Where there’s a pill, there’s a way…

Earlier today, to my utter disbelief, my housemate came up to me, laughed, and said: “We were just talking about how sad it must be for your boyfriend now that you’re not on the pill”. I nearly spat out my tea.

I’m sorry, what?

Sad for him, how?

Because he has to wear a condom during sex?

Are you kidding me?

Ladies, this conversation is long over-due. We need to talk about the stigma surrounding condoms and girls who aren’t on birth control. With over 3.5 million women in the UK along using hormonal contraceptives, it’s an understatement to say the pill is considered ‘the norm’. If you’re not on it, your best friend’s on it, or your sister’s on it, or your mum’s on it. Girls are just expected to go on the pill, period (no pun intended). More recently, however, the reason why women take oral contraceptives is changing and the horrifying reality is that many young women go on the pill, just so that their guy doesn’t have to wear a condom. Yes, that’s right. We put up with the hideous side-effects to satisfy our man. Shocking, huh?

Now, just a little disclaimer for the heads-up: I’m not anti-birth control by any means. I just want people to be aware that it’s a very personal decision that doesn’t work for everyone, and that no girl should feel pressured into it just because it’s the option everybody goes for. I was on the pill for five years, up until quite recently, and am fully aware of the pros: no baby (quite a big pro there); lighter periods; clearer skin; sex wherever, whenever; you name it, the pill probably does it brilliantly with a big red cherry on top. So hats off to the teeny little guys, they truly do some great things. Much praise, keep up the good work.

That being said, it’s not all fun and crazy, condom-less games. Coming off of the pill, for me, was not strictly my own decision. I was having awful migraines that were so bad they would wake me up in the mornings and even left me bed-ridden for some days. I didn’t particularly blame, nor necessarily consider, the pill as a cause for this, but I did know that the headaches needed to stop — so I finally went to the doctors about it. Of course, doctors are notoriously very, very pro birth control/implant/coil/anything they can find and shove inside your body to stop you reproducing little sproglets. They practically wave banners in the air and chant ‘pill’ repeatedly the second you mention you are sexually active. So when I described my symptoms to my doctor and she told me I needed to go off the pill immediately, I was quite surprised to say the least. She talked me through my other options but to be honest, I never liked the thought of the implant and wasn’t too keen on having a metal coil shoved up my vagina. So, reluctantly, I binned my little stash of Marvelon, splashed out on a packet of Durex (only the best, darling) and got on with my life. Honestly? I’ve never looked back.

However awfully ignorant it may seem, I’m pretty sure I never even read the side-effects sheet that comes in every pill box. I was probably scared of the intense, four-page, double-sided list of every possible little thing it could cause, and I was quite right to be scared of this. The negative side-effects of the pill are terrifying, and quite frankly not taken anywhere near seriously enough; with a recent study showing that young women are up to 80% more likely to have depression when taking the combined pill. But in the name of better sex with your boyfriend, this is all cool, right? Feeling a bit down every now and then is normal, isn’t it? Worth it for no baby. No biggie. WRONG.

The horrifying reality is, that despite being aware of these side effects: not only aware, but being negatively AFFECTED by these side effects, I was still nervous and hesitant about coming off the pill because the general attitude guys have towards condoms made me worry my boyfriend wouldn’t enjoy the sex as much. Of course, I now know this is utter crap. Ladies, can we please stop letting the pressure of being on the pill for our man’s sake cloud our mental and physical health. It simply needs to stop.

My intention really isn’t to attack the pill, but what I will say is this: it’s an extremely personal choice, and while there are so many reasons to take birth control, ‘because my boyfriend doesn’t like wearing condoms’ should never, ever be one of them. Girls, if the pill is not right for you, stop taking it. Do not put up with the shitty side-effects because you’re worried your boyfriend will complain. I’m quite sure he can put up with a little bit of safe-sex for the sake of your mental and physical health. Mine certainly did. Coming off the pill was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and it wasn’t even a decision I was initially happy about.

The worst part is that this stigma is not generated from just men, but more heartbreakingly from women too. Come on ladies, we already get enough hassle as it is; do we really need to make it worse for each other?

“Oh, so you’re not on the pill?” (I’m not).

“Doesn’t your boyfriend hate it?” (Well actually no, he doesn’t).

“But isn’t the sex, like, really bad now?” (No, it’s not).

“Why don’t you just put up with it?” (For reasons of far more importance than the pleasure of my boyfriend’s penis, thank you very much).

I simply ask you to ask yourselves why you are taking your oral contraceptive. If the answer is anything but ‘because it works for me and my body’, then stop. Every one of us is different, and taking birth control is a far bigger decision than it’s made out to be. There’s nothing wrong with condoms and making your boyfriend wear them. Let your body speak to you and follow its instructions; nobody else’s. This stigma needs to end.