Are you ready to get off of hormonal birth control, but not quite sure how to go about it? Or are you starting to consider saying good-bye to the pill (or patch, or hormonal IUD, or shot, or, or, or…)?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against birth control. I spent several years working and volunteering with wonderful organizations fighting for the right to accessible contraception for all. I was on hormonal birth control myself, in various forms, for a decade, and I am grateful that I had the ability to choose to not get pregnant before I was ready. Birth control has been a powerful agent of change in our culture, and in many others, for over half a century.
But there are some huge problems with hormonal birth control (henceforth HBC), and we can’t keep looking the other way, and I can’t keep quiet about it either.
1. HBC does not—I repeat, does not—regulate our cycles. It suppresses our natural hormones and takes over with synthetic (laboratory-made) hormone-like substances. And those natural hormonal processes are actually really important for our health.
2. HBC is presented as the only viable option, by doctors and nurses, by sex ed teachers (in school districts that are allowed to talk about such scandalous things), by parents, by the media, by virtually everyone who has anything to say about it. And you know what? That’s simply not true.
3. HBC causes many, many side effects, some milder and some quite serious, and most of these side effects are down-played by health care providers. That is not informed consent.
4. HBC has long-lasting effects on our bodies and our fertility. Taking synthetic hormones for several years can actually decrease our ability to make fertile cervical fluid (by causing the cervical crypts—where that fluid is made—to atrophy; you can read about relevant research here). And it can also cause the clitoris to decrease in size. (Yes, for real).
5. Widespread use of HBC is causing synthetic hormones to get into our waterways, wreaking havoc on fish populations and other aquatic life. Not to mention that it makes its way into our drinking water too, so even if you aren’t on the pill you still may be getting low doses of synthetic sex hormones every day (more here). Oh, and kids are too.
The list goes on, but those are my favorites at the moment.
The bottom line for me is that while it’s great that so many more people are able to manage their own fertility, we are not being given the whole story. What we are being given is a questionable (at best) product from mega pharmaceutical companies who do not have our best interests in mind. What we are being given is the illusion of choice and of control, because it’s all heavily managed by the drug and insurance companies, by our doctors, and by our government. Actually, let’s make that #6.
6. HBC is controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, by insurance companies, and by our government, and fed to us via our doctors, who are all too often paid off by the drug companies to sell their products. Birth control may be a choice, but it is not reproductive autonomy. Quite the opposite.
Anyway, back to my original question. Are you ready to get off of the pill? If you’re not, that’s ok. I want to honor everyone’s choices, but I want to make sure that they’re actually choices made with a comprehensive understanding of all that’s at stake, and all the options, which usually isn’t the case when it comes to HBC.
For myself, I just couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t keep putting those chemicals in my body every single day. I had been on HBC for so long, I didn’t even know how it was affecting me, because I hardly remembered what my body had felt like before I had started taking it. And, serendipitously, around the same time as I began to question my 10 years of using hormones to “control” my fertility, I discovered sympto-thermal cycle tracking, and I never looked back. Now, another 10 years of cycle tracking (and a 2-year certification program to be able to teach you all about it) later, I am amazed and heartened by how much more well-known and understood Fertility Awareness Based Methods are, and by this rising tide of people who are ditching the pill and getting reacquainted with their bodies, coming home to their own selves.