I’ve struggled with acne since high school. I bounced around from one dermatologist to another but could never get my skin under control. That’s when one dermatologist recommended I go on birth control, also known as “the pill.” That’s right, the pill can do so much more than just serve as a contraceptive. The majority of womxn on the pill don’t even use it as birth control. The irony, right?
According to a 2011 study from the Guttmacher Institute, 58% of womxn on the pill use it for a reason other than a preventative measure for pregnancy; 31% use it for cramps, 28% for menstrual regulation, 14% for acne and 4% for endometriosis.
The pill is not only a contraceptive but a necessity to many womxn. In my case, the medication was meant to take control of my hormonal acne and I was beyond excited to begin my journey of having clear skin. What I didn’t realize was the toll it would take on my mental health.
Not too long after I started the pill, I began to feel the adverse side effects. I wasn’t feeling like myself anymore. I had a pessimistic outlook on life and felt sad all the time. The smallest inconveniences would trigger me. I would burst out into tears over nothing. I felt anxious all the time and I realized I was isolating myself from my loved ones. I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way until fitness influencer Whitney Simmons spoke out about her experience with the pill. She, too, felt these effects while taking the pill and spoke about it on her Instagram stories. The response she received was shocking. Many of her followers had reached out to her, relating to her struggle. I found comfort in realizing I was not alone.
After careful consideration and speaking with my doctor, I decided I needed to stop taking the pill. Once I got off of it, slowly but surely, I began feeling like myself again.
This change, however, came with a price. Within a few weeks, I started to break out again. My cramps had me curled up in a ball and my periods were irregular. Now that a few months have passed, my body is adapting to the change and getting back to functioning normally. As for my acne, I have found some topical creams prescribed by my dermatologist are working to reduce it.
With that being said, this may not be the case for everyone. I have friends who love being on birth control. They have a reduction in cramps, better regulation of their period, a shorter duration of menstruation, reduction in hormonal acne and no negative impact on their mental health. The pill’s effects are unique to each person, which is why it’s essential to consult with your doctor to seek the best treatment for you.
After my experience, I was curious to find out why this happened to me so I conducted some research, but I couldn’t find a lot. The limited research that I did find was conflicting. One study reported that womxn using a contraceptive pill significantly reported feelings of depression compared to a control group while another study found unclear results for a link between depression and the pill. The unclear results can be due to a difference in composition of different pills and the inconsistent use of the word “depression.” Still, the study ultimately concluded that depression is not a common side-effect for the pill. The one point that is clear is that there is concerningly little research on this important topic even though many womxn are on the pill or are considering getting on the pill. Not only does there need to be more research, but there must be more awareness and open conversation of the possible side effects.
Perhaps there should even be more research on contraceptives for men. The Instagram page Every two minutes made a good point when they pointed out that a man can impregnate nine womxn every day for nine months resulting in 2,430 pregnancies, while a womxn can get in bed with nine men every day for nine months and only get pregnant once. This gets me thinking on whether we have efficiently used our time and resources in creating birth control methods for the right sex?
After all, as the saying goes, wouldn’t it be more effective to unload a gun than wear a bulletproof vest? In “It’s 2020: Where’s Male Birth Control”, Alexis Vega goes into detail on some research done for the possibility of male birth control, but the study was found unsuccessful due to side effects including acne, weight gain, mood swings and severe depression (the same side effects womxn experience from birth control pills). I couldn’t agree with her more that it is surprising that womxn are expected to tolerate these symptoms (on top of the monthly symptoms experienced with periods), but men are excused from it.
Regardless of the lack of research I have done, many womxn today are using the pill for various reasons and may have unique experiences with it. Some praise the pill and couldn’t see themselves living without while others are better off without it. The only person that knows you best is yourself. If you are experiencing depression or any other abnormal symptoms, consult with your doctor. Know that you are not alone. Together you can develop the best plan for you, whether it be staying on the pill or trying something new. No matter result, the most important thing to remember is that your happiness and health should always come first.