Mylène Rouzaud-Cornabas


Docteure en santé publique, Politiste


Thesis (defended in December, 2nd 2019)

« Alerte à la pilule ». Politiques contraceptives et régulation du risque au prisme du genre

Supervisors : Nathalie Bajos (Inserm) et Daniel Benamouzig (CSO)


In December 2012, a controversy broke out in France over the increased risks of deep vein thrombosis associated with new generation contraceptive pills. This controversy led to the expression of an intense criticism of the pill in France, which until then had been a symbol of female emancipation. Nearly one in five women thus dropped the pill in favor of other methods. This has destabilized a French contraceptive model focused on the promotion of the pill. Despite its intensity, this controversy happened in France with quite a delay. As early as 1995, the associated risks had been identified in many other European countries, including the United Kingdom.

The aim of this research is to understand the ignorance of these risks in France for nearly twenty years. It is based on interviews (n=74) conducted with French and European actors committed in birth control. An analysis of the Ministry of Health’s archives and a review of the scientific and institutional literature have also been led. The analysis of the 1995 British controversy sheds light on the specificity of the French situation.
The analysis of this controversy leads to describe the contraceptive policies from the 1980s to the present days. It reveals how the contraceptive space has been structured around a hormonal and gendered perception of the reproductive bodies. This analysis highlights the central role played by the pharmaceutical companies but also by medical gynecology in France. These first results help to better understand the minimizing of risks associated with hormonal contraceptives in France.

The trajectory of this controversy shows more broadly a sexual division of risk, especially in matters of drugs regulation. Many studies have depicted how the (bio)medicalisation of birth control has led to its feminization. But few offer a gender analysis of drugs regulation in general and contraceptives regulation in particular. The scientific, institutional and political logics of definition, evaluation and handling of drugs risks are nevertheless embedded in a gendered perception of female and male bodies. The 2012-2013 controversy reveals the distinction and unequal sharing of contraceptive risks between sexes, an inequality that also relies on an essentialism of contraceptive and reproductive work.


Le Guen Mireille, Rouzaud-Cornabas Mylène, Panjo Henri, Rigal Laurent, Ringa Virginie, Moreau Caroline, for the Health Barometer group 2016, 2020, « The French pill scare and the reshaping of social inequalities in access to medical contraceptives », SSM – Population Health, 11, p. 100606.

Rouzaud-Cornabas Mylène, 2019, « Alerte à la pilule ». Politiques contraceptives et régulation du risque au prisme du genre, Thèse de doctorat en Santé publique, option sociologie, Université Paris-Saclay, 624 p.

Thomé Cécile, Rouzaud-Cornabas Mylène, 2017, « Comment ne pas faire d’enfants ? La contraception, un travail féminin invisibilisé », Recherches sociologiques et anthropologiques, 48(2), p. 117‑137.

Le Guen Mireille, Roux Alexandra, Rouzaud-Cornabas Mylène, Fonquerne Leslie, Thomé Cécile, Ventola Cécile pour le Laboratoire junior Contraception&Genre, 2017, « Cinquante ans de contraception légale en France : diffusion, médicalisation, féminisation », Population et Sociétés, 549, p. 1‑4.

Bajos Nathalie, Rouzaud-Cornabas Mylène, Panjo Henri, Bohet Aline, Moreau Caroline, l’équipe Fécond, 2014, « La crise de la pilule en France : vers un nouveau modèle contraceptif ? », Population et Sociétés, 511, p. 1‑4.

Mémoire de Master 2 sur l’IVG : « La peur au ventre. L’accès et la prise en charge de  l’IVG au prisme des réformes de santé », Sciences Po Lyon, sous la direction de Christine Dourlen.

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