This blog post’s purpose is to bring awareness to the mental health effects hormonal birth control has and to connect this awareness to why and how contraception is a feminist issue.
First, I think it is important to note that there are multiple options when it comes to selecting the right birth control, and you should consult with your doctor to figure out which type is right for you!
In the next section, I have constructed a list of types of hormonal birth controls with important information (found from planned parenthood’s website) because I do believe it is important to know what options are out there.
Types of Hormonal Birth Controls:
The Birth Control Implant: Nexplanon is 99% effective and lasts up to 5 years. The implant releases hormones into your body that prevent you from getting pregnant. A nurse or doctor inserts the implant into your arm and you’re protected from pregnancy for up to 5 years. It’s a “get it and forget it” birth control.
The hormones in the birth control implant prevent pregnancy in two ways:
- The hormone Progestin thickens the mucus on your cervix, which stops sperm from swimming through to your egg. When sperm can’t meet up with an egg, pregnancy can’t happen.
- Progestin also stops eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), so there’s no egg to fertilize. When eggs aren’t released, you can’t get pregnant.
IUD: 99% effective and lasts up to 3 to 12 years. An IUD is a tiny device that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUD stands for Intrauterine Device, which basically means a device inside your uterus. It’s a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T.
There are 5 different brands of IUDs: Paragard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.
These IUDs are divided into 2 types:
- Copper IUDs: Paragard
- Hormonal IUDs: Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.
The Paragard IUD doesn’t have hormones. It’s wrapped in a tiny bit of copper, and it protects you from pregnancy for up to 12 years. The Paragard IUD uses copper to prevent pregnancy. Sperm doesn’t like copper, so the Paragard IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg.
The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin is very similar to the hormone progesterone that our bodies make naturally.
- Mirena works for up to 7 years.
- Kyleena works for up to 5 years.
- Liletta works for up to 7 years.
- Skyla works for up to 3 years.
The hormones in the Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways:
1.) By thicken the mucus that lives on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm
2.) The hormones stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), which means there’s no egg for a sperm to fertilize. No egg = no pregnancy
Both copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg.
Birth control shot: 94% effective and it must get renewed every 3 months. The depo shot (AKA Depo-Provera) is an injection you get once every 3 months.
The birth control shot contains the hormone progestin. Progestin stops you from getting pregnant by preventing ovulation. It also works by making cervical mucus thicker so sperm can’t get through.
Birth control vaginal ring: 91% effective that must be replaced monthly. The birth control ring (AKA the vaginal ring) is a small, flexible ring you wear inside your vagina, and it releases hormones throughout your body 24/7 to prevent pregnancy. There are 2 kinds of birth control rings: NuvaRing and ANNOVERA and each last up to 5 weeks.
You take your old NuvaRing out of your vagina and put in a new one about once a month, depending on the ring schedule you choose.
One ANNOVERA ring lasts for 1 year (13 cycles). You put the ANNOVERA ring in your vagina for 21 days (3 weeks), then take it out for 7 days — ANNOVERA comes with a case to safely store it during your ring-free week. After 7 ring-free days, put ANNOVERA back in your vagina.
Both rings work by stopping sperm from joining with an egg by both stopping ovulation, and thickening the mucus on your cervix.
Birth control patch: 91% effective that must be replaced every week. The transdermal contraceptive patch is a safe and convenient birth control method that works really well if you use it correctly. You wear the patch on certain parts of your body, such as your butt, your arm, your back, or your belly and the hormones within the patch get absorbed through your skin that prevents pregnancy. The hormones in the patch stop ovulation and thickens the mucus on your cervix so sperm can’t swim to an egg. You wear the Xulane or Twirla patch on your belly, butt, or back. You can also wear the Xulane patch on your upper arm. The hormones in the patch go into your body through your skin.
There are two types of birth control pills:
Combination pills: Combination pills have both estrogen and progestin, are the most common type of birth control pill and are capable of skipping your period. As long as you take 1 pill every day, you’ll be protected from pregnancy. You don’t have to take your combination pill at the exact same time every day. Most combination pills come in 28-day or 21-day packs.
Progestin-only pills: Progestin-only pills only have progestin and must be taken within the same 3 hours every day to be protected from pregnancy.
Birth Control and Mental Health:
Physical side effects like nausea, dizziness, and blood clots can be common when using hormonal birth control, but some of the most common side effects of hormonal birth controls are mental.
Studies have found that almost 50% of women who go on the pill discontinue use in less than a year because of intolerable side effects, the most frequently cited being unpleasant changes in mood. Many women report depression, anxiety, or feeling crazy after using the pill.
Sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, strongly influence the nervous system and brain by reducing neurotransmitter activity and affecting specific brain regions. Hormonal birth controls consist of one or two synthetic hormones that go into the bloodstream and directly impact a person’s mood. These hormones are pumped throughout women’s bodies and affect them mentally and physically.
