These side effects are causing women to sour on the pill

It’s no secret that in recent years women have been fleeing from the Pill in droves.

According to a survey conducted by Evofem Biosciences, 55 percent of sexually active American women do not use any form of birth control, and of those women who do use birth control, 36 percent say they would prefer a non-hormonal option. A recent survey conducted by Cosmopolitan also discovered that “a whopping 70 percent of women who have used the Pill said they’d stopped taking it or thought about going off it in the past three years.”

Our sisters in Canada are also souring on the Pill, with a recent survey from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada finding that “51 percent of women using hormonal birth control reported unwanted side effects in 2016,” and that “the most common side effects—weight gain and headaches—were also listed among the top reasons for discontinuing a current method of contraception.” As a result, the same survey also found that “oral contraceptive use dropped among women over 30 from 39 percent in 2006 to 15.7 percent in 2016.”

Particularly for millennial women, who have an even greater interest in organic living than their predecessors, the hormone-disrupting function of the Pill is starting to seem counterproductive to a natural lifestyle. And when you think about it, does it really makes sense to buy hormone-free milk, pesticide-free produce, and “green” makeup, but to pop a pill chock-full of synthetic hormones every single morning?

More women are waking up to the fact that the hormones in our food AND our pills are the potential culprits behind a whole host of unsavory side effects and health conditions ranging from the annoying to downright dangerous. As women start to question why they can’t get to the bottom of things like headaches, mental-health issues, and low libido, they’re starting to ditch the Pill in pursuit of better health. Here are four side effects commonly experienced by women on the Pill—and four reasons why women are starting to question if the Pill is really the key to our “liberation” that it’s been promised to be.

Headaches and Migraines

“The migraines stopped completely for a few years; I maybe get one every 18 months now,” said Kelsie Bryson, who experienced relief from excruciating migraines after getting off of the Pill.

For many women like Kelsie, headaches and migraines are one of the most common, most disruptive symptoms of the birth control pill. What’s especially concerning? Studies have found a link between increased risk of stroke in women who experience migraine headaches while on the Pill.

Mental Health, Mood, and Personality Changes

In the past few years, many headlines have been made about the recent discoveries of how birth control wrecks some women’s—and especially young women’s—mental health. Women on birth control have a significantly increased risk of depression and suicide attempts compared to women who have never been on the Pill, or who have discontinued using the Pill.

Researchers are also now coming clean about the effects the birth control pill can have on women’s brains, which can affect their moods and personalities. In fact, women on the Pill have been shown to exhibit a “masculinization” of the brain, may be less empathetic than women who are not on the Pill, and may even have their preferences in sexual partners influenced by their daily dose of synthetic hormones.

Libido

“The first thing I experienced after stopping the Pill―in my case, the combined version―was what I would describe as a total sexual awakening,” writes Gena Steffens, guest writer at The Huffington Post. “Practically overnight, my lubrication levels went from zero to ‘ripe papaya’―and for someone who has spent their life suffering through relatively uncomfortable, sometimes painful, under-lubricated sex, this was huge.”

Many women experience a marked difference in libido after going on the birth control pill. Others, like Steffens, have been on the Pill for so long—even before they were sexually active—that they simply don’t know of any other reality, until they go off of the Pill. There are many side effects that some women may experience while on the Pill that could explain why it seems to affect libido. Some of these side effects include vaginal dryness, difficulty achieving arousal or orgasm, and even shrinkage of the clitoris (file that one under something your doctor probably never told you).

Blood Clot Scares

The Pill significantly increases a woman’s risk for blood clots (and related risks like deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke)—especially so if she already has a history of blood clots, is overweight, a smoker, over 40 years of age, or any combination of these factors. But the horror stories—rare as they may be—of even young, healthy, fit women who have had blood clot scares most likely related to birth control use may be causing women to question if there’s a safer way to plan their families.

The IUD Doesn't Come with Fewer Side Effects

If you’re reading through this list and wondering if the IUD might be a better option for you, unfortunately, you need to think again: most IUDs are also hormonal, and will cause similar side effects (along with their own unique side effects) to the birth control pill. Even the non-hormonal copper IUD carries its own host of hormone-affecting issues. What’s worse, the side effects of the IUD (which can include extreme pain and bleeding) are too often downplayed and/or dismissed by the pharmaceutical and medical establishment—even one’s own doctor.

Fortunately, there are safe, effective, and 100 percent side-effect-free methods available for both regulating your cycle and family planning. An entire world of Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABMs), sometimes also called Natural Family Planning (NFP), exists to help women and their partners plan their families while working with—not against—their bodies. Depending on the method one chooses, it can be every bit as effective as the Pill or IUD, without any of the side effects. What’s more, these methods are evidenced-based, researched, and backed by science—and equip women to listen to their bodies’ biological signs of fertility, unlike your grandma’s “rhythm method.” The key is, to reach effectiveness rates of 86.8 percent to 98.4 percent for typical use in preventing pregnancy, users must be trained by a certified FABM instructor to ensure they’re employing the method correctly.

So if you’re tired of birth control side effects, the first step is realizing you are not alone. Lots of women are with you. And many of them are turning to natural methods that equip them to avoid pregnancy while learning more about their reproductive and overall health.

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