The Pill: Not Everyone's Magic Bullet

The pill is 50 years old, and everyone’s throwing a party. Since it’s introduction, millions of women have had control over their fertility and their lives in ways that were totally unknown to the world before.

But it isn’t great for everybody. Today in Salon, Geraldine Sealey shares her own misadventures with the Pill. Her story sounds a lot like many, many whispered conversations I’ve been part of about how hormonal birth control isn’t all it’s promised to be.

For Geraldine, the dealbreaker was the way it killed her sex drive. This happens to a small number of women who take birth control pills, and there’s not much to be done to fix it other than going off the pill.

For me, it was the mood swings. On birth control pills I swung around the mood map like a manic-depressive. Off them, I’m fine. For a few weeks after my second child was born, I tried the Mirena (a hormone-laced IUD). Within days I was immobilized by depression, which cleared within a few days of having it removed and never returned.

I have another friend who went off the Pill because of how it affected her energy. She needed to sleep too many hours each day and couldn’t focus at work. Still another friend stopped trying to use hormonal birth control after she got pregnant on it twice.

For those of us the Pill isn’t a saving grace for, there are pretty seriously limited options. There’s a copper IUD which works well for many women. This is where I ended up, though it’s also an imperfect solution. Anecdotal data suggest that a lot of men, like Gretchen’s boyfriend, can feel it painfully poking them during sex.

Then there are barriers. Diaghragms, cervical caps and sponges have high failure rates and are a messy disruption to lovemaking. Condoms are, well, condoms. We’ve probably all used them and experienced the joy of stopping what you’re doing to put on a condom and then have sex through a layer of latex.

The Pill has been great for generations of women all over the world. But it’s time for a better option for the rest of us. Let’s see more research and innovation on this one, please.

Photo:Jenny Lee Silver

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