The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Birth Control and Social Media: Report about misinformation causes concern

Birth+Control+and+Social+Media%3A+Report+about+misinformation+causes+concern
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A news article posted last month by The Washington Post detailing the misinformation spread on TikTok concerning hormonal birth control symptoms like weight gain and mood swings is causing users to come off the pill, which then prompted a wider discussion on the topic at DePaul and elsewhere. 

TikTok influencer Nicole Bendayan is a certified holistic nutritionist who uses her platform to discuss the “myths” of hormonal birth control with her over 823,000 followers. In her posts, Bendayan discussed how birth control can increase your risk of cancer, increase depressive symptoms and negatively affect one’s microbiome. Last month, Bendayan was highlighted in a Washington Post story about birth control misinformation on TikTok.

“TikTok recently removed at least five videos linking birth control to mental health issues and other health problems after The Post asked how the company prevents the spread of misinformation,” The Washington Post report stated. Bendayan has since made several response videos.

Shannon Simonovich, an associate professor and senior associate director for Academics and Engagement at DePaul’s School of Nursing, supports women talking about both birth control and more holistic alternatives with their health care providers, depending on the reasons for taking hormonal birth control.

“It (holistic alternatives) can reduce all of your symptoms, whether that’s pain or anxiety, or depression or other things. I think that nutrition is a really incredible tool,” Simonovich said in regards to the benefits of going the holistic route in place of birth control. 

“(But) birth control is an option that is always discussed,” she said. “It should have always been couched in a larger dialogue about everything else going on in people’s physical and emotional wellness.”

DePaul’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) held their first general body meeting of the spring quarter on April 9, where The DePaulia asked about their thoughts on this matter. The PPGA, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Illinois, hosts many events throughout the academic year to inform students about sex education and bodily autonomy.

Maya Roman, PPGA’s treasurer and founder of Pillow Talk (a series of sexual education seminars) said she was taken aback by the misinformation put on TikTok. “One of the concerning ones was like, ‘you’re not going to be able to have babies in the future,’”  Roman said regarding what she has seen on social media as about hormonal birth control.

“When it comes to misinformation like this, there’s always the smallest inkling of something factual that gets blown out of proportion,” Roman said. “It’s really harmful because it suggests that you are not capable of consent and you’re not in your right mind because you’re on hormonal birth control.”

Sydney Breedlove, PPGA’s vice president, had not seen the misinformation on TikTok but spoke on her personal experience with hormonal birth control.

“I’m on hormonal birth control, and not every pill is for every person,” Breedlove said. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, birth control, like other drugs, has adverse side effects. Meaning users can experience unwanted effects related to the drug they are taking. In this case the adverse side effects of birth control can be breakthrough bleeding, nausea, headaches, abdominal cramping, breast tenderness and increased vaginal discharge or decreased libido. 

“I think the biggest problem is girls start birth control and they just get Yaz (birth control) prescribed by their doctor, and they don’t really go to a gynecologist and talk about specific types of birth control,” Breedlove said. “I feel like the pill is pushed on so many people.”

Due to the historic benefits of “autonomy” of birth control in “sexual relationships,” it is common to prescribe oral contraceptives to women and others who come to primary care or gynecological appointments even with hormonal concerns, says Simonovich.

TikTok’s ability to make a lot of issues public that would have previously been considered fairly private, Simonovich explained, leads to a larger discussion with one’s provider on how many approaches can be taken for individuals that are not compatible with birth control.

“It’s (TikTok) a fantastic tool for people to learn about possibilities and see if there’s information that they identify with,” she said. 

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