Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

When I was 18, I was prescribed birth control pills for PCOS. My doctor diagnosed me, gave me the pills, and sent me on my way. She told me that birth control was the only form of treatment, and that without it I could likely get uterine cancer or lose the ability to have children one day. I trusted her, and began taking them without question. That began one of the worst years of my life.

I was off to college and quickly began to gain weight. I was eating the same amount as I was before I started taking birth control, but couldn’t stop gaining weight. Pretty soon I developed binge eating disorder. I would spend the whole day eating as little as possible, hoping that I would stop gaining weight. Then night time would come around and I would binge in my dorm, usually on extremely unhealthy foods. To make matters worse, the birth control pills made my face break out horribly. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the pimples to go away. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I felt like an imposter in my own body. 

These were not the only side effects. I struggled with vivid, recurring nightmares, that I would wake up from in a panic. I had never had trouble sleeping through the night until then. This interrupted sleep left me feeling sluggish throughout the day. I often struggled to get anything done, and was left feeling ashamed of myself and unmotivated to keep trying. 

With my first two months on birth control being so disastrous, I decided to call my doctor and switch pills. I was hopeful that a different dose and a different brand would end all of this. That was the first time I made that mistake.

The next brand gave me awful migraines. My head was pounding more days than not. On top of that, all the other side effects didn’t go away. Drinking any water made me bloated for the whole day, and I didn’t fit into any of my pants anymore. My emotions were all over the place. I spent so much time alone in my dorm, crying. To go from feeling extremely happy to so miserable in a matter of months was confusing and frustrating. 

I ended up switching my birth control pills four times in 10 months. Yet they all made my reality nearly impossible. I ended up taking medical leave from college my second semester and doing online classes at home because things were so bad. I had no desire to meet new people, explore Charleston, do well in my classes, or honestly do anything. The thought of doing the things I used to love seemed like a chore. My eating habits were all over the place, and I began to hate myself. Dealing with these side effects made me lash out at my loved ones, even though none of it was their fault. I developed severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

You may be thinking that I should’ve just stopped taking the pills, but remember I was told that they were the only thing stopping me from getting cancer and becoming infertile. After lots of research though, I began to doubt that. I sought out a PCOS specialist and was finally treated as an individual. She ran many tests and eventually decided that I could stop taking birth control. Within a week of being off of it I already noticed a difference. I had more energy, more motivation, and started seeing the good things in life again. Pretty soon my life began to fall back into place. It felt like someone else had been living in my body for the last 10 months. 

I later heard of so many stories of people feeling the same way, like they just weren’t quite themselves on birth control. It’s a frustrating feeling that these pills are the only or the go-to treatment for so many things (painful periods, acne, PCOS, etc.). Messing with your hormones in such a drastic way can be very dangerous when the effects of that are still being studied. Birth control pills and their side effects need to be researched much more and properly explained to every individual that is told they should start taking them.

Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Gracie Bell

C of C '24

I am a sophomore at College of Charleston majoring in psychology and sociology. I grew up in Ridgefield, CT, but have traveled to over 15 countries (I even lived in the Netherlands for a year and a half!). I enjoy writing poetry, running, doing yoga, and reading.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️