Let's talk about birth control.
I think this is a pretty touchy subject for a lot of people, so I'd like to preface this blog post with this: use what works for you. If traditional birth control pills work for you - GREAT! Continue to take and enjoy them. Honestly, I'm jealous! But if you, like me, had adverse reactions to "the pill," as it's called, then keep on reading.
I have tried the pill five times in my life. The first time, I was 22 and I was having real trouble with my skin and acne. My doctor recommended that I start the pill to regulate my hormones, so I was put on a generic pill at the basic starting dosage. About two weeks into taking the pill, I woke up in the middle of the night so nauseous that I couldn't move. I lay in bed for about an hour and a half, terrified of vomiting, and when I eventually ran to the bathroom, I did just that. I sat with my head on the toilet for about two hours at three o'clock in the morning, wondering if I had the flu, not putting two and two together that the pill was giving me "morning sickness" in the middle of the night. A few weeks after that, I had horrible panic attacks. In the past, I'd had some anxiety (thank God, I haven't dealt with that for a long, long time), but this was by far the worst. Then, on the way to visit a few friends with my family, I vomited in the car (another experience I had never had until the pill). So I decided to stop taking the pill.
I waited a couple of months, and then decided to try a different pill since my skin had still not cleared up. This time, they put me on the lowest dosage you can get: Lo Loestrin Fe. Thank God, I had no emotional reactions to this pill, but I did have some physical issues. I started bleeding in the middle of the month randomly and sometimes the bleeding would last for days. Again, I stopped the pill.
The next time I went on the pill was a few months before my now-husband and I got engaged. We had talked about getting married, so I knew it would be happening soon, and I wanted to have all of this birth control business sorted out before our wedding. I talked to my doctor about the adverse reactions I'd had in the past, and we decided that I would try a progestin-only pill. I thought if I didn't mess with my estrogen levels, I wouldn't have any anxiety issues. Well, no such luck! A week into taking this one, I had the worst panic attack I have ever had. I woke up in the middle of the night and had tunnel vision. It was terrifying. I went off the pill immediately but had to deal with aftereffects of that panic attack for months.
I decided to try the pill again after our wedding, because I didn't want our wedding day to be in any way tarnished by another anxiety attack. I tried Lo Loestrin Fe for a second time, because I liked that I hadn't had any emotional problems the last time I had used it, but the same issue of break-through bleeding stopped me from continuing with it. By this point, my doctors were recommending an IUD but I knew that wasn't for me. First, I have some moral issues with the way it prevents pregnancy. Second, I knew that if I ever had internal pain, I would probably assume something had gone wrong with the IUD and I would constantly be worrying about it. That stress definitely wasn't worth it for me. And third, if you do some digging, you can find in FDA documents that even though your doctors will tell you that there's no chance of altered mood on the IUD since the hormones are localized, women self-report depression about 5% of the time (depending on the specific IUD). So I did one last-ditch effort with the pill. And this time, I became depressed.
I was on this pill for about three months, waiting for my body to adjust to it. I gained a little bit of weight, which was frustrating. But what was more upsetting was that I didn't care about anything. My relationship with Jacob was really strained and I didn't want to spend time with anyone.
I knew I had to get off the pill for good, this time. But let me tell you, it wasn't easy. I honestly felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn't good at being a woman, in a way. You read all of these articles about how birth control empowers women to make decisions on their own timeline - and then you learn that you aren't one of those women.
It was at this point I spoke to one of my married friends. She was so encouraging. She told me that she had gone through the same thing and that her relationship with her husband had been so much harder when she had been on the pill. It made such a difference knowing that I wasn't alone.
So I'm here to tell you, if you're struggling with the pill: You're not alone. And you don't have to be on the pill if it's making you feel anxious, depressed, or crazy. There's nothing wrong with you. Some people can take birth control and are totally fine - but there are some of us whose hormones can't handle it. There are so many other options for birth control - I've researched all of them in my effort to understand what's available and how they all work - and hormones are NOT the only solution.
Of course, there are other important reasons not to take the birth control pill, even if it does work for your body. Studies have shown that women on hormonal birth control are attracted to different men than when they are not. Because the pill tricks your body into thinking that you're pregnant, you are attracted to the kind of man who will take care of a child, not help you make one. Therefore, women who were on the pill when they met the man they eventually married, then went off the pill when they were trying to get pregnant, found that they were less attracted to their partner.
As well, because the pill can cause anxiety and depression, putting young women on it before they know whether or not they struggle with those mental health issues inherently, doesn't allow them to make informed decisions. I knew that I didn't struggle with anxiety and depression, so when the pill started having those side effects, I immediately stopped taking it. But if you, as a young woman, think that's your normal, why would you go off the pill?
I was really pressured into using an IUD when I was speaking to my doctors about birth control options. Every alternative option I was presenting them with, they shunned. At some point, I started to believe that medical schools were in Big Pharmas' pocket - that students were being taught that women HAD to be on the IUD after the schools were being paid to say so. I honestly don't know if that was the case, but I had my suspicions. Now, because I'm married and in a place in my life where I can afford to get pregnant, even if it's not exactly when I had planned, I don't mind if my birth control method isn't 99.99% effective. So when I'd present other options to my doctor that were, say, 96% effective, they'd make me feel guilty. "Don't you want to take control of your life?"
The answer to that question is yes. And that's why I'm choosing not to be depressed or anxious, even at the cost of not having 99.99% efficacy with my birth control.
So here's my advice: try the pill if you want to, but do so with caution. And don't feel like a failure. You deserve to be happy and healthy - and if that means not taking the pill, then don't take the pill!
What do you think? Have you tried the pill? Are you on it now? Let me know in the comments below!
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Hey! I'm Abby, the creator of Classically Abby, a commentary, opera, beauty, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. I'm the first Conservative Influencer and I'm an opera singer with three degrees in performance!