Let’s Talk About The Birth Control Pill ￼
Imagine: a 14 year old girl sitting on the exam table at the OB/GYN for the first time, scared out of her mind because she has had some horrific and period symptoms ranging from heavy bleeding to debilitating cramping. This young teenager is asked to list her symptoms to the doctor and is ‘comforted’ as her doctor shares that these hormonal irregularities are normal among young women. She is then prescribed the birth control pill after no exam and no reading of the possible side effects, and is left with a band-aid to what may be a much deeper issue in time. I am that girl. I was handed the synthetic hormones that would trick my body into thinking it was pregnant in order to ‘fix’ my problems and move on with life. Little did I know that this small, seemingly insignificant pill had the power to change my life forever.
The ‘Pill’ has become so normalized in our culture today that many young women feel the need to go on the birth control pill simply to take part in the conversation at their lunch table or meet our culture’s standard of ‘freedom’ for women by turning off an entire body system. Every woman has a different reason why they are taking this method of birth control, whether that be for contraceptive purposes or medical reasons to treat symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, cramping, heavy bleeding, etc. Every woman is different, but I think it is time we iron out a few lies we are being told by our culture and ultimately demand better healthcare as women.
Heart attack, stroke, headache, breast cancer, liver cancer, weight gain, depression, hair loss, acne, loss of vision and even death are all listed as possible side effects when taking the birth control pill. These symptoms are rarely discussed when being prescribed this method of contraception, but are all listed on the giant folded up piece of paper within the birth control packet. If you are currently taking the pill and have not read this list of side effects, I encourage you to find your pill packet and take a look; you may be shocked by what you find. As women, we deserve healthcare that does not separate our natural gift of fertility from the rest of our body, and we deserve more than a band-aid to our problems when we may have a gaping wound that is in need of real treatment. The birth control pill is just that, a band-aid, never truly fixing the underlying issue but simply providing a temporary fix that hides the real problem. It is a band-aid with a laundry list of side effects that go beyond heart attack and cancer and the others listed above, because the birth control pill can also affect our attractions, our sex drive, and even our ‘desirability’ to men.
Scientists have found that many animal species have pheromones (odorless chemicals that signal availability, arousal, or sexual receptivity) which play a big role in mate selection. Women on the Pill have altered pheromones and have been shown to prefer the scent of men most similar to their own (this method of birth control causes the woman’s body to think it is pregnant and pregnant women tend to prefer the scents of family and relatives). Because of this, women on the Pill may actually be attracted to men that are not the best match for them biologically. Shockingly enough, some women even reported that they felt less attracted to the men they were seeing after going off the Pill. This theory also goes the other way around; some researchers have proposed that due to a woman’s fertility being interrupted when she is on the Pill, it alters her pheromones thereby making her less desirable to men. In addition to altered attractions, the birth control pill can also affect a woman’s sex drive.
As Jason Evert explains in his book, If You Really Loved Me, “The Pill has been shown to increase a woman’s level of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) which decreases the amount of testosterone available in her body. This is one reason birth control pills are sometimes prescribed to treat acne, because a decrease in this free testosterone has been linked with the decrease of acne severity. However, when testosterone levels are decreased, so is the woman’s sex drive.” This is one issue that has been studied by scientists for years and in one article ‘Can taking the pill dull a woman’s sex drive forver?’ the scientists feared, “There is a real possibility it is imprinting a woman for the rest of her life.” All in a small, seemingly insignificant pill. Our culture doesn’t tell you this, so I will. This is not the type of healthcare we should be fighting for as women. We are deserving of more.
I am telling you these statistics to educate you on the true effects of the birth control pill on a woman’s body; I am not here to scare you or shame you because like I said above, I have been there. My cycle eventually normalized and I went off the birth control pill around the age of 16, but when my untreated symptoms resurfaced as a Sophomore in College, I went back to my OB/GYN and was again prescribed the birth control pill. This time was different. After just a few months on the Pill, I was gaining weight (despite being an active CrossFitter at the time), I had horrible body image, and found myself mentally foggy, anxious and depressed. I eventually narrowed down the only recent change in my life to the birth control pill. I decided to go off the pill for a month to see if anything would change-and it did. It was almost as if the fog had lifted and I was my usual, happy self again. After this particular incident I decided that the birth control pill wasn’t right for me, and after doing more research in recent years I have found that the Pill is not the true solution for any woman. We as women are deserving of healthcare and doctors that will fight for our bodies, not against them. It is time we break this standard of women’s care and fight for more. Below are a few practicals to help enlighten you on this issue and prepare you for this battle our culture is fiercely fighting every day.
- READ, READ, READ. I encourage you to pick up a birth control packet and read it. Read the side effects and what this Pill was created to do to a woman’s body. Read about the history behind the creation of the birth control pill; you may be shocked to find it was not deemed suitable for men or animals but the dosage was simply lowered for women. More information about the Pill is continually being released, so keep reading and educating yourself!
- Include the men in your life. While this is predominantly a women’s health issue, men play a huge role in advocating for the women in their life and are generally in the dark when it comes to anything related to a woman’s cycle or fertility. Help your boyfriend, fiance, or husband understand your cycle and the effects the birth control pill can have on your body. Do research together. Chances are, he will not endorse you putting poison in your body.
- Find a doctor that prioritizes your health and is willing to go beyond the “easy way out”. Look for a doctor that is willing to work with your body and not against it by prescribing birth control for any irregularity. MyCatholicDoctor is a great resource to help you find a physician that is dedicated to helping you understand your body and its natural systems, by providing care that actually solves and treats any issues you may be observing.