A Hard Pill to Swallow: Understanding Rising Contraception Conversations and their Ethical Consequences
Saturday, October 14, 2023
9:00 AM – 10:15 AM ET
Location: Heron (Fourth Floor)
The distribution of hormonal birth control was a monumental change for the feminist movement and for empowering women in their reproductive autonomy. No longer confined to the doctor's office, contraception conversations are increasingly prevalent on the internet. These conversations range from helpful discussions about contraception choices to harmful rhetoric involving misleading information and/or unsubstantiated claims. Prior work suggests the growing influence of social media on the sexual health knowledge and practices of adolescents and young adults. TikTok is especially influential for contraception content. 60% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24 and current estimates are that 40% of young users use TikTok over search engines as a knowledge resource. Thus, understanding the health content on sites like TikTok, is vital to understanding the knowledge and attitudes of young people about contraception. We conducted a structured analysis of 100 TikTok videos using the hashtags #birthcontrolsideeffects or #nonhormonalbirthcontrol. Our findings demonstrate dissatisfaction with current approaches to contraception counseling. We propose a timeline demonstrating how this series of events unfolds from the doctor’s office to discussion of contraception side effects on TikTok. Our results demonstrate the imperative need to address this issue in contraception counseling as it cannot be addressed effectively via social media censorship. This evidence demonstrates that current contraception counselling methods are unsupportive of patient autonomy and resulting in patient dissatisfaction. There is ethical concern for widespread misinformation on the internet – especially on TikTok – where users are younger and potentially more vulnerable to this information.