Disclaimer: This is just my personal experience with birth control.
As if being a teenage girl does not suck enough, those are the years we are oh so blessed with what is called the menstrual cycle.
On top of being extremely embarrassed by my hormonal acne like every other teenage girl without porcelain skin, I had incredibly painful periods. I had to change my pad or tampon at least every 2 hours or I would leak through my pants, had painful cramps that affected my sleep most nights, experienced nausea when I would eat meals and when I would try and avoid eating meals to avoid this nausea, I would get even more nausea.
So like any other scared high school freshman dealing with painful periods for over a year, what do you do? Talk to your friends about it. High school was a whole new ball park of conversation topics you don’t hear as much about in middle school. Especially when it came to topics involving sex.
So one day, sitting around with a group of my friends talking “girl talk”, one girl spilled her mom just allowed her to go on “the pill”. For a second we froze and asked “are you planning on having sex soon??”. She replied “No way! My acne is getting bad and I don’t want to have as painful of periods. Oh and plus I heard it makes your boobs grow.” I was taken back, it seemed this magic pill was the solution to all of my period problems AND it could clear my skin??
So I asked, how did you get your parents to agree to this?! She replied, “Oh it was easy, I just brought up my acne and periods at my last physical and the doctor recommended it!”. “Brilliant!”, I thought quietly to myself. So that is exactly what I did and it worked.
Thrilled to have all of my problems simply solved, I started my first type of hormonal birth control pills. After starting them, I had my period for 4 months straight! I was miserable, seeing little to no change in my acne and bleeding for weeks at a time. Still wanting to try to find the right fit for me I switched to a different type, this time with a higher level of hormones to better regulate my period. And while there was no direct link found after various allergy tests, everyday about an hour after I took my pill I started breaking out in hives and hands and feet would swell up like a balloon. I was quick to switch from that one to another one, naturally of a stronger dose. Third time’s a charm right? Wrong. I had irregular periods, would throw up frequently on my periods but I did see some improvement with my acne.
This vicious cycle of trying new types and dosages of hormonal birth control went on for about all of high school. So was it worth it? In my opinion, absolutely not. Why did I continue to try this method of birth control over and over again when I could feel what it was doing to my body?
When I entered college I decided to finally ditch the pill and have an IUD inserted after reading that even hormonal IUDs have 20x less hormones than the lowest dose of birth control oral contraceptives. When deciding to make the switch I also decided to do a little bit more research into what I have been putting in my body.
While it has been difficult to prove causation, there is a strong relationship between all forms of hormonal birth control and depression. As an overthinker, I think to myself all the time “Hmm, if I never started taking birth control pills, do you think I would still have developed depression?”. Additionally, I found that a few of the side effects of hormonal birth control are weight gain, increased risk of blood clots and even a higher risk for breast cancer for some women. I don’t even remember being warned of these very serious side effects when I started the pill at just 15 years old!!!
After pumping my body with hormones for the past 7 years almost, I do worry if my body would even regulate itself if I were to go off it completely. Would my period come consistently or would it be irregular again? Would I get unbearable cramps like I used to when I was 14? Will my acne come back worse than ever? On top of the IUD being an effective method to prevent unwanted pregnancy, these are just a few of the reasons I decide to keep the IUD in my body for the next couple years. Is it the right decision? I’m not sure. But, I do wish when I initially decided to start my birth control journey that I fully understood the possible repercussions.
Linked below is an article by the Harvard Medical School that supports claims made in this post: