Whether prompted by the dreaded sex talk with your parents or as a frantic plea to get some help with your hormonal teen acne, you may have ended up like many of us who have gone on hormonal contraceptives – a continually rising segment of the population.
Some girls made it out of high school and college unscathed by the birth control industry, but others stayed on for years later, stuck in this perpetual cycle of natural hormonal cycle disruption. The reason why an entire generation of women is seemingly on birth control is not some elaborate scheme that’s been plotted out by corporate overlords or the patriarchy, but rather a series of truly unfortunate, overlapping events.
We’ve Been Misled about Our Natural Cycles
It’s kind of mind-blowing once you fall down the rabbit hole of natural menstrual cycles and learn that being able to get pregnant any time of the month is nothing more than a myth. Frankly, both men and women would be doing themselves a favor by understanding that there’s a very small window of time that a woman can get pregnant: five days before you ovulate and then the one to two days of ovulation.
“In general, women are only fertile about 24 hours, maybe 36 hours, in a month. That's right, one day out of the month,” says functional naturopathic physician Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Is it any wonder why women (and men) worry so much about unintended pregnancies if it’s not well-known that you’re pretty unlikely to get pregnant outside that window? It’s true that sperm can stay alive inside you for a few days, and if those days after having unprotected sex fall within the correct window, you may end up pregnant. Regardless, people shouldn’t keep spreading the false notion that you need birth control because you’re constantly at risk of getting pregnant.
We’ve Been Coaxed by Celebs
I’m kind of obsessed with Architectural Digest’s Open Door YouTube series where they visit the beautiful homes of famous folks, so naturally I’ve seen the Vanessa Hudgens episode. It really dawned on me after the fact, however, that any of her sleek furnishings displayed in the episode could have been purchased using her paycheck from Nexplanon, the birth control implant she was a spokesperson for…and the exact device that has left me with really difficult, prolonged side effects.
Whether we let them influence our decisions or not, the power that celebrity endorsement has over young women en masse is immense, to say the least. For years now, female celebs and influencers have been normalizing being on birth control as a power move in the fight for reproductive rights.
Celebs and influencers have been normalizing being on birth control as a power move in the fight for reproductive rights.
Hudgens had no role in my choosing Nexplanon, but I’m certain there are young women out there who grew up watching her in High School Musical and think to themselves something along the lines of: “Well, if she uses it, it couldn’t be that bad!”
The problem is that you honestly can’t predict how your body will react to a specific medication or treatment. Had I known now what I know about Nexplanon, I wouldn’t have ever gone on it. I’d have saved myself oodles of time, money, and mental anguish in this depressing quest to get my normal menstrual cycles back again.
We’re Told To Brush Off Risks and Adverse Effects
Alas, most of us aren’t really properly educated by our healthcare providers on the adverse effects and potential risks involved with being on hormonal birth control.
There’s a reason why having your boyfriend or husband read off the alarmingly long pamphlet provided in a little box of birth control pills that detail each and every side effect became a viral meme. It’s somewhat tragic seeing men and women put two and two together and start to realize that the woman’s weight gain, chest pains, nausea, chronic migraines, or whatever it may be is actually a direct side effect of birth control.
I’ve detailed the nine major dangers that hormonal birth control poses to your health, but in reality, there are more than nine! The range of adverse effects from hormonal birth control runs the full gamut, from blood clots to stroke to depression to brain fog to chronic illness to cancer to low libido to digestive complications and more.
Some women are made aware of the side effects and still choose to go on it. Then, they joke about it and take it lightly as if the daily dose is just a sugar pill, not a serious medication that has serious repercussions both positive and negative. Women are told it’s actually normal to just feel like crap while on birth control, so instead of taking the reins we just throw our hands up and go about a less-optimal way of living.
It’s just so relatable to blame your mood swings on the pill! It’s no biggie that you can’t urinate quite like you should be able to. At least it’s all sunshine and rainbows because there’s no fetus growing inside your womb, right?
Providers try to reassure us that everything’s okay and encourage us to try a different type of birth control instead of taking us off of it point blank. I can tell you firsthand that when I initially got off Nexplanon and still didn’t have periods after a couple months, my former OB/GYN told me to get on the pill. It’s not surprising to me that, when women try to get off birth control and have weird, lingering side effects or legitimate withdrawal, they might think it’s less stressful to just go back on.
It's Supposed To Solve Some of Our Health Problems
Hormonal birth control is a lifestyle drug. This term, coined in 1978, refers to medications that aren’t essential but are supposed to improve quality of life. In some cases, they definitely can. Hormonal contraceptives can be extremely effective in treating acne and regulating irregular cycles that leave a young woman feeling awful about her body. But they're also (unfortunately) commonly prescribed as a way to regulate your cycle or to manage PCOS or endometriosis. They’re touted so highly as lifestyle drugs that the global contraceptive drug market will potentially reach $16.5 billion by 2028. This past year, global revenue from contraceptives was $12.1 billion.
