This is a guest post written by Chloe Nyxie Nook in collaboration for World Contraception Day.
I remember when my doctor first prescribed me the contraceptive pill like it was just yesterday. Back in 2009 I was just seventeen years old and the pill was this magical little tablet that was only used by ‘the cool girls’ to prevent teenage pregnancy. I had just recovered from anorexia nervosa for the first time, so sexual intercourse was the last thing on my mind.
But when I visited my doctor for a host of awful menstrual problems, they suggested the contraceptive pill as a ‘fix all’ solution. To say I was a little flabbergasted would be an understatement. Not only was I painfully aware of the stigma around the pill, I was terrified of what my mother would say.
In 2009 rural Northern Irish town anything in regards to sex, contraception or ‘ladies’ problems’ just wasn’t talked about. Even during our mandatory ‘health classes’ we weren’t given a large amount of information about the pill, or any contraception other than condoms. The phrase ‘don’t have sex or you’ll get pregnant and die’ comes to mind, because that is exactly how it felt.
It wasn’t until I read through the patient information leaflet that I came to discover the multitude of other things the pill could be used for. Some of which I had struggled with for months after regaining my period.
Photo by Katy Anne on Unsplash
The history of the Contraceptive Pill within the United Kingdom
While the pill was accessible in the United States from as early as 1960, it wasn’t until a year later that it became available to those in the United Kingdom. However, at the time, it was only accessible for married women! Despite attempts being made in 1965 to have this extended to unmarried and single women, it wasn’t until 1967 that it became more widely accessible. This was only made possible through the “The NHS Family Planning Act.”
“The NHS Family Planning Act” was a monumental occasion for women living in the United Kingdom! By this point 12.5million women worldwide were already in receipt of the pill. Not only did this act create a sense of autonomy and control over their bodies and reproductive choices, but on a grander scheme it introduced increased career progression and opportunities for advancements in health care.
Maggie Andrews, Professor of cultural history at the University of Worcester once state that the introduction of the pill meant that for many women, married or single, there was now a reduced association between sex and pregnancy. Something which is very important if you want to experience intimacy, but are not ready or do not want children.
While the pill was no doubt an amazing breakthrough for women everywhere, it wasn’t and still isn’t one hundred percent effective. There is always a slight chance that pregnancy can occur even with the use of the pill. This can happen for a variety of reasons, most notably misuse or not taking it consistently.
Therefore, historically women felt that there should be a backup option, such as an additional method of contraception (i.e. condoms). But, in the early eighties, there came another revolutionary breakthrough in reproductive health care known as the morning after pill.
While chemists had been working on the morning after pill since the early seventies, it wasn’t licensed here in the United Kingdom until 1984. Through trial and error over many years, the morning after pill was perfected. In 2001 it became legally available to buy over the counter at any pharmacy, meaning yet another step forward in autonomy and reproductive health care for women.
But what about the daily pill? The mini pill is now available to purchase with a quick and simple assessment in pharmacies across the united kingdom and Northern Ireland. However, it’s still free by visiting a general practitioner.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
The positives and negatives of using the contraceptive pill
The discovery of the contraceptive pill was revolutionary however, there are many things to consider before choosing this as your primary method of birth control. The main reason that most people take the contraceptive pill is to prevent pregnancy.
However, there are benefits to the contraceptive pill that you may not be aware of:
- The pill can help regulate the menstrual cycle. This is particularly useful if you’re prone to irregular periods, which can be both concerning and irritating for planning things such as vacations.
- Not only does it regulate your period, but it can also lead to lighter periods.
- It’s proven to be ninety nine percent effective if taken as directed.
- Not only is it safe and convenient, but it also allows for sexual spontaneity.
- It can greatly reduce the level of discomfort experienced from menstrual cramps.
- The combination pill can be taken to change the time or frequency of your period, meaning you can choose to skip a period safely.
- Some combination pills also help reduce instances of osteoporosis, anaemia, acne, vaginal dryness, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
However, as with many medications there can also be some unwelcome side effects. In my experience, I’ve heard of several of these occurrences in friends and family members who have taken oral contraceptives.
I recently spoken to a pharmacist and I’ve been assured that most of these side effects should disappear by the second or third month of consistent use. This is known as an adjustment period, and occurs with the majority of medications on the market today.
With that being said, if you’ve recently started the contraceptive pill, you may experience any of the following:
- Breast tenderness
- Bleeding, or spotting, between periods
- Depression or mood changes
- Changes in libido
What’s your experience with the contraceptive pill? Maybe you’ve never used it before, or experienced completely different side effects that put you off! I’d love to hear in the comments.