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nikipedia's avatar

What are your thoughts on hormonal contraception (e.g., "the pill")?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) December 14th, 2009

Phoenyx recently asked about thoughts on a pill for men.

I was wondering: how do we feel about the pill for women? (The same question goes for other kinds of hormonal contraception: the patch, the ring, depo-provera, norplant, mirena, and any others I might be forgetting.)

Do you take the pill? Are there side-effects you don’t like that you just put up with?

Do you not take the pill? Is it because of side-effects or somthing else?

I am especially interested to hear about any cognitive effects you might have noticed. I study sex hormones and memory, so this is something I have wondered about for a long time now.

Finally, if scientists uncovered a very mild but negative effect of birth control, do you think this would discourage women from taking it? And would that discouragement be a bad thing?

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33 Answers

colliedog's avatar

There have already been rumors of negative health effects so to answer your last question I don’t think it discourages most people since they are used fairly commonly because of the importance of their primary advantages.

MagsRags's avatar

Every choice we make in life has risks as well as benefits, and that includes hormonal contraception.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I am so happy that women have the choice whether or not to take birth control. That being said, I don’t think that I would ever choose to take it. I am afraid of putting something in my body that controls my menstruation cycle. For me personally it feels too unnatural.

I also worry about side effects. I just don’t think we could know everything that there is to know about what it could be doing to women’s bodies.

janbb's avatar

I took them many years ago when they were probably much more dangerous than now. No ill effects thus far and the security gained was tremendous.

kheredia's avatar

Taking the pill has actually become more of an advantage for me. Growing up I always had an irregular period. When I was 13 my doctor prescribed the pill to regulate my period.
When I got off of it my period became irregular again. I started taking it again a couple years ago when I started having a more sexually active life. The particular pill that I am taking has worked great for me. I haven’t had any bad side effects.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

I know it’s really improved the lives of a few women I know, but not because of the security factor. Prior to going on birth control, said friends experienced absolutely crippling cramps, to the detriment of normal life. My housemate in particular would frequently have to stop in public and vomit into a planter because the pain was so intense. I think it that respect, any minor negative side effects are overshadowed by the ability to lead a more normal, pain-free life.

Spirit_of_the_Nomad's avatar

I have taken the pill for almost two years and have been quite happy with it. The only side effects I noticed was that my breast grew a bit. Other than that I haven’t noticed any side effects. As to your question about scientists discovering a mild but negative side effect deterring my use – It depends on what exactly that side effect might be.

delirium's avatar

Period (+ pain) regulation and safer sexual activity? Yes please!

fundevogel's avatar

I’ve used it, though am not currently. For me the risks involved were reasonable. I could accept an increased risk of blood clots to prevent the terror of pregnancy. I’m in good health and don’t smoke so the risks from taking the pill were on the lower end of the spectrum for me. Additionally, since I plan on remaining childless hormonal birth control may actually decrease my chances of getting breast (it increases in women that have never been pregnant). Though right now it looks like birth control that decreases the frequency of periods is best for that.

Birth control was also pivotal in women gaining autonomy and freedom both sexually and otherwise. Using hormonal contraception keeps me in control of my body. I would even consider getting an iud.

Likeradar's avatar

I made a decision about 3 years ago to stop taking hormonal birth control.

There were 2 main reasons: First, the physical and emotional effects sucked. Being on the pill made me break out, gain weight, and be hyper emotional. I even tried that pill that’s supposed to clear up your skin, and it didn’t help at all. I tried the ring, and adored it at first but then started getting horrible headaches around my period, which my Doc told me can be a side effect of hormonal BC.
Second, I got pregnant while on the pill. Also, the idea of taking synthetic hormones to regulate an incredibly normal and natural part of womanhood always weirded me out anyway.

For the past few years it’s been a diaphragm/spermicide and a condom, and it’s awesome.

Facade's avatar

I’ve been on the pill for a little while in the past (around the time when my boyfriend and I first met). I was horrible about taking it, so I just stopped. I don’t recall having any side effects. I just got some more; I start next month. I don’t think a small side effect would deter people. But “small” is also relative so, there ya go.

Edited: I should also mention that when I have the money, I’m going to get the Essure procedure done. Maybe my insurance covers it. That’d be fantastic.

randomness's avatar

I’m not taking the pill. I’m the sort of person who could forget to put her pants on in the morning…. there’s no chance I’d remember to take a pill every day. I’m currently using something called implanon, which is a version of the contraceptive implant. It’s pretty good, but there are side effects that I don’t like. My appetite has changed. I swing from being really hungry to not hungry at all (even if I haven’t eaten for a long time). Also, occasionally I’ll get some random and unexpected bleeding.

However, I feel that the good far outweighs the bad. I quite like not being pregnant, and I like most of what this has done to my menstrual cycle. Prior to using this, I had severe menstrual pain (to the extent that I’d lose consciousness in school, or vomit). Now, I might get the occasional and very mild cramp, but that’s it. Also, I rarely get periods at all.

If scientists discovered a very mild but negative effect to my birth control, I’d probably keep using it. It all depends on what this negative effect was, I suppose.

lonelydragon's avatar

If the choice was between unwanted pregnancy and the pill, I’d take the pill, but I look more favorably on non-hormonal forms of birth control because they have fewer unpleasant side effects (i.e. weight gain). Scientists, medical practicioners, and a lot of women are already aware of these side effects, which would discourage some patients from taking it. I am not sure if this discouragement is a good thing or not. It may be positive if it motivates medical researchers to create better alternatives to hormonal birth control.

fundevogel's avatar

@Facade What happens to all of the eggs stuck in your ovaries with Essure? I would wonder if that would effect your hormone levels or menstruation or cause some other issue.

Facade's avatar

@fundevogel I’m still researching it. I think it said your hormones won’t be effected. I don’t know about the menstruation and eggs yet.

casheroo's avatar

While I do find it a medicinal miracle…I have my own personal issues with it, that I would never push upon anyone (well, other than my own daughter- I wouldn’t want her to take anything hormonal, especially while developing.)

I know it has been around for quite some time, but I’m still wary of the long term side effects. “the pill” aside, I’ve read too many anecdotal experiences of women on Depo-provera developing PCOS, having major fertility issues, and emotional issues.
I was on the pill for quite a while, and never gave it a second thought…it almost seemed like it was just what you did when you became sexually active. And yes, going on it is extremely responsible, I think there is not enough education on the side effects and they are brushed off as “acne, weight gain, possible moodiness”
Well, what the heck is that moodiness about? We all know hormones can mess us up, and with girls starting the pills so young (I started at 14) who knows what sort of effects it could have on the developing brain (well, you might have an idea @nikipedia lol)

Of course, currently I am not on the pill, and have no been on it for quite a long time. I did go on it shortly after my sons birth because I get severe ovarian cysts and it’s the only thing that prevents them (that and pregnancy, but I can’t be pregnant ALL the time).
The only side effect I suffer is usually a decrease in libido..I’m very sensitive to hormones in that aspect. Usually the pill clears up my skin, and makes me less moody during my period. I did two doses of Depo, and it made me lose a lot of weight and made my skin awful…I was 16 and decided it wasn’t worth it.

I would rather do natural family planning, but it takes a lot of work. So, I prefer condoms. I don’t find them restrictive at all, and it doesn’t ruin the mood at all.

Oh and to answer your last question…I don’t think it would affect the majority of pill users. There are tons of mild negative effects from taking the pill, most all we’re all aware of. I think there would have to be some huge discovery for people to finally take a second look at taking the pill.

SuperMouse's avatar

Before I had children I was on the pill for about eight years. I loved being on the pill and was fortunate not to experience any side effects. It regulated my periods and it was a simple, easy to use form of birth control

After going off the pill it did take me about eight months to get pregnant. I have no idea if being on the pill was the cause, but I do know that it only took one try to conceive my second child – after I had been off the pill for a couple of years. But by far for me, the greatest advantage of taking the pill was the prophylactic benefits related to breast and ovarian cancer. Since my mother died of ovarian cancer at a very young age I know that I am at increased risk. Taking the pill for at least five years seems to cut that risk. To me that is huge.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I’ve been on the pill for many years and I have noticed some side effects. I’m not positive the issues are directly linked to the pill. I’m just just assuming. I recently went off the pill for a couple months to test my theory out.

