I stopped taking the contraceptive pill last December. I've been on countless different types since I was about 13 – I had quite bad acne and tried almost anything to improve it. Antibiotics, creams, gels, and several different kinds of contraception. I’m trying to remember the names of some of the pills which I took, and I can’t. I can’t even remember the name of the last one I was taking, which heavily contributed to the reason I stopped. I had no idea what I was putting into my body every day – and it was only at the age of 25 that I was seriously starting to question that.
I became aware of Holly Grigg Spall and her work when an article she wrote for The Guardian went viral last October. Finally there was concrete, scientific evidence to prove what she had been suggesting for years – the contraceptive pill (or any kind of hormonal birth control) is linked to depression. The more I read into Holly’s work, the more I wanted to talk to her personally as what she was saying was so relatable, but not because of depression.
I have suffered from depression, and I have been on antidepressants. I have also taken CBT classes, sleeping pills, and work on improving my anxiety every single day. Luckily, I have never felt that the contraception I’ve been on has amplified these things, and this has been confirmed in the almost six months where I’ve been hormone free. I still can’t sleep, I still lie awake worrying about everything there is to possibly worry about, and I still have mood swings and panic regularly about my life choices. That’s just who I am, unfortunately. However, it has been incredibly liberating to not have to take a pill every single morning (or in a rush at night, or two days late, as I’m pretty forgetful…) to not have to worry about running out of them, prescriptions, and the looming possibility of a blood clot. All just so that I can avoid getting pregnant (I started to write just so I can have safe sex, but the pill doesn’t prevent against STI’s, so that wouldn’t be true).
The pill is reflected upon in history as a feminist milestone. But to quote Holly, "Considering that women are fertile just six days per menstrual cycle and men are fertile every single day, that the burden of avoiding unwanted pregnancy falls to us, regardless of the burden that might have on our health and wellbeing, is nothing short of sexism.” Why were we never taught this at school? And why does the sole responsibility of an unwanted child fall at the feet of the woman? It’s insane to think that an entire industry has been built from men not wanting to wear condoms, which DO protect against STI’s AND pregnancy. Before I read Holly’s article, I was becoming more aware of the sexism involved with birth control. It pissed me off that my boyfriend would ask “Have you remembered to take your pill?” He was just being thoughtful, but it was irritating me that it was completely up to me. I have had friends get the coil or the implant, and suffer month long periods and other nightmare scenarios just so they can have 'hassle free' sex. It was all starting to seem a bit twisted – and that’s because it is.
The pill is encouraged, expected even. How many times does a guy ask “Are you on the pill?” as if it gives them free reign to fuck you without protection? And how many mothers take their daughters to a doctor as soon as there is the slightest hint that they may be sexually active, to get given the combined pill, versus how many fathers encourage sons to carry condoms and to have safe sex? And what about our attitude towards girls who do get pregnant? They’re paraded as idiots on television, as helpless half wits who should have known better (see Teen Mom or a Channel Four equivalent) whilst the father lurks in the background, managing to keep his cool as he’s not hormone ridden with leaking breasts and trying to stay in education or hold down a job.
Our attitude towards sex and birth control has got to change, and hopefully Sister can be a part of that change. I'm waiting for my Daysy to arrive, and I'm so excited about becoming naturally in tune with my body for the first time in my life. I would like to point out that coming off the pill hasn't been super easy. My teenage skin has crept back up on my now mid twenties face, as well as my back and chest. It's not ideal, but hopefully it'll smooth out the longer I'm hormone free. It might sound like a small thing, but when it had such an impact on my self esteem in the past, it's weird how those insecurities come flooding back. Condoms are also expensive (just keeping it real) and I've found people's reaction to 'going back' to using condoms with my long term boyfriend kind of surprising. I've never perceived it as a step back, but a step forward to a more equal relationship. It hasn't comprised our sex life, and I'm grateful that he was so open to the change.
I'm not trying to tell people what to do, I simply want to open the floor for discussion about birth control. I'd love for other people to share their stories, and their experiences, negative or positive, because it's something that every woman and man can learn from. By educating yourself about your choices, your body and your options, you're ultimately on your way to living your best life. And isn't that what we all want TBH?