No one can deny that a substantial amount of sexual freedom came with the development of the contraceptive pill (and condoms, of course). But today I am feeling free because of the opposite; because I am no longer on the pill. Yes, for the first time in 12 years I am considering the fact that my body may start to synchronise my period with the women I work and live with, in the natural way in which this happens.
Admittedly, my “freedom” is limited, because I have rediscovered the meaning of “flow”, of period pains, acne and relative uncertainty. These were side effects which I had to consider in my choice, but I was worried it would be much worse. From the beginning of 2012 I have been afraid of what would happen when I went off the pill, whether I would not have a period for months, whether I would get really bad facial acne, whether I would get crippling period pains like I did in high school. It was only when I read a blog called “Sweetening the Pill” (http://sweeteningthepill.blogspot.com), which offers a guide on coming off the pill, that I finally took the plunge.
Getting my first properly flowing period, with pains for two days, was actually a wonderful feeling. It felt natural, it made me feel fertile and it made me feel like I was “me” again. There aren’t really any good reasons for me to feel like this, but I think it was simply a reaction to having put something foreign (and maybe even “unnatural”) into my body every day for 12 years. These feelings may be unwarranted, and possibly harmful to women who rely on the pill to give them control over their cycle. At the end of the day, taking the pill is an individual choice and the reasons for that choice differ.
And, of course, the important part is also that I have relied on the pill for safe sex. The thing is, not all the sex I was having was “safe”. Being on the pill gave me (and others) licence to do things that I possibly would not have done before. Having sex without condoms, for instance, even before having an HIV test, because the boy seemed “reliable”; sex with boyfriends before I may have been emotionally ready and before I had established trust with them; “bullied” into sex because the guy believes that being on the pill means the girl is willing to have sex. The person I went onto the pill for cheated on me countless times. You can only guess how I felt when I went for my first HIV test. In some ways then, being on the pill allowed the men in my life to stop acting responsibly, either in the prevention of STDs and HIV or for ensuring my emotional wellbeing.
There are more good reasons for not going on the pill in the first place, or like me, going off it. In my own circumstances, I was constantly on probiotics for two reasons; because I thought that the pill was contributing to candida outbreaks and because I assumed it was also contributing to digestive problems. Truthfully, I may be wrong about this because I seem to get different information from every doctor or nurse I have asked, so don’t quote me on that. However, friends have told me stories of their own problems with the pill; mostly to do with mood swings and their ability to be turned on. That the pill dampens your sexual desire is something I can relate to. Perhaps it is because I am nearing the age where I am at the height of my sexual appetite (bring on 30!), but I have never felt more “sexual” since going off the pill. Also, I am counting on my pill-free self to sniff out better boyfriends (because the pill apparently clouds your natural ability to smell, and therefore choose, your best mate).
Just before I finally stopped taking the pill, I e-mailed my friends. I wanted their support but I also wanted to hear their stories. One of my friends offered the alternative of the Mirena, which I had already heard about. Apparently it is safer than the pill because it has a much lower dose of progesterone. It also helps to prevent uterine cancer and it can help to stop migraines. My friend was also excited about the fact that, eventually, many women stop menstruating. While I see this as the alternative (if you can afford it), I am not so sure about how exciting it is to stop menstruating all together. Getting my period makes me feel normal – nature’s little way of telling me that all is happening as it should.
Do you think that the pill is liberating, or have you also experienced issues with it, both emotional and physical, which you think takes away some of that freedom?