Updated: Nov 21, 2019
The first pill was approved by the FDA in 1960 as the first developed drug to shut down a perfectly healthy bodily function. It was, and still is, heavily marketed by the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry as a tool to empower women and provide them with reproductive justice. The inventors of the first pill were faced by a couple of challenges:
• How could they convince women to take a daily drug when they were not sick.
• How to assure the women they were not pregnant since they were not bleeding.
• Contraceptives were still illegal in the 50s.
Women then, knew the significant importance of their menstrual cycle and that menstruation is a vital sign of health. To work around these challenges, a rhythmic withdrawal bleed was designed into the pill every 28 days- the average length of a woman’s cycle- to give the illusion of having a perfectly normal healthy and regular cycle while preventing pregnancy. The withdrawal bleed would also give the pill a pass as a cycle “regulator,” instead of a contraceptive drug. But is it?
What is highlighted when hormonal contraceptives (HCs) are prescribed to women by their healthcare providers is their effectiveness rate. Their side effects though, are usually downplayed and described as minor or mild; even though all women experience them one way or another. 1 out 3 young women are prescribed the pill for reasons other than avoiding pregnancy - to “treat” or “regulate” symptoms like: irregular cycles, heavy periods, painful periods, acne, PCOS, amenorrhea, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, etc.
Secret: HCs do NOT “regulate” your menstrual cycle nor heal any of these symptoms.
HCs are responsible for masking the symptoms, suppressing your sex hormones, disrupting ovulation, stopping your body from cycling, and putting it in a state similar to menopause (when sex hormones drop significantly).
To make an informed consensual choice about your reproductive and general health, knowing the side effects of any drug you are taking is YOUR right. So, what are some of the most common side effects of HCs?
• Dropping the production of testosterone by an average of 61% which is linked to vaginal dryness, low libido, and loss of sexual drive.
• Increased risk of anxiety and depression due to rapidly depleted vitamin B6. According to JAMA Psychiatry, “A study found that adolescent girls aged 15-19 were 2 to 3 times more likely to be on antidepressants while on HCs compared to non-users.”
• Clitoral shrinkage of vulvar tissues
• Multiple nutrient deficiencies like: folate (vitamin B9), and pyridoxine (vitamin B6).
Not so much of a secret: “You deserve to have phenomenal sex, experience pleasure, orgasms… completely free of any pain or discomfort. It’s your birthright”- The fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack.
We have gone through 2 generations of women being convinced that their bodies need to be broken to be “free.” When I think about the 60s, I realized that we take all the options of birth control we have today for granted. I cannot imagine myself in my mid-twenties with 6 children running in the house, and my only option to control my family’s size was a total hysterectomy.
People in the 50s had different ideas of the world we live in day. Doctors used to smoke in TV commercials, people thought that pesticides are normal and healthy, and contraceptives were illegal. The invention of the pill was a revolutionary start to smashing similar ideas and giving women the right to birth control, which is to celebrate; BUT, it’s 2019! We have progressed as humanity in so many ways in the past 60 years. We have witnessed empowering movements led by women, honoring their bodies, and their natural state. We have a better understanding of the women’s physiology and reproductive system. We have smart phones, and smart cities. We now know that smoking is not healthy nor normal. It’s a totally different time. Being stuck with hormonal contraceptives as woman’s best option for 60 years is a drastic lack of imagination, if you’d ask me. We can do better.