What You Need to Know About The Pill as Birth Control: The Pros and the Cons

by | Oct 10, 2018 | Libido, Sex, Uncategorized | 42 comments

For women deciding on which birth control method to use or those considering switching methods, here's a list of the birth control pill's benefits and side effects from REAL WOMEN!
Merchandise is Here!

This month on Wednesdays I’m talking about birth control! And today I want to spend a whole post dedicated towards The Pill, because it’s such a common method.

When I say “The Pill”, though, that’s a bit of a misnomer, because so many different hormonal formulas count as “The Pill”. Some have estrogen; some do not. Some are mostly low-dose progesterone; some are high dose. Some women react really well on one sort of formulation and horribly on another. As I print comments, then, these can’t be taken as indicative of EVERY formulation of “The Pill”. But since I can’t comment on every one (and most women don’t know what they’re on anyway!), we’ll just look at it in general.

Also, the issues with The Pill revolve around the hormones that the Pill uses to stop ovulation. (There is some controversy, too, about the possibility of ovulating when on one of these hormonal methods, but then the environment in the uterus has changed enough that the fertilized egg can’t implant). Other birth control methods also use hormones (like the patch and the shot), and so their effects would be the same. The ring and the hormonal IUD are also hormonal, but the hormones are more localized and so some of these effects aren’t experienced as much.

For the purposes of this post, I’m dealing mostly with The Pill, because that’s become the “go to” method for so many women when it comes to preventing pregnancy, but I wanted to make it clear that other methods also function in similar ways, and so would likely have similar effects.

First, let me tell you my own biases. I freely admit I am really, really biased against the Pill.

When I took it when I was first married it destroyed my libido, and it made me really moody and angry. When I took it a few years ago to relieve some bleeding problems I was having, in the first month of starting I got blood blisters (I thought I had a bed bug infestation!), blood clots, and a 5 pound weight gain, after staying at exactly the same weight for quite a few years. Other family members also find that The Pill has triggered weight gain and caused terrible moodiness and depression, even after trying different formulations. In several cases, after being stick thin for most of their lives, family members have started The Pill temporarily and gained weight, and never recovered their metabolism. It’s had lifelong effects.

What do Readers Think About the Pill Overall?

On the poll for my Instagram stories, as I currently write this (the poll is still up), 32% reported liking it while 68% reported hating it. When I asked open-ended questions on Facebook, 74% of women reported negative experiences with The Pill, while 26% liked it. (I didn’t include those who gave mixed reviews, or those who were against the Pill but didn’t report any personal side effects). I don’t think my numbers are scientific, though, because people who are negative are more likely to comment.

Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and replies to last week’s email, I had over 250 women’s stories. I’m overwhelmed and can’t include them all! So I’m just going to summarize the broad themes.

Because I’m biased against, I asked people who loved The Pill to send me in stories, and I’m going to include them first.

Women Who Loved the Pill

Women Saying: “Worked Great for Me!”

Had tons of these types of comments. I’ll run two of them here, but there are tons more at this Facebook post:

I was on BC pills for years and had no issues. On the contrary, my skin cleared up beautifully, I wasn’t prone to mood swings with my periods anymore, and the only weight I gained was in my bust (so no complaints there lol).

Another woman said:

I’ve been on the pill for about two years as haven’t had negative side effects. I used to have extremely heavy, irregular periods, and now they’re moderate and consistent. My libido’s maybe shifted around, but it hasn’t decreased.

Women Saying: “The Pill SAVED my hormones”

For many women, The Pill cleared up problems with their periods or endometriosis:

I was on the pill for about 65% of my 21 year marriage. I had no side effects, no weight gain and no decreased libido. We have had a happy, healthy and active sex life the entire time. The pill actually helped me with some of the side effects of PCOS. After delivering my second child and then going back on the pill I actually lost all of the weight I gained from the PCOS. My younger sister didn’t ever start her period and had to be given a shot to kick start it at 17 and then immediately put on the pill to regulate it. She also has PCOS and the pill was exactly what she needed to get her body functioning properly and then she had no problem getting pregnant.

Another echoed her success with PCOS:

The Pill is the only thing that works for my PCOS. I have zero negative side effects. It has given me predictability, clear skin, lack of hirsutism/acanthosis, and so much self-confidence! Plus not only I have not gained weight due to it- I have lost some!

Another woman said:

I was put on the pill at 19 for ovarian cysts that ruptured and were extremely painful. The pill fixed the issue and I was on them faithfully until I married at 23. I went on to have 3 healthy girls with no issues and no side effects.

Read the Facebook post for more positive ones (that were all pretty much along these two veins).

However, most of the comments I received were negative, and people tended to have different reasons for not liking The Pill, so I’ll have more to post here to sum up the problems. (But remember–there were a lot of good comments, too!)

Women Who Hated the Pill:

Women Saying: “The Pill made me feel physically lousy.”

I had numerous commenters talking about nausea and migraines. One woman wrote:

I was so nauseated and sick on the pill… I might as well have been pregnant.

Many had the same experience:

The pill gave me morning sickness no matter when I took it or what kind I took.

