“It makes me hate being a woman”: Real girls’ experiences of contraception

“I can’t deal with womanhood”

Birth control – the solution for women who are willing to do anything to prevent a pregnancy. But why is it just the women who are expected to take this body altering medication and experience the never-ending list of potential side effects?

Preventing unwanted pregnancy is not just the woman’s responsibility. However, there seems to be no long-term alternative that enables men to share the burden of contraception. This type of responsibility can put large amounts of pressure onto women and cause feelings such as stress, guilt and anxiety. Not to mention the frightening things contraception can do to our bodies and minds.

I reached out on social media and asked whether any girls had any personal stories, or friends’ experiences on contraception that impacted their lives.

The response was overwhelming. All of these amazing girls were messaging me sharing such unbelievable stories. The end of the message would consistently be themes like "I can’t deal with womanhood", or "contraception makes me hate being a woman." How distressing is that?

These beautiful women have been forced to hate the basis of their own identity. Womanhood is something that is meant to be beautiful and empowering, yet contraception seems to be stripping us of our femininity.

The most common response went along the lines of "I was an emotional wreck, paranoid, insecure and surrounded by a constant brain fog." But, "I didn’t feel like there was any other option." This is not good enough. Many girls also reported that they felt they had a change in personality due to the pill, and it was scary how much it had impacted them. "You don’t know if its your mental health or the hormones in the contraception."

This isn’t fair. There is not enough information available to educate women of the potential life changing impacts from contraception.

One girl trying the contraceptive vaccine reacted to the hormones and bled constantly for a year and as a result developed Anaemia, which caused her to have multiple seizures. She said this stopped her from "working, driving and having any independence at all."

She is now left with a life-long syndrome which means she has an ongoing battle with fainting uncontrollably. This was all triggered by hormonal contraception.

However, she said she is now on the non-hormonal coil which is working well for her.

Another girl reported migraines so bad that her family thought she was having a stroke or a brain haemorrhage.

Unfortunately, for one of my friends, she was experiencing headaches on the pill to the extent that sunlight was painful, she lost sensation in her arms and mouth, her speech was slurred and her vision impaired. Finally, the hospital ran the appropriate tests and diagnosed her with a brain clot. She was reported to be experiencing mini strokes and, if she remained on the pill any longer, things could have been fatal.

It is important to remember that these symptoms were experienced as she was already prone to blood clots, but it is even more important to remember that she was not sufficiently checked by the GP before being put on contraception and her life could be very different if she had not acted when she did.

So, if migraines, personality changes, increased mental health problems, loss of motivation and life changing physical impacts aren't enough, what about lack of sex drive? It's ironic that you take contraception to enjoy sex and then, guess what, you don’t want to have sex anymore.

Or how about some acne? Or weight gain? I wonder if a man has ever not been able to go into work because of a headache caused by something he voluntarily puts in his body to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. The answer is probably not.

This article is not to scare women about contraception, if it works for you then it can be a very beautiful thing. Giving women autonomy over their own body is still a revolutionary thing and should be used where it can be.

Also, hormonal contraception can be an effective treatment for many common problems like PCOS. But, it is important to be aware of their potential impacts on your lives. If you are experiencing physical or mental symptoms, then it is important to acknowledge your contraception as a potential factor and talk to the GP about it.

It is not solely the girl’s responsibility to carry the burden of contraception. Just as it is not girl’s responsibility if contraception doesn’t work, and an unwanted pregnancy happens. More women than not are on hormonal contraception and the majority are probably unaware of the risks it poses to their mental and physical health.

Contraception is a 50–50 responsibility between you and your partner. Women already have to carry the physical burden of the morning after pill or abortions and it is not right for them to carry the moral responsibility either.