Birth control is becoming easier and easier to talk about all the time. Women are getting more comfortable talking to each other (and even men) about about their bodies in general which is pretty awesome if you ask us (girl power!). While a lot of women like to sing the praises of birth control, there are a lot of negatives that we don’t generally talk about like the fact that we’re messing with hormones and some women might experience negative mental side effects.
The Buzzfeed ladies got real about all aspects of birth control like the pros and cons, why it’s marketed to teens, what makes that problematic and their own experiences with their mental health. So whether you’re looking at starting a form of birth control, switching birth controls or just interested in other women’s experiences, here are the little-talked about things about birth control. Yup, we said it.
It’s so individual
Every woman and every body is different. Just because one type of birth control works for a friend, that doesn’t mean it will work for you, or even work for that same friend in a couple of years. It’s important to assess your own body, but it can also be really helpful to compare your experiences to others to see the similarities and differences in how you’re effected.
Lots of women feel pressure to go on BC at an early age
‘I started birth control in high school and it was kind of this thing where [gynecologists] pressure you into going on birth control… I get why they do that. They’re worried about teen pregnancy and it does help with a lot of side effects of PMS and acne… but it was weird that they just kind of put you on it and you don’t really learn that much about it.’
Many women don’t understand how the hormones they’re on work
‘I was on birth control from age 16 to 24, which is a long time to be on hormones you entirely don’t understand.’
‘I didn’t really learn about it in school or in health class or anything. And I didn’t really talk to anyone about it.’
‘You just get this packet that unfolds like 17 times and it’s terrifying. It’s like, ‘What am I on?’ You have no clue what it says in there or like what the health risks associated with it are. The mental side effects, the physical side effects… You don’t get a walk-through.’
There are some not-so-nice side effects we don’t talk about
‘The mental side effects, that was one of the most surprising things to me.’
‘For anyone who has any history of mental illness or mental health issues, you’re kind of playing with fire. So for me–my family has a history with mental issues–I felt like it was making me more depressed. When you don’t have doctors validating that feeling, then you’re like, ‘Oh okay, I’m just crazy.”
There can be a huge separation between your physical and mental health
‘If you’re a person who’s taking birth control, that’s totally fine because it helps with periods, it helps with acne. There are all these wonderful side effects it does have, but I think the problem is just not understanding what you’re taking. When you’re going on it when you’re 16, and then you start to feel these crazy emotions it’s like, ‘What’s happening to my body?”
‘I have a hormone imbalance and I have very irregular periods and the solution is to go on birth control. My physical body felt great. I was getting my period regularly, PMS was a lot lighter but I was very depressed. So it wasn’t worth it for me.’
‘I felt all the physical side effects but then I had all these mental side effects and I don’t think the doctors believed me. So that was the hard part. I felt like it was making me depressed and I felt changes in my mood. And I would bring it up to the doctors and they tried to switch me to different ones and they didn’t really acknowledge it with a conversation like, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be on birth control.’ It was more like trying to figure out different ones.’
It’s totally okay to decide that it’s not for you
‘It wasn’t until recently, after talking to lots of people that I finally was like, ‘I don’t want to be on birth control anymore because my body just doesn’t do well with birth control.”
Yes, things would totally be different if men could get pregnant
‘If dudes could get pregnant I think, one: birth control would be free. Two: it would be dispensed at every corner. There would be little dispensaries everywhere.’
‘There would be so many studies about it. And if men felt period cramps, if they felt weight gain, if they felt the mental effects of birth control, there would be so much more money invested in studying and so much more money invested in educating.’
Talking is power
‘I’m really glad that I can talk to women about it now because [birth control] definitely increased my depression, increased my anxiety. It was hard to even tell what it was. I had to pinpoint: ‘Oh I’m taking birth control, that’s what’s causing this.”
‘I was terrified to ask questions, I was terrified to talk about my mental illness, I was terrified to talk about anxiety and depression and even give those things those labels.’
So let’s talk about it, ladies. Have discussions about birth control. Make it normal. Educate each other. There are so many things we avoid talking about (like birth control and mental health) that we would be much better off discussing in the open and learning about from each other.