Prisoner of The Pill

May 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm (books, feminism, rants) (, )

I just finished reading a wonderful and hilarious book, Bonk by Mary Roach.  As the name may suggest, the book is about sex, well, sex research to be specific.  I’d recommend this book to pretty much anyone who is open to finding humor in the more bawdy and intimate aspects of our lives.  We’re all human, we all do it, and frankly, sometimes its pretty darned funny!  So anyway, after giggling throughout most of the book, I came to a part which nearly made me cry in outrage.  No, it wasn’t about sexual abuse or violence (that would have REALLY made me cry), it was a short section on something that is unfortunately near and dear to me, The Pill.

On the surface, The Pill is a wonder-drug.  No babies, no acne, regular and lighter periods.  For all of these reasons, I, and millions of women like me, are on The Pill and have been for some time. I have personally been on it for about 10 years (and I’m only 27).  I started it because NOTHING else would clear up my skin as a teenager, plus my cycles were infuriatingly irregular and unpredictable.  Little did my 17 year old self know that in 10 years, I would feel like a slave to these tiny pills.  Due to medication that I am on that can cause severe birth defects, I HAVE to be extremely vigilant about not getting pregnant.  My partner and I both feel that condoms are not a reasonable alternative due to their propensity for misuse as well as our simple desire not to have to use them.  And after condoms there are VERY FEW non-hormone based contraceptives.

About a year ago, I got fed up with The Pill and took my grievances to Planned Parenthood for the purpose of getting an IUD (intra-uterine device) – the copper kind, not the one that just sits in your uterus pouring hormones into it.  First of all, the entire visit to PP was unpleasant.  The nurse who took my vitals asked why in the world I wanted to get off The Pill.  She poo-pooed the idea of a diaphram (not that I want one, but she shouldn’t have made that assumption) as being “messy” and hard to use.  In my actual consultation with the doctor, she dismissed my complaint that The Pill was causing bloating and weight gain.  I’ve never been a skinny person, but I know my body and I knew that this constant stream of progesterone – the hormone that pregnant women produce that tells their bodies not to lose fat – was doing nothing good for my weight issues.  This doctor also told me that IUDs are only appropriate for women who have already had children.  While this may be the more standard application, I don’t feel that it is exclusive, this particular doctor just didn’t feel comfortable implanting them in childless women – and she told me as much.  So I left PP feeling demoralized, dejected and without any options.  They practically threw a new prescription for Pills at me.  I got the distinct feeling that PP is being subsidized by Pill-producing companies.  Probably not true, but that was my impression.

So this brings me back to Bonk.  Mary Roach was discussing how a woman’s hormonal cycle normally causes an increase in sexual drive during the time of month while she’s ovulating (makes sense).  But women on The Pill are receiving a constant and steady stream of estrogen and progesterone which levels out their hormones, basically dulling their natural cycle and urges.  Much worse yet, The Pill induces a protein which binds to and inactivates testosterone in the blood.  Why do women need testosterone you may ask?  Well, it is the “hormone of desire”.  Without testosterone, women have greatly lowered sexual drive.  I was enraged by this.  I was NEVER told of this side-effect.  I guess diminished sexual desire is not anything worth discussing as a possible reason women would not want to use a particular drug.  I knew that I was taking estrogen and progesterone and I was already none too happy with the possible and actual side-effects of those two hormones, but now to know that my testosterone levels are also being diminished?  Holy Hell.  Can you even imagine if a birth control medication for men blunted their libido?  There’d be outrage.  No no, there wouldn’t because no drug like that would be taken by millions of men for most of their lives.

I’d love to hear from anyone else interested in this topic as well.  Has anyone heard about the use of copper IUD’s in women who have not been pregnant?  Its still something I am seriously looking into.

1 Comment

  1. rehull said,

    At one point I seriously looked into an IUD… I would of preferred the copper kind as well. I had to have a couple extra tests done during the “yearly visit” and I had been looking into the price and where I could have it done. This was also at the time that BC jumped from $11 to $36/month. There were a couple things that kinda stopped it:
    – price ($150… but no one could tell me for sure if that was just for the procedure or also the device)
    – the invasiveness
    – messing with something that I didn’t know how well it works in the first place (I’ve had many friends having issues with the whole getting pregnant thing).

    This past January, my insurance at work changed, and now BC has gone from $35 to $60 per month (or a little over $44/month if I do the mail order stuff). And I’ve actually started thinking about it again, but I talked with my mom today (yes, 2/21/09) and she helped me decide to just wait it out for now (more the $$ thing than anything)… and how it is a lot cheaper than having a baby :)

    One of my friends told me about the lowering in sex-drive from BC like 4 months after I started taking it for the first time (she takes it sparatically depending if she’s in a relationship or not, so she can tell a difference). I wasn’t feeling like myself and that explained it… I almost thought I was depressed or something. I don’t like the hormone thing about the whole BC. I think K and I have talked about the guy BC-pills (not seriously) and he said he would never take it… we were basically discussing how it’s kinda a weird expectation that the girl has to be the one to take it (and take care if the BC issue in general) and mess with her hormones instead of the guy, so I totally get the anger over what you’ve found out a great time after you’ve been taking it.

    So that’s my take on it all. I think that if the IUD is something you still want, you should just go for it. I think I’ve waited too long deciding now, cause I wouldn’t want it in there for long enough to be worth it for me before I would want it out (~4-5 years before babies). I think if I just would of done it when I was looking into it, I would of been happy, but that was ~2-3 years ago and I don’t want to be 35 when we’re having our first baby. I think I would do the copper-IUD at some point in my life though… when we wouldn’t want a permanent BC solution cause you just can’t plan the future.

    SO, the actual point of me posting on here before I saw this topic, is I saw your “cryptic message” on your other blog. You don’t have to tell me, and depending maybe you should tell Kurt first if there is something to tell…. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I saw it and I just hope everything is ok with you (and G too), and just wanted you to know that :) I don’t want to force you to tell me anything you aren’t ready to tell and I thought writing here would be a good place to say that. I’m just going to assume everything is ok, unless I’m told otherwise ;)

    P.S. -… I’m sorry you had a horrible experience at PP. I’ve been thinking about going there to support the woman’s right to make a decision about their bodies, but am fearful of an experience similar to yours. Someone told me today that some off-brand-PPs are actually a Christian organization in disguise that tries to talk women out of abortions…. Have you ever heard of anything like that?

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