File this under: “Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.”
Twitter user and podcast host @MissBriaJanay has come under fire after tweeting an infographic of “natural” approaches to birth control. The pictures and information included in the infographic range from recommendations that don’t work to one that could literally kill you.
Included in the infographic — which has since been deleted — are various fruits and vegetables. Among those mentioned are papaya, figs, wild yams, and pennyroyal oil.
Not only is the information provided completely false, but it’s extremely dangerous. Let’s dive in.
Can You Use Papaya Seeds As Birth Control?
Under papaya, the user claims eating the native Central American fruit twice a day 5-6 days after having unprotected sex will prevent a pregnancy.
Let’s be clear: this is 100% false.
Papaya contains an enzyme called papain that aids in healthy digestion. It’s also high in fiber and water content, both of which work together to prevent constipation and aid in regularity. But it won’t prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or serve as contraceptive protection against pregnancy or STDs.
It just won’t. And it’s absolutely ludicrous that someone would share such blatantly false information on a platform full of gullible, impressionable young people.
Will Figs and Yams Actually Prevent Pregnancy?
The infographic — which went viral due to its lack of scientific backing and blatant misinformation — also includes recommendations that you should eat wild yams and figs as an alternative form of contraception.
Again, not accurate.
The infographic recommends eating wild yam daily so it “starts functioning as a birth prevention remedy.” Similarly, the graphic calls figs “one of the best contraception control methods,” suggesting women eat 2-5 dried figs after having unprotected intercourse.
What. The. Fuck.
A fig will not stop semen from fertilizing an egg. A fig will not stop ovulation. Neither will a goddamn yam.
The Dangers of Pennyroyal Oil as a Contraceptive
Now, eating a yam, fig, or a slice of papaya will not harm you (though if you’re using it for pregnancy, it will not work). However, some of these recommendations are extremely harmful. Some are even fatal.
Pennyroyal oil makes the list, but the graphic makes no mention of pennyroyal’s historical use as an insecticide to regulate menstruation and induce abortion. Use of this plant comes with serious health warnings and risks. According to WebMD, it is not safe for children, pregnant women, or breastfeeding women to take and it can also cause severe injuries to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys. Pennyroyal oil can also lead to kidney and liver failure, ultimately causing death.
It’s not just pennyroyal oil that’s cause for concern. Many of the plants in the infographic are categorized as abortifacients, meaning they cause miscarriages. That’s not birth control; that’s an aborted pregnancy. The two are very different.
One (birth control) is about family planning; the other is dangerous if not used correctly.
In fact, you can die from an abortion induced by an abortifacient.
A History of Fruits and Vegetables as Birth Control
So, you might be wondering: Where the fuck did all this information come from? Did some random person without any knowledge or background in the science of contraception just decide to make a pretty picture on Photoshop? What’s the deal?
Historically, these fruits, vegetables, and plants have been linked to crude versions of abortions and “birth control.” But that does not mean they are safe, natural methods.
Papayas, for example, were used in Sri Lanka to prevent and terminate pregnancies. Let’s not forget, though, that among papayas, bicycle parts and coat hangers were also common tools for “birth control” and abortion in Sri Lanka. So, do we really want to go by those standards?
And then there are the yams. When creating the very first oral contraceptive pill, Planned Parenthood says Russell Marker discovered Mexican women using wild yam called the Barbasco root or Cabeza de negro for contraception. Scientists then extracted the hormone progestin from these yams and combined it with estrogen to make the first-ever pill.
But again, let’s not believe everything we read on Twitter, okay? Birth control pills might have originated from yams, but it doesn’t mean it’s safe now.
A Final Note
It’s 2021. We have access to non-hormonal birth control options like copper IUDs and condoms. Oh, and also hormonal birth control. These things exist. There’s no need to scarf down some ancient natural alternative that won’t work, could be harmful, or even deadly. (Read: To Anyone Who Doesn’t Believe Birth Control Has Health Benefits)
We should all know by now that not everything on the internet is true.
But please, be wary. Because the issue here isn’t that this podcast host follows her own version of “natural contraceptive” methods. The issue here is that some young impressionable girl who loves the podcast will follow these “methods” because the host told her to.
And that’s exactly where we fuck up, the internet fails us, and we fail each other.
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Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.