While on the pill my sex drive seemed rather low.
When I stopped taking them, it increased.

While on the pill I got lots of headaches.
When I stopped, the headaches were less.

While on the pill I seem to get intense mood swings before my period.
When I stopped the pill, at first I seemed to have more mood swing than usual. I assumed it was because I stopped putting hormones into my body after almost 7 years and that was my body’s reaction.

On the pill I had very predictable periods. They were always on time and very short, light, and fairly painless.
Off the pill my periods were unpredictable, very heavy, and extremely painful.

While on the pill I never had a pregnancy scare.
Off the pill I had a scare within the first month.

After a few months I realized the pros outweighed the cons and I got back on the pill.

MagsRags's avatar

@fundevogel and @facade the Essure doesn’t cause eggs to get “stuck in the ovaries” anymore than they do when a woman has had a tubal ligation. The ovaries continue to ripen and release an egg monthly just like before. The unfertilized egg is a single cell, invisible to the naked eye. It dissolves in the tube without a trace, just as it would in any other woman who ovulates and doesn’t become pregnant in that cyle.

rooeytoo's avatar

I took the pill for about 5 years when I was young and just married, that would have been 1965. I lost weight because it made me feel so badly I couldn’t eat. That was my only problem with it. I then became tired of feeling nauseous and I hated altering my bodily functions with artificial substances so I stopped and switched to a diaphragm.

I have also avoided HRT for the same reason.

Shemarq's avatar

Its been around long enough that doctors and the public have a pretty good idea of what the risks are. I was not able to take the pill because I had other hormonal issues going on (thyroid) and for some reason I felt sick and dizzy on it—but I know I’m an exception as far as that goes. I like that it gives women the power to decide if they want an active sex life without worrying about getting pregnant. New and improved forms of contraception are coming out all the time, so there may become a time when the pill is old news because of more convenient and safer forms of contraception out there.

fundevogel's avatar

@MagsRags Ah. Apparently my crappy Florida sex ed failed me in another way. They told us that the egg went out with the period, I hadn’t realized it could just as easily be broken down by the body.

I feel kinda stupid for not realizing that. As you said, its a cell, not depleted uranium.

Violet's avatar

I think almost every women should be on it, and it should be free for women who can not afford it. There are too many crappy parents, children going into foster care, etc..

evegrimm's avatar

I haven’t read any of the other answers, so forgive me if I am repeating what someone else has said.

I am on “the pill” for several reasons. One, I used to have very irregular, very heavy periods, with extreme cramping and moodiness. Another reason why I am on “the pill” is because it helps control my hormone levels, making my face break out a lot less. Finally, while on “the pill”, I only have to put up with my period 4 times a year.

I dislike the spotting that often happens as a side effect, but put up with it.

I admit that having been on “the pill” for many years now, I am frightened of the buildup of the chemicals in my body. Soon, I will have to make a choice about what to do instead…

fundevogel's avatar

@evegrimm They actually think hormonal birth control that lets you skip periods is easier on the body than no birth control at all.

The reasoning is that the female body evolved to be almost perpetually pregnant or nursing after reaching sexual maturity—that was the normal state of affairs prior to birth control. Under those conditions a woman very rarely menstruates and therefore is not designed to be perpetually bombarded with the hormones associated with menstruation. Instead she goes through a repeating cycle of menstruation hormones, then pregnancy hormones and nursing hormones. It is thought that the constant flood of the same menstrual hormones might be responsible for the higher rates of breast cancer experienced by women that have never been pregnant.

Therefore, if you’re planning on not ever getting pregnant, there are reasons to believe that hormonal birth control that suppresses menstruation might actually reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.