And then there were the headaches that many reported:

I had to take them in my early 20s due to PCOS, but started having migraines for the first time in my life and was told to stop taking them and never take them again due to risk of stroke.

Another woman said:

Horrible Migraines, several every week. They were so bad, I felt like I was dying. Went off of them because of a friend’s advice and migraines went away.

(Note: if you get migraines when you’re on The Pill, that may be a sign that you’re someone who is at a higher risk of stroke with The Pill. Talk to your doctor, please! This could be serious.)

We also had reports of other health issues, like gallbladder problems, gut problems, and especially blood clots (by many commenters; I had that too):

I had a horrible experience on the pill. My emotions were crazy and all over the place. After being on it for only about 3 months (at 21 years old), I developed three blot clots in my right leg.

Women Saying: “The Pill gave me long-term health effects.”

One woman said:

I was extremely regular before starting it and The Pill completely unbalanced my hormones. I now have severe PCOS and while on the pill, my moods changed so drastically that I was suicidal. Only 5 months in, I quit cold turkey and almost immediately felt myself again. But it caused me some serious medical problems I’m still dealing with 4 years later.

Another echoed her:

I was ok the pill as a teen and it destroyed my cycle too. I also have PCOS and have so for 17years. Its never going to go away.

And then so many also mentioned weight gain:

I gained 15 pounds in what seemed like overnight.

Women Saying: “The Pill killed my libido.”

This is the most common complaint I get about The Pill from people randomly writing it to me. Here’s what a woman said last week:

When I stopped taking the pill my libido went way up, too, and a few months later I finally achieved penetration for the first time (vaginismus) and O for the first time (One and a half years into marriage!)

Here’s another common one:

No sex drive! When I finally got off the pill- I thought, ” wow, is this what desiring your husband feels like?” I decided I would not go back on it.

This one kind of sums it up:

Let’s just say the Pill was an EXTREMELY effective birth control method. No libido, no baby.

Women Saying, “The Pill made me so moody and depressed.”

A woman who loved the fact that Pills could help you control WHEN your period came eventually stopped them for this reason:

It causes mood swings, and I’m fairly certain that it ‘put me over the edge’ into (relatively mild) depression a few years ago, which had absolutely disastrous effects on our marriage.

So many echoed her (and I’ll just include a bunch of them):

  • I never had any emotional issues prior to using the pill. Afterwards I had crazy mood swings and eventually a depressive episode.
  • I had horrible mood swings with this pill. The first week after my cycle would be fine but each week after would get worse and worse. I remember locking myself in the bathroom, crying for God to help me be nice to my children.
  • I can feel myself being angry and out of control but I can’t do anything to stop it. Kinda like watching me from afar.
  • It was horrible. I cried all the time, was so depressed, gained weight. My husband practically dreaded coming because I was so messed up. Lovely for your first year and a half of marriage.

Several women even said it made them physically aggressive:

I was on the pill before I got married. (PCOS) my dad took them away because I was violent.

Here’s another report:

I became emotionally unsettled. I could go from 1 extreme to the other in a short time. I would be depressed and not know why. When I was aggravated once I became physically combative(not at all in my character).

And here’s a scary one:

I stopped taking the pill when I turned around with a knife in my hands and screamed at my husband through clenched teeth that I didn’t care anymore….

 

Women Saying: “The Pill messed up my fertility.”

I had a lot of these comments–women saying that The Pill triggered infertility or miscarriages, and many more who got pregnant when on the Pill. I decided not to include these because, in the case of infertility and miscarriage, they weren’t trying to get pregnant beforehand, so it is hard to know. I do believe these women; I’m just trying to paint a not-as-bad picture as possible to be fair. (And even when I do that, there are lots of negative effects!)

What I have found, too, is that a lot of people on The Pill who think they have no side effects are actually experiencing many of them without realizing it.

Especially if you went on The Pill before you were married (which I did), you may not recognize the side effects when it comes to libido. And if you have other changes in your life, or other stresses, women often blame moodiness and depression or anxiety on these things rather than realize The Pill’s hormones may be exacerbating the problem.

I get so many comments like this one from last week’s post:

After my first child, I used BC pills. I had lighter periods when I had always been super heavy and had super clear skin. After I quit taking them to get pregnant with my next, I realized that the pill was what was making me have NO libido and much less pleasure. No wonder we were both miserable, sex wise.

Here’s another:

I’ve been married 16 years and have always loved bc pills. The problem that I recently discovered with them is that they lowered my libido drastically! After researching, I discovered that women 43 and older only have a 1% chance of conceiving so I decided to just take my chances. Sounds crazy but it’s been the best decision bc having a higher sex drive has completely transformed my marriage!!

Or there’s this:

I started the pill in grad school when I was super stressed and depressed and my periods were getting irregular, but I realized that even after I graduated, got married, and had a great job, I was still depressed. I felt nothing all the time. Got off the pill and was back to my happy self.

Finally, a few more considerations about The Pill that I want you all to be aware of.

The Pill is the only method where you’re incumbent on “Future You” to make sure you’re not pregnant.

Here’s the problem: The Pill only prevents ovulation if you take it at the same time every day. And sperm can live and inside you for up to 5 days.

