On the dubious merits of birth control pills

Birth control is not the innocuous godsend it is often made out to be. The side effects may seem mild, but are in reality more profound, and in my opinion, more alarming that most people give them credit for.

Birth control is a drug composed entirely of hormones (some natural and some artificial) and takes control of the body in significant ways. As far as I can determine, there are only three benefits from BC: the 99.9% guarantee that one will not become a parent; the by-the-hour predictability of menstruation; and clearer skin. The rest, the side effects, are subtle and sometimes invisible, but definitely affect quality of life. I spent 3 and a half years on birth control: the first 8 months on the patch and the remainder on the pill. The effects from the patch were greater and more noticable than from the pill, but the effects were the same, nonetheless. The overall impact they had on my physical and mental health is enormous:

  • My hair thinned. My crown became nearly see-through.
  • My hair faded. I am normally a dark shade of strawberry blonde, a shade that is more red than blonde. BC turned my hair into a dirty dishwater blonde, dull and mousy. The vibrant copper tones all but vanished completely.
  • Emotional volitality. I felt my emotions more intensely than I did before (and after) the BC. The swings more roller-coaster-like. I have always been a balanced, even-tempered person, but the pill made it as if I had PMS 3 weeks a month. And the times my moods were “normal” was the week of my periods, the week when I wasn’t ingesting hormones.
  • Attention deficit. My ability to focus on tasks or thoughts weakened. It was very difficult to stick to anything, I was easily distracted, and I frequently forgot details such as the number of needles or a patient’s name–things I normally remember with ease.
  • My insomnia got worse. I slept lighter, woke more frequently, and pretty much stopped dreaming. Of course I still dreamt, but they were less vivid, less intensive, shorter, if I was lucky enough to remember having dreamt at all. This is devastating to me, for a number of reasons. There is the matter of never feeling rested, and subsisting on a diet of half colas and chocolates and half junk food. And then there is the matter that creativity is the fire of the soul, and it lies deep in the subconscious where dreams manifest. For me, dreaming and creativity are so closely interwined, as to be inseparable. If I can’t dream, I can’t create. Ideas do not come to me with ease, and those that do are weak and insipid, lacking the fire of passion (they were products more of the intellect than of the creative subconscious). Since I value my creativity as being essential to my conception of myself, losing the power of my dreams is significant.

I took my last pill March 13. Since then, I had a bad acne breakout, which has since healed. My hair grew back, and grew back red. My emotions are less intense, and my moods once more balanced: I do not swing from irritability to bubbly in the space of 30 minutes anymore. My attentiveness and accuracy in detail has improved. And most of all, I sleep deeper, and my dreams have returned. My idea books are once again being filled.

Hormones are powerful. Our entire lives are predicated on the function of the hormones our bodies create. They have a subtle yet most profound effect on the experience of our existence. In fact, I’m sure consciousness would not be possible without hormones, and perhaps one could even go so far as to say that consiousness and personality is hormonal. Hormones are proof that the body and the mind are so tightly interwined as to be the same thing.

So, knowing all that now, I am deeply relucant to ever resume taking hormonal birth control. Its function is much more easily and safely replaced by that of the condom. The condom does not wreak havoc on either partner’s body and mind. It protects against STDs. It has the same rate of pregnancy prevention: 99.9%. Next time a man says “I don’t like condoms.” I shall reply, “Tough shit.”

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10 thoughts on “On the dubious merits of birth control pills

  1. Just so you know, there are guys out there who prefer to wear condoms than have their partner stuff a little pill up into the woo-hoo. I mean seriously, how does stuffing a tac-tac up there prevent pregnancy. If the pill was taken orally, I don’t know, that might be easier. But I still think the condom is the safer bet.

    Of course, abstinence is a flawless method.

    *** The Pill is oral. I’m not sure what contraception is insertable, but its likely to be hormonal, in which the drug is absorbed into the body. Still effective. But when In doubt, play it safe! Use condoms!—Rachel

  2. Gloria Steinem is coming to *get* you.

    *** LOL why? How can anything I said be construed as anti-feminist? Indeed, I argue that my points are feminist, in that they are pro-human, pro-self-acceptance. And shifting the onus of sterility to men is pro-female!—Rachel

  3. Joking aside, as for a guy’s perspective on the Pill & Feminism, here goes.
    One aspect is this. The pill allowed the woman to use sex to dominate the man. The man was getting what he wanted, sex. The price of sex became servitude to the woman. The woman was no longer tied to the man through parenthood.
    Another aspect however, is that it allowed men to view women as cheaper hookers. Sex without having a pay for it.

    Ultimately though (and this is just my personal opinion), sex should be one of those things that people who love each other do. If a man loves a woman, he doesn’t mind putting on a rubber. He would rather wear the rubber than have the woman he loves suffer possible side-effects from the pill. Some men will even go so far as to have a vasectomy for the women they love.

  4. Latex is my very best friend, Ms. Learned. As I told you in the Lunch Room, condoms rule! Plus they make them in various shapes, sizes, colors, and flaaaavors… hmmm, naughty naughty!

  5. Maybe you could try sticking the pill in your woo-hoo.

    My wife didn’t have these issues with the pill she was on for the years we were married and before we had kids. It just helps show how each person is different, doesn’t it?

  6. I LOVE the pill. It allowed me to become pregnant when and only when I wanted and I’ve never had any physical or emotional side effects. I was on it for many years. stopping only a couple of times to have my children. And then off it for a few years after my ex’s vasectomy. And now joyfully back on, but a continuous pill so only a light period every 6-12 months (which I can schedule for my own convenience). And that lowers my risk of ovarian cancer. I know the pill isn’t perfect and not everyone gets by with no side effects the way I have, but I am supremely thankful it exists.

  7. Funny, my issues with the pill began when I stopped. I was on it for 22 years (until my Dr. asked wether I’d like a vasectomy to which I answered yeah, that’d be cool to which Mr. Jazz – seeing as he was slightly involved – said No problem. I love my Mr. Jazz).

    I didn’t even know what PMS was until I stopped the pill. Since then it’s been hell. Or it was. Now my issues tend towards the menopausal. Which is also hell. When it ain’t one thing it’s the other.

    As for condoms were never really a possibility as I tend to react to the latex and I never felt like hunting for the perfect brand – which is just way too much information.

  8. damnit, woman…i was just going to post about BC! it’s like we’re psychically linked! i may still do it because the shit makes me crazy.

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