The contraceptive pill, once seen as a revolution for women as it gave us choice and power over our bodies that had been limited by biology, is now seen as something that could be damaging us far more than it's helping.
The pill sexually and economically liberated women, pregnancy is now something that women choose- this freedom to delay having children, or not have them at all, means that women don't have to put their career on hold if an unplanned pregnancy arrives, and the likelihood of having to have an abortion is limited.
However, recently studies into the pill and its affect on mental health have developed. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen
studied the health records of more than a million women, aged between 15 and 34. They found that those on the combined pill were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants compared to those not on hormonal contraception. Younger women between the ages of 15 to 19 were most likely to be affected by this correlation.
These findings aren't shocking for many, rather they confirm our personal experiences. A quick chat to the women close to me reveals that, bar a couple, we've all felt our mental health suffer from being on the pill. Many talk of a 'cloud lifting' when they come off it, and their anxiety being significantly lessened.
Did you know that caffeine affects you more when you're on the pill? This is because your birth control inhibits the break down of it. Have you also found that you can't consume caffeine as it increases your anxiety? More than it use to before you went on the pill? Speaking purely from personal experience, a year ago I couldn't drink a cup of coffee no matter how exhausted I was and in need of a pick-me-up because it made me very anxious. Fast forward a year, and I'm off the pill drinking soy lattes like there's no tomorrow.
Let me get this straight. Correlation is not causation. Yes there have been links found between the contraceptive pill and depression/anxiety, but this could be a coincidence. Nothing is fully proven- young women, in general, are far more anxious than any other group in society. This could be because most of us are on the pill, or it could be because of the crushing responsibilities, bleak economic climate, patriarchy trying to limit our every move and a million other factors. And the pill wrecking havoc with our hormones probably doesn't help.
A hormonal contraceptive for men was rejected because it was found to lower their sexual desire, cause weight gain and moodiness. Imagine that!! Not like women have been experiencing those side effects and far worse for years. But you know, it's not the man's problem if we get pregnant, is it? Literally, f*ck the patriarchy, that's all I have to say on this point.
I can't say or advise coming off the pill if your'e suffering from mental health issues, but hopefully medical professionals will now be more willing to hear your plea about the pill negatively affecting you. It's worth a shot, because there are other contraceptive alternatives to try.
The pill has been handed out like candy to young girls for so long, that often we don't even realise there's an alternative until we're older. As a twenty-something woman, most your friends will be on the pill and likely would have been for many a year- it's become so normalised that no one actually has frank discussions about how much it might be affecting us.
Weight gain/loss, feeling out of control of your moods, serious risks of blood clots are all skimmed over, but why? Even the concept of a male pill having side effects was squashed, and you can bet when it finally does become available it'll be 100% effective and have no side effects.
Women, sadly and wrongly, in this society are seen as the problem when it comes to menstruation and pregnancy. We're expected to 'deal with it' alone. Not talk openly about our periods because it's 'gross' or admit that we don't want to be solely in charge of having 'safe sex'.
Furthermore, to some this fuels their narrow-mindedness. With some people tweeting asking why women would risk mental health problems so they can 'sleep around'. The pill, yes helps women be sexually free, but it's used for a number of other reasons- to lessen the heaviness of our periods, thus reducing cramps, to clear up acne and more.
In summary, your concerns about the pill are valid. Your mental health is valid. Your sexual liberation is valid. Your periods and want for comfort is valid. If nothing else, this surge in research should at least encourage an open conversation between women and their experiences on hormonal contraception, and for our concerns to be taken more seriously by those in the medical profession.
Let us know in the comments your thoughts and experiences on this topic...
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