Mostly, when I write about body confidence, I focus on feeling confident with the way our body looks like. This time, though, I am focusing on trusting our body in the way it’s supposed to function.
It’s the story of what happened when I took birth control pills. Because it demonstrates how we, as a society, think that we can outsmart our bodies. And how humbling it is to learn that our bodies are way smarter than what we think.
Roughly 20 years ago, I finally got to have a boyfriend. We were in a serious, committed relationship. And sex was part of that relationship. And like any other girl which I knew at the time, I went to the gynecologist and got myself some birth control pills. It seemed like the logical thing to do when you want to have sex regularly, without worrying about annoying things like babies when they’re uncalled for.
Not for one moment, I thought about side effects.
Not for one single moment, I thought about the implications.
Not a single shred of thought of looking at other alternatives went through my mind.
It was simply what everyone else I knew was doing, and that was the end of it.
Only, it was actually the beginning.
Soon after I started taking those birth control pills, I started having some headaches. Not too bad initially. But after a few months, they got worse, and that’s when I started to notice there was a pattern: a headache would start about 24 hours before menstruation, grow stronger and more severe, and then suddenly stop immediately after the bleeding started.
The intensity grew with each passing month, to a degree that I couldn’t cope with the world. Someone, which I described my headaches to, said it sounds like I’m having migraines.
Because the pattern was so easy to detect, I thought to myself it must have something to do with the birth control pills, so I went to my Dr and asked her to replace them with another brand. She smiled at me, said it probably won’t help, but changed my prescription nonetheless.
Obviously, she was right.
With the new pills, the migraines kept on increasing in intensity – but wait, there’s more! The pattern was gone. Now, a migraine could start any day of the month – and last for more than 48 hours – and happen as often as once a week – and became so strong that my life was in constant fear for the next migraine.
In case you never experienced a migraine yourself, let me briefly describe how I experience them.
It feels like someone is drilling a hole on one side of my head, with the pressure getting stronger and stronger, whilst all the time I feel quite queasy (in fact, vomiting is happening very often with a migraine), and the only thing I want to do is go to my room, lie in bed under a blanket, curl into a little ball and not let anyone touch me. Trying to sleep is not going to help because the headache is felt through sleep, and there is absolutely no relief. Although if I take a couple of very strong headache pills, I might just be able to function through the headache.
Well. What a bright girl to do when she has migraines that were obviously caused by birth control pills? You got it. She is to go to the Dr to get those new pills that were recently released to the market, that if you take daily, might stop the migraines from happening. Or at least diminish their severity.
Because who in their right mind is going to question that there’s an alternative to taking birth control pills? Why is there anything wrong with altering a perfectly well functioning (hormonally speaking) body, by loading it with hormones that shouldn’t be there, just because other forms of birth control are not as convenient?
I think after a while of taking both birth control pills, and the anti-migraine pills daily, at some stage I got it: time to give the pills the flick. Adios, birth control pills! Welcome, migraine free life!
Hang on, not so quickly…
After about 3 years of taking birth control pills, my body was not going to get used to being without those delicious artificial hormones too fast. First things first. It got filled with acne.
My skin was never prone to acne before. Throughout growing up, I had usually one little zit, usually just prior to, or with, menstruation, sometimes it grew to a full-blown pimple, and that’s it. But now… At the ripe age of 27, I started growing some large pus-full pimples. On my face. On my upper chest and back. On my neck. Yum yum yum… Not to mention it took my period a good few months before I started menstruating again.
But the best prize?
Those migraines. They kept on coming. And to this day, a good 14 years or so after I stopped putting any hormones into my body, I still get them. It’s like, my body learned the skill of using a migraine as a coping mechanism of sorts, and now it uses it whenever it’s required. Luckily for me, I learned what triggers them and they don’t happen as often, but still, they’re there, spotting my life with their presence.
So what is my conclusion?
Don’t. Use. Hormonal. Birth. Control. Ever.
I know. You think I’m overreacting.
These days, we have other options – lower doses, slowly releasing hormones. Patches, rings, and I’m sure there are more.
Your body is not broken. If you’re using hormones for birth control, you’re literally damaging your body. You’re tricking your body into thinking it’s pregnant – but your body is not stupid. It will most likely fight back.
A lot of women have a horrific story about a contraceptive’s side effect. Bleeding for 3 months straight after inserting an IUD. Or enduring horrible pain. Or a significantly lower libido (kind of beats the point of using a contraceptive in the first place, doesn’t it?).
Instead of fighting against our own body, why don’t we learn to work with it and support it with the innate wisdom it can offer us? Learn about your cycle.
You got it, I’m talking about the natural planning method. These days, it’s super-easy. You have apps to track your cycle plus your body (basal) temperature. The apps tell you which days are safe and which days you need to be more careful and use another contraceptive (like a barrier). You get to listen and know your body better instead of trying to outsmart it.
This is your empowered body – don’t fight it, join it!