*This article was originally published by http://www.thecusp.com.au and has been republished here under first publishing rights, owned by the author**
I was sitting in my ex-boyfriend’s bedroom when I decided to stop taking the birth control pill. For six months, I had taken a pill every morning, and, for six months I had sunk deeper into a depression I thought there was no possible way out of. Despite my misfiring neurons, I came to the conclusion that slipping that piece of pressed white powder behind my teeth everyday had been the moment the crooked maw of depression had plucked me from a place of tolerable anxiety. Six months before I had still been a nervous wreck of a twenty-three-year-old. But I hadn’t been this ashen-faced, un-showered mess; watching the shadows grow longer and the whites of walls open up brighter as though someone was messing around with an aperture switch in my head.
A study conducted in Denmark and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women on the combined pill were 23% more likely than others to be treated for depression, and for those on the progestin-only pill there was a 34% increase. Similar results were recorded regarding IUDs and intrauterine contraceptives. Teenage girls were found to have the highest risk overall, with those taking birth control pills 80% more likely to be treated for depression. Considering the look of confusion on the face of the last GP I spoke to when I went to ask him if the pill could have been causing the upswing of anxiety and depression I was experiencing, this finding has been a blessing for myself and my female peers.
A study published by Reproductive Health reported that while 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, 50% of these women discontinue use within the first year, citing changes in mood as the number one reason. A report published by the Guttmacher Institute stated that 10.7% of U.S. women used no contraceptives at all. Research by Dr. Annie Dude suggested that many of the women relying on unreliable withdrawal methods of contraception were between the ages of 15 and 24 – however Dude still cited the IUD as the most effective method of contraception for Gen Y. In many cases hormonal birth control does not afford the freedom it has been marketed as for the modern woman. The dysfunction that comes with depressive symptoms can be life-altering.
“MY SEXUAL EDUCATION WAS TYPICAL FOR MOST GEN Y TEENS – I WAS TAUGHT ABOUT THE PILL AND INTRAUTERINE CONTRACEPTIVES BECAUSE THESE WERE CONSIDERED THE MOST EFFECTIVE”
Research in the field of endocrinology suggests that the chemicals we consume can carry serious health implications, mental and physical. Much of the commentary surrounding young women foregoing their usual contraceptives stems from the fact that so many women have been taking the pill since their early teen years, often going off the pill is an experiment to see what kind of person they are without these synthetic hormones in their system, how they will act and react.
We know contraceptives are necessary – they reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancy, and abortion – but current methods rarely align with what our lifestyles ask of us. That said, there has been some positive research into alternative methods of contraception. The male contraceptive injection known as vasalgel is currently in the process of being trialled and the World Health Organisation has also published a report raising the idea of testing traditional, complementary and alternative (holistic) methods – known as TCAM – to modern scientific standards.
I’m personally choosing to stay off the pill. My sexual education was typical for most Gen Y teens – I was taught about the pill and intrauterine contraceptives because these were considered the most effective and, as Dr. Dude suggests, the safest for teenagers. As I seek out my own information with the critical thinking skills adulthood affords me however, I’m choosing to consider my options in a broader sense.