I came across this New York Times article the other day while on my way to work, titled: How to stop your period.
The article casually states that the best way for all women to avoid menstrual pain is to stop their periods completely by using the birth control pill. After reading the article, I felt my insides start to boil a bit.
The first thought that came to mind: how did this get published without any pushback? The second: how can this reporter (without any medical background whatsoever) justify this as ethical journalism? I thought (hoped), perhaps it's an op-ed, but I was proven otherwise. I decided to hold off on sharing my opinions of the piece. After all, talking about periods is quite taboo, and sharing my opinions opens up a window of criticism and judgement.
But. It’s been a week. And it’s still on my mind. I’m sharing because I feel it’s irresponsible for me to be silent. Three main concerns surfaced for me.
The reporter pushes the idea of suppression being a solution: On a large scale, this article attempts to normalize the idea of silencing and suppressing the feminine. Our bodies communicate to us through various signs and symptoms, and our menstrual cycle in particular informs us as to whether our hormones are in or out of balance. When we experience pain, there is a deeper issue that is calling for our attention: e.g.: imbalance of estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid hormone. By taking time to learn our body’s language, we can start to have a conversation with it and can then respond with the appropriate solution for our bodies.
The reporter has a cavalier approach around the risks associated with the birth control pill: The reporter writes “As far as risks, Dr. Saleeby said that there are no known risks for using birth control continuously beyond the side effect profile that already exists for the drug.” Just what exactly is that side effect profile that already exists for the drug? PCOS, cystic acne, migraines, infertility, cancer, low sex drive to name a few. Failing to include these symptoms makes the article feel biased and irresponsible. I’m aware that not all women experience these symptoms, but as someone who has experienced most of them at one point in time as result of the pill, I find it concerning that they’re not noted.
The reporter carries the blithe assumption that this method makes sense for ALL women: The birth control pill affects every woman differently, yet this article and the health industry overall tends to push the belief that the pill is a one-size-fits-all solution. I encourage every woman to explore what works for them on a case-by-case basis. Listen to the signs and symptoms of your body, rather than listening to the opinions of others that may not know your body as intimately as you do.
This issue is close to my heart for a variety of reasons. As someone who has been negatively impacted by the birth control pill, I wish my doctor would have walked me through the side-effects before handing it to me so quickly and casually.
Had I known that the birth control pill would throw my hormones for a loop, resulting in random bouts of depression, anxiety, and low sex drive, I would have thought twice before taking it. Had I known that my energy levels would drastically decrease and prevent me from doing things I wanted to do in my early 20’s, I would have thought twice before taking it. Had I known that I would be greeted by severe acne after going off of the birth control pill for a full six months, I deefffinnitely would have thought twice before taking it.
Simply put: the birth control pill does not get along with my body. And I can bet that for my fellow women with sensitive systems, I’m not alone. Unfortunately, because many women have been on it for so long, we have come to believe these symptoms are simply who we are. It wasn’t until after I went off of the pill (and back on and then off once and for all) that I finally made the connection that these synthetic hormones were wreaking havoc on my system. Fortunately, I’m now able to look back and realize these rough times in my life were synthetically induced, but it was a long road before I figured that out. I wish someone could have told me that it doesn’t have to be this way, that it shouldn’t be this way, that there are other options out there that will better align with my body.
So, beautiful ladies: if that is also what you need to hear, it's my honor to tell you now there is a deep river of wisdom that’s accessible to all of you. Listen carefully to the signs and symptoms of your body. Start to hear her song so that you can eventually sing with her, and honor her, and love all of her. You do not need to turn down your volume in order to thrive.
Disclaimer: I don’t have a traditional medical background. I do have a health coaching degree with a speciality in hormonal health, experiences from being on birth control, and a deep passion for ensuring all women are equipped with the tools to listen to their body’s wisdom. This is my perspective, and these concerns are rooted in my own personal experiences.