Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team

With winter break right around the corner, you’ve probably got big plans to travel, hang out with friends, and accomplish your life goals at your dream internship! Orrrr maybe you’re the type of person who’s ready to be a couch potato, binge-watch Netflix shows, and catch up on your pleasure reading. Either way, I’ve got some great book and movie recommendations for you centered on birth control, reproductive health, and feminism to indulge in over the next few months! Once you’ve gone through as many as you’d like, be sure to reach out to Pandia on instagram, twitter, or facebook to share your thoughts!

Books about Birth Control:

  • Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti (M. Catherine Maternowska, 2006): Haiti is one of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world and for years, aid organizations have sought to alleviate the problems by creating health and family planning clinics. One clinic, Cite Soleil boasted 19 staff members, an array of modern contraceptives, an accessible location, and convenient hours durings its peak in the 1980s and ‘90s – but they had very few clients. In Maternowska’s book, she argues and explains the ways that we often overlook the political dynamics that shape choices about family planning.
  • Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Matthew Connelly, 2009): As the world population continues to increase so do efforts to control the population. Supported by affluent countries, foundations, and NGOs, the population control movement experimented with ways to limit population growth; but the struggle to contend with the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception and nationalist leaders who warned of “race suicide” struggle caused women and children to suffer. In this book, Connelly offers the first global history of a movement that changed how people regard their children, humankind, and poverty.
  • A History of the Birth Control Movement in America (Peter C. Engelman, 2011): This book tells the story of a group of reformers dedicated to making contraception legal, accessible, and acceptable. It describes Margaret Sanger’s campaign beginning in 1914 to challenge anti-obscenity laws criminalizing the distribution of contraceptive information.
  • The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States (Heather Munro Prescott, 2011): Since 2006, when the “morning-after pill” Plan B was first sold over the counter, sales of emergency contraceptives have soared throughout the Western world. Emergency contraception has a long and contentious history of clashes between medical researchers and religious groups as well as between different factions of feminist health advocates. This book tells the story of how ordinary women participated in the development and popularization of emergency contraception.
  • Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950 (Atina Grossmann, 1997): This book details a movement that has been romanticized as the prelude to the 1960s sexual radicalism and demonized as a precursor to Nazi racial policy. Grossmann analyzes the mass mobilization of doctors and laypeople for women’s right to abortion and public access to birth control and sex education during the Weimar years.
  • From Private Vice to Public Virtue: The Birth Control Movement and American Society since 1830 (James Reed, 1984): This is the first comprehensive history of the struggle to win public acceptance of contraceptive practice. Reed documents the roles of the diverse interests that supported birth control and provides a unique account of the struggles of pioneers like Margaret Sanger, Robert Dickinson, and Clarence Gamble to win the support of organized medicine, to change laws, to open birth control clinics, and to improve contraceptive methods.
  • Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820 (Susan E. Klepp, 2009): During the years of the American Revolution, women conceived of their lives and marital obligations in various ways as outlined in this book. Klepp examines the attitudes and behaviors surrounding topics like family, contraception, abortion, sexuality, beauty, and identity to demonstrates how women began to radically redefine motherhood. They asserted control over their bodies, their marriages, and their daughters’ opportunities.
  • Teen Rights and Freedoms – Sex (David M. Haugen, 2013): This book explores teen rights related to sex, including laws related to parental consent for abortion; the rights of minors to obtain contraceptives; age of consent laws; and sexting. This series examines a broad range of perceived or actual legal rights and freedoms that impact the lives of American teens.
  • Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (Ellen Chesler, 2007): Chesler illuminates Sanger’s turbulent personal story and the history of the birth control movement. This story extends from the radical movements of pre-World War I to the family planning initiatives of the Great Society.
  • Margaret Sanger: Rebel for Women’s Rights (Vicki Cox, 2005): Sanger was the founder of the birth control movement in the U.S. and became an international leader in the field. Her work as a nurse convinced her that limiting the size of families through elective birth control was the key to the advancement of women and was needed to achieve social progress as presented in this book.
  • Reproductive Rights: Who Decides? (Vicki Oransky Wittenstein, 2016): Disputes over contraception, sex education, and abortion continue to roil the nation, leading to controversial legal and political rulings and occasionally violence. This book claims that as society changes—and as new reproductive technologies expand the possibilities for controlling and initiating pregnancy—Americans will continue to debate reproductive rights for all.
  • The Global Biopolitics of the IUD: How Science Constructs Contraceptive Users and Women’s Bodies (Chikako Takeshita, 2011): Takeshita investigates the development, marketing, and use of the IUD since the 1960s through a feminist science studies lens. She traces the transformations of the scientific discourse around it over time and across different geographies.
  • The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution (Jonathan Eig, 2015): Eig discusses Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick,Gregory Pincus, and John Rock to recount the invention of the birth control pill. This book tells the story of radical feminist politics, scientific ingenuity, establishment opposition, and a change in social attitudes.
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves (Our Bodies Ourselves organization, 1970): This book is about women’s health and sexuality including topics on sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, birth control, abortion, pregnancy and childbirth, violence and abuse, and menopause. It encourages women to celebrate their sexuality while contradicting the popular gendered myth of women as docile and passive and men as active and aggressive in a sexual relationship.

Movies about Birth Control:

  • The Bleeding Edge (2018): This Netflix documentary offers a look at the fast-growing medical device industry reveals how the rush to innovate can lead to devastating consequences for patients.
  • Where Are My Children? (1916): Lois Weber, a pioneer for reproductive rights and gifted movie director, produced this film that tells the story of a district attorney who, while prosecuting a doctor for illegal abortions, finds out that society people, including his wife, used the doctor’s services. The film explored the issue of abortion and advocated for legalized birth control at a time when even distributing information about contraception was illegal. It was Universal’s top-grossing film that year, raking in between $3 to $63 million by today’s currency.
  • The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1917): The unofficial sequel film to “Where Are My Children?” this movie follows the careers of a husband and wife pair of activists campaigning for sex education and family planning. The events in the film were largely inspired by the trial of Margaret Sanger (in case you don’t know, Sanger was put on trial for circulating information about birth control which, at the time, was considered obscene). Unfortunately, it is now a lost film.

Which ones are you most looking forward to reading or watching? Or, if you’ve already read or seen some of these, which ones are your faves? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts! ?

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The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.