Is it Getting Bitter? The awakening of the revolution in reproductive health
When I was 19 I started taking the Pill. I decided to stop after six years. This decision was a very hard one to make because it required strong will and re-educating myself and those around me about the Pill, considering not only its effectiveness but its effect on women’s health.
My boyfriend, family and friends weren’t at all fond of this idea and kept asking me, “ Why would you want to quit the Pill? Do you want to get pregnant?״
Well, the main reason was that I started to ask myself questions. I started to doubt what I was doing automatically every single day by taking the Pill. I also started to become informed about how the Pill works and how it affected my psychological and physical wellbeing.
I had to reconsider my assumptions that it was the best and most effective form of birth control even though it had liberated women a half a century ago, allowing them to take control of their lives, to go out into the workplace and to decide for themselves when to conceive. The Pill was so central to the feminist revolution in which I saw myself as participating. By taking the Pill I felt I was continuing the legacy of those who had gone before. As I became more knowledgeable through a course I was taking to become a sexual and health educator, I became more and more convinced that I needed to go off the Pill and look at alternative options for contraception.
Right after I made the mind switch and announced that I was quitting the Pill, a big article came out in the weekend paper reviewing Holly Grigg-Spall’s book Sweetening the Pill : how we got hooked on hormonal birth control. Grigg-Spall interviewed many women and medical researchers and doctors about the Pill. I’m not a religious person but I truly felt that this was a sign!
You know how when you get interested in something, you suddenly become aware that the world is abuzz with people talking and thinking about the very thing that interests you? Well that’s kind of how I felt about the Pill. From the minute I decided to quit the Pill I started realizing that I was not the only person concerned about this issue. I suddenly realized that so many women using it for so long were thinking exactly the same thing. Some of my friends were on the Pill and it didn’t take much to make them realize that there were side effects in consuming hormones on a daily basis- they play havoc with our connection to our bodies and our natural menstrual cycle.
At the time I was trying to discover what would be the best contraception method for me and my boyfriend. I struggled to find an alternative. The most common option I’d been offered was the condom. It looked like an okay temporary fix at that time but I didn’t feel it would be a long term solution.
None of the doctors from public health really helped me. They suggested the NuvaRing. They claimed it would be better because it is less concentrated with hormones and wouldn’t go through my digestive system. Well, it turns out that this was a worse option. After I started using the NuvaRing, I started seeing so many articles and videos about the dangers, which felt to me like another sign.
I decided that I didn’t want to take hormones and this meant in any form. This was truly liberating! I turned to my mother and grandmother for advice and asked them about their experience with birth control. They both told me about the diaphragm. They said it was a reasonable option. My grandma said she used it as it was the best option for the young modern woman before the Pill and she had never had an unwanted pregnancy.
Finding a doctor that actually recommends, fits and prescribes the diaphragm became a project . I had to search the web and did some substantial research. In the end I found an amazing female doctor whom I had to pay since she was not working within the public health system. I found this whole experience incredibly eye-opening. I had to go out of my way, pay and even then could only actually find the diaphragm itself in two pharmacies in a city with a population of one million.
I realized that to look for actual alternatives to the Pill, you had to be very determined since the medical community agreed that the Pill is really the only option for young women. Any questioning of that premise and search for alternatives were met with skepticism at best and outright rejection at worst. I started to wonder why it was so difficult for me to exercise the choice to find an alternative? Why was there no easy access to the contraceptive device of my choice?
Reading” Sweetening the Pill “gave me answers that, although disturbing, made perfect sense. The pharmaceutical companies fund medical conferences and research and push the Pill on the medical profession, leaving no access to options that can be just as effective. The fog that these Pill companies spread around birth control blurs our options and, our ability to make knowledgeable choices.
Grigg- Spall in Sweetening the Pill is anxious to make women more knowledgeable about their bodies and about what the Pill does to their psychological and physical health and to inform women of other contraceptive options. Eighty percent of women will at one time in their lives take the Pill. 63.7% will stop taking the Pill because of side effects. Grigg-Spall reveals how effectively the medical profession sells the Pill for the pharmaceutical industries by insisting that this is the best choice for young women while not explaining how the Pill works and how it shuts down women’s reproductive system by keeping young women from ovulating. The Pill is prescribed to young women to regulate periods, to stop the outbreak of acne and is packaged as the answer to these problems when in fact it only masks the symptoms and doesn’t treat these problems.
It is no wonder women are hooked on the Pill when it is pushed upon them with the added claim that it makes them more attractive by enlarging their breasts and allowing them to age with more sex appeal.
Grigg-Spall discusses the psychological effects of the Pill. Women report anxiety attacks and depression while on the Pill that lift when they go off it. Grigg-Spall begins by describing her experience with the Pill and her difficulty in getting off it even when it was wrecking havoc both physically and psychologically. Grigg-Spall discusses other options. One of these is FAM (fertility awareness method), a method that I myself started to look into when I wanted to learn more about my body and reconnect to it as well as prevent pregnancy.
Today my life revolves around women’s body literacy. I work as a sexuality and health educator and as Tempdrop’s community manager; I facilitate workshops about body awareness, talk to Tempdrop’s clientele many times a day about fertility issues and their reason for using the fertility awareness method, read and write about it regularly.
This is how my awareness of the Pill’s effects changed the whole course of life! I know that the exposure and true understanding of our body is very empowering. Every single woman I’ve talked to has found that this transition greatly changed her entire perspective and quality of life.
I was thrilled to learn that the new documentary “Sweetening the Pill” by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake based on the book, will be spreading the word. It could be revolutionary for so many women and will hopefully break the social taboo around the Pill. I am truly excited.
Today there are over 200 million fertility tracking app installations. This trend is increasing as more and more technological innovations are being developed around body literacy and women’s health.
This appears to be a rising revolution and this documentary could be a milestone in understanding and improving women’s reproductive health.
If you’d like to contribute and take an active part in this revolution check out the Kickstarter campaign for the Sweetening the Pill documentary, help make it happen and spread the word: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/92756815/sweetening-the-pill-a-documentary