Birth control pills are great for a lot of reasons. They can relieve painful cramps, make your period lighter and shorter, get rid of acne, and, you know, not get you pregnant. And it all sounds pretty great until you start to get affected by the bad side effects. And then you start to feel alone because this great tool that is working for so many of your friends has suddenly turned and is making you feel like you don’t even know your own body anymore.
Hi, yeah, this happened to me. I started taking birth control about seven years ago when I was a sophomore in high school. I suffered from horrendous cramps and a heavy period that was extremely irregular. I was miserable when it showed up, if it showed up at all. I visited my gynecologist for the first time and she told me that this little pill could help me with the cramps, my period, acne and my headaches I also frequently got. It was like a miracle pill and I was excited to take it. I tried to ignore the insane side effects that happened the first three months I took birth control pills, one being I bled for two and a half weeks straight. TWO and a half weeks! I told my doctor and she assured me to stick with it, and if it didn’t sort itself out, we could try a new brand.
After sticking with the pill, I learned that my body is extremely sensitive to the other stuff that they put in them. So, every pill has a certain dose of estrogen and progestin, but companies can also put in some other extra “stuff”, mind you this amount is extremely small, but just other things so it makes up the rest of the pill. For whatever reason, my body would always have side effects to those other ingredients, to the point where if I switched from a name brand to a generic prescription (CVS always ran out of my name brand and would give me the generic kind) my body would react like I was on something completely new.
I didn’t think this was weird, because birth control has side effects, until last year when the side effects started to severely start to affect my life and my relationships. The first weird side effect I ever had when first taking the pill was after three months of consistently taking the pill, at 2 a.m. on the dot, I would throw up. Every three months. I’m not kidding. I let it slide because it wasn’t that big of a deal, and other weird side effects came and went until my sophomore year of college. My new pills (at this point I had gone through at least ten different brands, all with the same estrogen and progestin amount) had made me lose my libido and drained me of emotions, leaving me with two moods and two moods only: Neutral or angry. I didn’t realize this was a problem until I didn’t want to be intimate with my boyfriend anymore and that I would snap at my friends constantly.
I felt so alone because none of my friends had ever experienced this until I searched for birth control pills relating to loss of libido on the web. I read hundreds of stories from women about how their pills had made them experience the same thing, how this was a side effect that no one talked about and how they want other women to hopefully not feel so alone. I wanted to cry I felt so happy that I wasn’t crazy and other people had experienced it as well. I brought it up with my doctor at last, excited to finally be fixed, and she didn’t believe me. She told me that maybe it was my boyfriend, but we could try another brand of birth control.
I was crushed. I was confident that this was the cause for everything: the loss of libido, the mood swings, the worsening of my depression. And my doctor brushed it off and told me it was my boyfriend? I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know my body anymore and my doctor was insisting we still try to work through it. I tried the new pills as a final ditch effort to see if maybe this time it would come through and be the miracle I always hoped it would be.
That was last summer. A month ago, I stopped taking the pills. And guess what? I have my emotions back, my depression and even my anxiety are getting a little better, and I actually feel sexy again. That is a huge deal for someone who hasn’t felt sexy or good in their body for about two years. And while having that security of knowing I (very likely) wouldn’t get pregnant was great, there are other birth control options for me out there. Options that can work for my body, not against it.
This piece isn’t about bashing birth control pills or trying to make people scared of taking them. If they work for you, that’s amazing! But if they don’t, don’t wait as long as I did to quit taking them. At the end of the day, you know your body better than anyone else, so if something is wrong, listen to it.