Beyond just preventing pregnancy, birth control essentially places us in a permanent luteal phase while we’re on it. During a normal ovulatory cycle (menstruation phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and luteal phase), this would be the time after ovulation when your body starts producing more progesterone and less estrogen. You might feel emotionally neutral because of this and much less feminine than you do if you were in the other phases. It’s a lot easier to operate like a man, whose hormones are on a daily cycle instead of a 28-day cycle split into four phases, if you’re not experiencing the normal ebb and flow of female hormones. Look no further than old hormonal contraceptive promotional materials that really told it like it is, saying, “postponing the menstrual period may contribute importantly to a woman’s comfort, efficiency and peace of mind. On occasions, delaying the period may prevent serious mental distress.”
Some of the most prominent players include Allergan, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis, and many more who rake in cash every time another woman opts to get on birth control. Birth control is a big business that is only about to get even more profitable as over-the-counter contraceptive pills might soon be given the green light by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As we know, many women today delay having kids until a much later time than women of past generations. More years of delaying pregnancy means more years of being perpetually on birth control, which in turn means Big Pharma’s profit margins only keep growing.
We’re Heavily Buying into Sexual Liberation
First off, yes, I’m fully aware of the fact that people have had premarital sex since the beginning of time for us as a species. What hasn’t been normal until recent times, however, is the notion that casual, premarital sex is not only a cultural expectation, but also empowering.
Pop culture is driven by references and overt depictions of one-night stands and friends-with-benefits (or situationship) relationships. Instead of it being treated with a healthy dose of skepticism and taboo, we outwardly celebrate it. Shawn Mendez and Camilla Cabello sing about a sexual relationship despite just being friends in the steamy song “Señorita,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling” is the quintessential booty call anthem, Ariana Grande dresses in form-fitting leotards, bra tops, and mini skirts while singing about staying up all night having sex in her song “34+35.” I could go on and on without end.
Promiscuity equals pleasure, according to mainstream culture, and since women have been sexually liberated, then women should enjoy as much casual sex as they’d like without shame, right? Unfortunately, hookup culture actually hurts women since our female bodies evolved to develop emotional bonds with our sexual partner. This is why research indicates that women who have more casual sex are actually more likely to be depressed.
Birth control has become the norm so women can reduce the likelihood of pregnancy from casual sex.
Emotional bonds aside, hormonal birth control pills, patches, injections, and shots have become the norm so that women can reduce their likelihood of pregnancy from casual sex or sex in a committed relationship between two individuals who are not ready to bring a baby into the world. This creates quite the paradoxical situation where birth control is meant to mitigate the risk that arises but simultaneously enforces the continued practice of casual sex. If a woman knows she won’t get pregnant, she’ll likely feel more comfortable sleeping with a man sooner than if she waited to date longer and really get to know him. In the end, sex becomes part and parcel of the initial dating stages instead of a critically important part of creating intimacy within a committed relationship.
We’re Brainwashed into Believing We’re No Different from Men
This is just blatant misinformation. There are many ways in which men and women can accomplish the same tasks and function quite similarly, but those things don’t negate the fact that our biologies have stark differences. Whether it’s due to our reproductive or even our neurological systems, we aren’t the same, and that’s not a bad thing.
Instead of accepting the cold hard truth, we’re misled and told that we should work just like men or work out just like men. As a result, some female athletes who push themselves to train like their male peers lose their period, and plenty of women in the workforce inadvertently sell their souls to hustle culture to their own detriment.
How is it pro-woman to cover up the very truths which make us women? How is it pro-woman to deny reality? Birth control is hungrily marketed as this empowering, pro-woman method of crushing deeply ingrained patriarchal standards, yet it fundamentally alters the entire natural identity of what a woman is.
Wouldn’t it instead be pro-woman to accept and celebrate the fact that we’re different? For a generation of people shouting that diversity is our strength, it sure seems backward to insist that we decrease diversity between the two genders and instead operate all the same. Womanhood is uniquely special because of our nurturing behaviors, our more gentle mannerisms, our tender patience, and the way we create and cultivate beauty. We’re not all experts in those traits from the get-go, but such is the journey of maturing as an adult woman.
I’m genuinely empathetic to the moral dilemma a girl faces when she’s weighing whether or not to go on birth control. I’ve been there before and thought that I was making a well-informed decision, but I was actually being misled by a bunch of different subtle mistruths and outright lies that media, celebrities, medical professionals, and well-meaning people in our inner circles spread in support of hormonal contraceptives. It’s true, learning a fertility awareness method and fixing your fertility is a major commitment and involves effort and attention you might not think you can devote to it. But the risks, side effects, and long-term consequences from hormonal contraceptives leave us worse off than if we put in the effort to make a positive change in our lives.
The good news is that, at Evie, we don’t hide the truth or choose not to share alternative options. We have a wealth of resources for you to learn about the 28-day cycle your body goes through, healthy alternatives to hormonal birth control, how you can start living in accordance with your cycle, and our beautifully bespoke health and fitness app that guides you through cycle-based workouts and nutrition planning, 28.
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