Birth control can be a touchy subject. For some women, it’s an incredibly important part of their daily regimen. It can fix acne and help with period-related symptoms. For those women who can use birth control, that’s great. Keep doing what works for you. But for others, like me, birth control can be a nightmare.
I have tried birth control a total of five times in my life. I had been sold on the idea that birth control would empower me – it would give me the opportunity to choose when I had children, it gave me control over my timeline, and it would barely interfere with my life. None of this turned out to be true.
My First Experience with the Pill
Growing up, I had clear skin. Then, all of a sudden, at 17-years-old, my skin broke out for the first time. I had horrible acne and couldn’t get it to clear. I tried facials, I tried creams, nothing seemed to work. So at 22, after some pressure from doctors and friends, I decided to try birth control. I was put on a standard starting dosage, about 30mg.
After about two weeks on the pill, I woke up in the middle of the night, so nauseated I couldn’t move. I told myself, if I just wait it out, I’ll be okay. But after an hour of staring at the ceiling, sweating and trying not to wake my roommate, I ran to the bathroom and vomited in the multi-stall dorm bathrooms. I thought I had the flu, but after feeling fine the next morning, it became clear that the birth control pill was giving me “morning sickness” – just in the middle of the night.
I thought I had the flu, but after feeling fine the next morning, it became clear that the birth control pill was giving me “morning sickness” – just in the middle of the night.
At the time, I was already dealing with a low level of anxiety, but the pill made my anxiety sky-rocket. I had horrible panic attacks and started struggling in school. And then, I threw up in the car with my family after a long car ride, something I had never done before.
Annoying, but Not Terrible
I got off the pill after that, and after a few months, decided to try Lo-Loestrin Fe, a low dose birth control that was supposedly great for those who are sensitive to hormones. My skin had still not cleared, and I was looking for a solution. The good news was that this birth control did not mess with my emotions or my stomach. The bad news? I had breakthrough bleeding constantly. I never knew when or if I would start bleeding, so I constantly had to carry pads and tampons with me. So that was another no-go.
Attempt after Attempt after Attempt
Next, I tried a progestin-only pill. By this time, my skin had cleared up by working with my dermatologist. But I wanted to try and sort out birth control before my wedding, since I was waiting to have sex until marriage. I thought the progestin would lower the risk of my hormones going crazy again since I wouldn’t be messing with estrogen as well.
I had tunnel vision and I thought I was going to pass out, but my heart was racing. I went off this pill immediately, but it took me months to recover emotionally.
After a week, I woke up in the middle of the night with the worst panic attack I have ever experienced. I had tunnel vision, and I thought I was going to pass out, but my heart was racing. I went off this pill immediately, but it took me months to recover emotionally. Because of that, I decided that I didn’t want to risk having a panic attack during the wedding, so I held off on trying another birth control until afterwards.
When we had been married for a few months, I tried Lo-Loestrin Fe again, but I was still bleeding irregularly. After talking to my doctors, they encouraged me to try an IUD, but I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with one.
First, I know myself, and I know that if I were to get a pain in my stomach, I would immediately assume that the IUD had moved or something had gone wrong. Second, I have some reservations about the IUD. And third, after doing some research, I found that the FDA reported that women were reporting depression in clinical trials, despite the fact that doctors told me the hormones were all localized to the uterus.
So I did one last-ditch effort with a new pill. But this one made me depressed. I was on this pill for three months, and even though I wasn’t anxious, I didn’t care about anything. My relationship with my husband became strained because I just wanted to be alone. And I knew that none of these feelings were normal for me.
Feeling Like a Failure
I decided then and there that I was done with birth control. I wasn’t going to pump my body full of artificial hormones that it kept rejecting over and over, nor cause problems in my marriage for the sake of delaying pregnancy. But birth control was supposed to offer me certainty. It was supposed to empower me. It was supposed to give me control over my life. But, honestly, I felt like a huge failure.
Birth control was supposed to offer me certainty. It was supposed to empower me. It was supposed to give me control over my life. But, honestly, I felt like a huge failure.
It wasn’t until I spoke with a girlfriend of mine who had a similar experience that I started to realize how many women can’t take birth control. They find that hormonal birth control isn’t right for them. I sometimes think about the young women who go on birth control before they know themselves well enough to recognize that anxiety and depression might not be innate in their personalities.
Accepting My Body and What It Can Do
My body doesn’t need artificial hormones to regulate it. I recognize that I’m very lucky that way. My periods are regular, despite my debilitating cramps. My skin has cleared up with the help of some topical creams. I can’t take birth control, and I don’t. And I have truly never been happier.
There are so many other forms of birth control that might be one or two percent lower in efficacy than the pill. I did a ton of research into other birth control methods once I realized that typical birth control pills and the IUD wouldn’t work for me, so I know. Doctors might express concern that my birth control isn’t 99.99% effective, but here’s the thing: I’m married. I’m careful. And if I do get pregnant before I intended, it’s okay.
Birth control can be helpful and I am in no way telling women who can use it to get off it. I think it’s amazing that you have found something that works for you. But for the women who can’t take birth control and whose bodies don’t like artificial hormones: you’re not alone. And it’s okay. In my opinion, it’s better to be happy 100% of the time and have a 4% chance of pregnancy, than to be depressed or anxious 100% of the time, but a 0% chance of pregnancy. I chose happiness over birth control. And I always will.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, an opera, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. She has performed all over at companies including Opera Omaha, Opera Maine, and Aspen Music Festival. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.