week:

The Wooden Shoe on 6/15 (704 South Street, Phila PA, 19147) and 6/16 at Big Blue Marble Books is Mt. Airy (551 Carpenter Lane, Phila Pa, 19119)

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