It is important to note that if you are someone already suffering from anxiety or depression, certain birth control can intensify these changes in mood.
My personal Journey with hormonal birth controls:
I began taking a hormonal base birth control at the age of 14, once I became sexually active. Most young girls and women begin taking hormonal base birth control to prevent pregnancy, however, there are other reasons to take hormonal-based birth controls such as controlling one’s menstrual cycle, or one’s acne.
My first hormonal birth control was the implant, Nexplanon, and I HATED it!
I got Nexplanon my freshmen year of high school. This was when my body was already going through changes and my mood and weight were already fluctuating due to puberty, however, I still blame all the weight gain and the depression I went through for 4 years on the birth control implant. (I took the implant out a year early because I wanted to try other birth control options.) During these four years, I was the most depressed I have ever been, and I gradually became overweight, to then obese by the end of the four years.
I pass off some of the blame on the implant because when I had the implant removed my weight declined drastically, and I slowly began to love myself, my body, and even my peers. Whereas when I had the implant I hated my body, my personality, and I had a strong disliking for the people I attended high school with. Myt overall attitude with the implant SUCKED.
To put my weight in perspective, I entered high school at 140lbs, in the four years of having the implant I got up to 210lbs. 6 months after having the implant removed I lost 30lbs, and 2 years after the removal I lost all my weight gained throughout high school.
The weight gain was a big part of why my attitude sucked…
The next hormonal birth control I tired was the vaginal ring, NuvaRing, which I also HATED.
I only tried the NuvaRing for 2 months and I knew it was not right for me, and I thought the rink was uncomfortable and I didn’t like that I had to remember when to take it out and renew it.
So this leads to where I am currently in my hormonal birth control journey. After the NuvaRing, I decided to try an IUD.
I LOVE MY IUD!!!
I currently have the Mirena that works up to 7 years. I have had NO issues at all when it comes to this birth control. My period is almost nonexistent, my weight is healthy and nonfluctuating, and I am the happiest I have ever been.
I currently have the Mirena that works for up to 7 years. I have had NO issues at all when it comes to this birth control. My period is almost nonexistent, my weight is healthy and nonfluctuating, and I am the happiest I have ever been.
I felt it was important to share my personal journey with contraception because birth control is an important subject to discuss. It is important to understand that the different tyI felt it was important to share my personal journey with contraception because birth control is an important subject to discuss. It is important to understand that the different types of contraception will affect each individual’s body differently, so my story is going to be different than yours, and your story is going to be different from your friends. All of my girlfriends are on a different form of birth control, and we all have picked based off of which is best for us. It is important for women to know all the options out there, and to know it’s okay to try the different types so that they find what works best for them.
How is contraception is a feminist issue?
I am obviously not anti-hormonal birth control with currently having an IUD. Many women find hormonal contraceptives that suit them and I am one of them. Choice and bodily autonomy are engrained in feminism and the accessibility of birth control must be protected and this blog post is NOT to discourage you from finding a method that works for you. This blog post is supposed to connect the dots between contraception, women’s mental health, and how it is a feminist issue.
Physical side effects such as acne, migraines and weight gain shouldn’t be seen as unavoidable trade-offs for reproductive freedom, but that is exactly how they are seen. Often one weighs the pros and cons of each way of contraception, I know I did.
The first 4 years of using the implant I thought that was my only choice of birth control and the weight gain was 100% a better option than having a child at 15.
Contraception is a feminist issue because it is an issue that affects women. It is a fact that far more women than men are dealing with the physical and mental side effects of contraception.
A fun fact I found doing research for this blog post is that clinical trials for a male contraceptive were abandoned due to intolerable side effects of nausea, weight gain, and acne. Sound familiar? These side effects are IDENTICAL to those for existing female birth control. So why does it seem women are expected to put up with these side effects whereas, for men, the side effects are “intolerable”.
To connect the dots… contraception being linked to negative effects on women’s mental health helps further the stereotype of women being over emotional in situations, or being unable to control their emotions because they’re “hormonal”. This stereotype assists the already existing patriarchy of women being oppressed.
I know that depression and other mental health disorders are common and that contraception use is also common, so I do acknowledge that both would be seen and occur together in many individuals. This is why I believe that there needs to be more research done to further identify the connection between contraception and women’s mental health.
I believe birth control is an amazing thing, however, it does have its negatives that should be brought highlighted. Millions of women around the world use hormonal contraceptives and decades of research support their safety, however, there is still a lack of research and we still don’t know as much as we’d like to know about how these hormonal birth controls affect women’s mental health.
Linked below you will find some related websites that were used for research and the making of this blog post: