The Rise and Fall of the Pill

Words by: Amelia Swan
Art by: Jessica La

“I think you should go on the pill.”

It seemed like an odd thing to say to me at 15. With a curly bob and a generous spread of bulging pimples, I was in the low-risk category for an unplanned teenage pregnancy. But still, here I was watching my GP write me a script for Femme-Tab ED 20/100.That story was the same for my sister a few years later, who was also put on the pill to help with her skin. Then a friend. And then another. It seemed every second girl was on the pill before they left high school, and almost all of us had an alternative reason for being on it rather than preventing pregnancy.

Despite the fact my sister and I were on the pill for the same reason, our reactions couldn’t have been more different. Where my skin cleared, hers flared up even more. Where my periods stopped, hers would flow heavily for weeks on end. The most terrifying difference, however, was the fact that while I was enjoying my newfound confidence, my little sister was at her lowest.

After a few years of daily notifications reminding us to take our pills, wild mood swings and even the odd pregnancy scare, one of us has settled on a copper IUD and the other doesn’t use any formal contraception at all. The one thing we agree on; we will not be going near the pill again.

Is this a common attitude to that potent pack of hormones though? General Practitioner Dr Cathy Brooker thinks the popularity of the pill has gone down in recent years, especially because doctors “love LARCS”.

Dr Brooker explained that LARCS (Long Acting Reversible Contraception) such as the rod, the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD are more effective than the pill. In comparison to the pill’s high doses of progesterone and oestrogen, LARCS generally have low levels of these hormones or none at all. The downside? According to Dr Brooker, implanting a rod or an IUD, especially in a teenager, can feel a bit invasive. 

The pill therefore remains an important stepping stone in using contraception, but with so many variables, there’s no way to know how it will affect your weight, skin, and mood. There is also the additional fact that the pill is only considered to be 93% effective against pregnancy, and the efficacy goes down with each missed pill.

I am left feeling that the pill was never the ‘one size fits all’ solution I thought it was when I was 15.

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