Take that Florida school board.

Cupcake's avatar

I tried birth control pills this past summer before I got married. I developed severe anxiety, mood swings, nausea, anorexia, headaches, etc. I think @fireside thought I would call off the wedding – I was a mess. I was ready to go on anti-anxiety medication, but called my NP who suggested I go off the pill and schedule an IUD implantation (which we had discussed as a possibility at a prior appointment). I immediately felt better after stopping the hormonal birth control. The NP was not comfortable with suggesting the Mirena IUD due to the hormones and another potential reaction, so I got a Paraguard (copper) IUD.

I couldn’t get the IUD implanted until 5 days before the wedding what a mistake!! The implantation was excruciatingly painful. I was in bed taking prescription-strength Ibuprofen around the clock. I was barely up and around by the wedding. I bled like crazy. Now the pain of my periods is awful. My flow is very heavy. I dread my period each month. But I’ll take pain over being a hormonal wreck all the time.

That being said, I think birth control pills are literally life savers for many, many women.

MagsRags's avatar

@Cupcake I can see why your NP was leary about inserting a Mirena, given how sensitive you were to the combined OCP, especially with only 5 days before the wedding. That said, there’s a good chance that you might tolerate the Mirena. It’s just one hormone, progesterone, as opposed to estrogen and progesterone, and only 5–10% of the progesterone circulates in the bloodstream, so systemic hormonal side effects are pretty infrequent.

If you wanted to see how you might do with progesterone alone, you could consider asking your NP if you could try the POP Progesterone Only Pill for a month or two while you stayed with the Paragard IUD. If you didn’t sink into the Pit of Despair on that, the Mirena probably wouldn’t phase you. And you wouldn’t have the heavy bleeding and cramping to deal with. It would mean another painful insertion of course, so you may want to stick with what you have.

If your NP hasn’t mentioned it already, NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naprosyn can reduce overall flow with the period as well as the cramping if taken at prescription strength. For ibuprofen, that’s 600 – 800mg 3 -4 OTC tablets 3 to 4 times a day, maximum 2400mg/day. Take it with food so you don’t get an upset stomach and start as soon as you know your period is starting – don’t stop until you know you’re through your usual bad days. Naprosyn is easier to take at prescription strength with an actual prescription – OTC tabs are 220mg and prescription 275mg, so the math is not as simple.

Cupcake's avatar

Thanks @MagsRags – great advice as usual.

I’d like to get pregnant in a year and a half or two… so I think I can tolerate this for now (and each month hope that it gets better). I’ll keep all of that in mind, though, and consider it next time around.

rockstargrrrlie's avatar

I started taking the pill (Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo) when I was 18, and stopped when I was 21. Most of my side effects were mild- my breasts got a little larger, but I didn’t really notice any weight gain. At that point, I had really good skin with only an occasional pimple during my period- on the pill, I didn’t really have any of that. My sex drive seemed the same and my mood didn’t change- although I was also on Prozac at the time.

I switched health insurance when I was 21, and through some pharmacy error was accidentally given the generic regular Ortho Tri Cyclen. I’m prone to migraines, and the higher dose of hormones made it so I had a constant migraine throughout my period (it was often debilitating) as well as minor ones throughout the month. I took myself off the pill shortly thereafter, as I wasn’t having sex at the time and didn’t think it was worth it.

At 23, my gyn prescribed me Seasonale, where you only get your period once every 3 months. I took it for maybe 2–3 months and decided I disliked the physical side effects too much to continue- I suffered from spotting here and there as well as white discharge.

I’m not opposed to the pill- if I had health insurance, I’d likely be back on it now.

fundevogel's avatar

@rockstargrrrlie Planned Parenthood paid for my birth control while I was on it. Just because you don’t have insurance doesn’t mean there aren’t options, for this at least.

rockstargrrrlie's avatar

@fundevogel It’s actually an option I’ve looked into, although not pursued at this point since it hasn’t gotten to be an issue at the present.

fundevogel's avatar

@rockstargrrrlie so long as you’re not in a jam :)

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