Take a quick poll among your girlfriends next time you’re sitting down to dinner or grabbing coffee. How many of them are on the pill?
According to the CDC, roughly 12.6% of American women aged 15-49 are on the pill (with a total of 64.9% using some form of contraception).
It’s all well and good for medical professionals and publications originating in the scientific community to spout numbers, percentages, and symptoms of this and that. But as many of us with experience know firsthand, the birth control conversation is a sterile, often clinical discussion, even when its efficacy is an issue of not only physical but also mental health.
For a plethora of reasons, women are quitting hormonal birth control (also known as HBC). They’re not the success stories we’re hearing about though, and the medical community’s interest in them and the logic behind their decisions seems at best indifferent and at worse intentionally malicious.
A Culture of Silence
Intentionally malicious? It might seem a bit dramatic, sure, but hear me out.
If you’re so inclined, pop open your search engine and look for “why women are quitting birth control” or a desired variation. The search results might not look that nefarious. There’s plenty of them to sort through, but it’s not what’s present, but rather what’s missing, that’s the problem.
There’s a shocking lack of information on why the number of women using hormonal birth control is declining.
Almost all of the results (at least from Google) have to do with “what to expect” when going off HBC, or side effects, or “10 things that may happen” when you quit birth control. There’s even one article which calls into question if such a decision is even a “good idea.”
But there’s no evident resources and a shocking lack of information on why the number of women using hormonal contraceptives is declining. From 2015 to 2017, in fact, the number of women using oral contraceptives fell 13.9%.
The Real Reasons Women Are Quitting HBC
The link between HBC and an increased risk of depression, as well as decreased libido, feelings of apathy, stress, and frustration, and so much more, are apparently well-documented but not often discussed.
The buck doesn’t stop there. The pill can even affect the functioning of our hypothalamus, which dictates things like our appetites and sleep cycles and other vital functions. However, among these studies, scientists and researchers are quick to add that findings like this aren’t necessarily indicative that the pill “causes” these things, or that the pill is harmful or responsible for significant alterations in things like mood and behavior.
We’ve been told, repeatedly, the pill is not inherently harmful, despite noticeable evidence to the contrary.
We shouldn’t demand an exact science in these cases — few areas, especially where hormones are concerned, rarely are. But still. Can’t we do better than the wishy-washiness of maybe/maybe not? These are women’s lives we’re talking about. Their mental health and future fertility (among other things) are all at stake. Yet we’ve been told, repeatedly, the pill is not inherently harmful, despite noticeable evidence to the contrary.
For these valid reasons, and more, women are quitting the pill — and we’re not hearing about it.
So, What Are These Alternatives?
Women quitting the pill or hormonal contraception, in general, doesn’t mean they all of a sudden don’t need contraception or assistance with other issues that the pill supposedly treats.
The aforementioned CDC report indicates that in varying percentages, women are using options like the implant or IUDs. Surprisingly, though, there’s no mention within the same report of women using holistic options like fertility awareness (FAM) or natural family planning (NFP) which rely on biological indicators (basal body temperature (BBT), the presence of cervical mucus, and tracking cycles and monitoring ovulation). Fertility awareness can be used for contraceptive purposes — without the use of drugs or medications.
Other possible alternatives for women using the pill as treatment for menstrual, hormonal, or metabolic conditions include specialized dieting, supplements, and exercise regimens. For example, lower-carb diets and resistance training have been shown to be effective for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
For women with imbalances in estrogen and progesterone or with menstrual irregularity, chaste tree, which is a natural supplement, has been shown to help with both normalizing cycles and balancing hormonal levels. Some women have had great results with using essential oils to balance hormones.
There are actually viable options for women looking to quit the pill. We’re just not hearing about them.
Quitting the pill probably feels like a daunting task, and it’s made out to be that way for a reason. But it doesn’t have to be, nor should it feel like one, especially when the possibilities are rewarding and fulfilling.
It’s very possible that women my age are restructuring our priorities so much so we may become known as the no-pill generation. This isn’t a bad thing — on the contrary. It doesn’t mean we’re rejecting science or are ungrateful for everything science has discovered about women’s health in the last few decades. It means something more profound: we’ve realized we deserve better, and at the same time made the decision to empower our bodies rather than simply scrape by. We do have options, alternatives, and decisions to make.
As part of the no-pill generation I can personally say, should you decide to join us, we’ll be glad to welcome you.