That means if you get a really bad stomach flu and can’t keep your pill down, or you get in a car crash, or you are traveling and your purse is stolen or for any other reason you can’t get to your pills for 48 hours, you can become pregnant even though you were taking your pill when you actually had sex. When you have sex, you can’t know what’s going to happen in the next 48 hours.

You can’t control now what you did in the past, and you can’t control right now what will happen tomorrow. All you can control is what you are doing right now. And the birth control pill is the only type of birth control that takes away the “right now” factor of preventing pregnancy. Using barrier methods? You either use it correctly at the time, or you risk pregnancy. You have complete control. The Pill relies on future you, and future you isn’t always under your control.

The Pill actually has significant environmental effects, too.

Women using the pill release hormones in their urine, which is then released downstream into the environment. In concert with pesticides and chemicals like BPA, the pill acts as a potent endocrine disrupter in frogs (it causes sex changes and birth defects) and the active ingredient in the pill causes behavior changes in fish. There’s some concern that the low levels of hormones that are now in our drinking water are affecting us as well.

If I had one thing I want people to know from this post, it would be this: The Pill does not have to be the default method for birth control. 

Some people have a great experience, and some people have a horrible experience with lasting effects. But you just can’t know which group you’re going to be in until after you’ve started taking The Pill. 

I think that’s really risky.

When you actually look at the percentage likelihood of getting pregnant with perfect use, the condom actually scores better (it’s more than 99% effective, versus The Pill at 98%), and the diaphragm is almost as high (88%-96%). We don’t have to alter our bodies.

If you choose to, I understand, and I think that’s entirely your choice. I just want to make sure that it’s an informed choice. Don’t do The Pill because it’s “what everyone does”. Use it only after you look into other people’s warnings, and then decide for yourself that you still think it’s the best option.

Later this month we’ll be looking at the different methods of Natural Family Planning, and how to make them work for you.

Pros and Cons of the Birth Control Pill as Contraception with Hormonal Birth Control

And now I’ll leave the comments open again: What do you think of The Pill? Did you know that there could be these kinds of side effects? Or did you sail through with it and loved it? Let me know in the comments!


Our Birth Control Series:

 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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42 Comments

  1. Steph

    Hello Sheila,
    I didn’t read this post. I saw the first one on the “birth control” series last week and didn’t like it but kept my mouth shut. I didn’t say anything the other day either. I don’t like the graphic you are using for this and I don’t like the topic and I’m not ok with the amount of coverage you’re giving this topic without covering the other side of it. I am a faithful reader of many years now and I had the great pleasure to hear you speak in Canberra and meet you in person. I look up to you a lot. Birth control is a misnomer and needs to be seen clearly. It is neither about birth nor about control. Artificial B.C. has major moral issues. The most common “The pill” contraceptives are actually abortofacients. I have read in depth pharmacological studies proving this. Barriers methods and sterilization remind us of God’s anger upon Onan wasting his seed and being destroyed. I believe this to be true just as much as I believe you are a wise woman with great marriage advice. But I feel my soul can’t be at peace until I write this …. you have a lot of impressionable newly married women reading this blog. I understand I am opening myself up to being ripped apart but I feel and believe very strongly on this matter. God bless you!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Steph, a lot of people would agree with you. Its like god giving you an incredible gift and by using bc you are like saying “thanks god, but ya, no thanks”. God bless steph, and i found the picture used for this post to be a little tacky too.

      Reply
      • Anna

        I don’t get it. The picture is tacky? It’s a woman’s lips and a pill. How is that tacky?

        Reply
      • Cara

        Lol not everyone wants kids

        Reply
    • KB

      I’m also one who is hoping that you will talk more about the potential abortive effects of taking the pill. I was horrified to learn that this was a possibility, and sure enough, it was listed in the drug abtract for the pill I was taking. I don’t think this is talked about enough, and it makes it difficult for Christian couples to make an informed decision!
      As for not using any birth control at all, I think each couple really needs to come to that decision on their own. Each personal and family circumstance is different, so we can’t give a blanket statement that no one should ever use birth control!

      Reply
    • Cara

      You really should read something before you comment negatively.
      She brings up the abortifacient aspect. She actually is pretty biased against the pill. Honestly, if I were pro birth control pill (or hormonal methods at all) I would have second thoughts after reading this series.
      How is a picture of a woman’s lips with a pill tacky?
      I’m sorry you’re so offended by an informative series which could benefit so many women to find out what to use and what not to use but I’m ever so grateful that sheila hits the hard topics.
      Sheila-what a great series!!!! Keep up the good work helping us women. My daughter is trying to recover her health after the pill tried to destroy it.

      Reply
      • Steph

        Hi there,
        Actually I’m all for informing women, and I did indeed find the above graphic distasteful. I realize Sheila is not pro-pill as I’ve read her for years. However I don’t believe this to be an unbiased series. Will the next series be on the beauty of big families or trusting God or on why marriages are reflective of God and His love without the life-killing contraceptive mentality? It is a whole mentality, friend, and it is a problem. We are told children are expensive ….really? Well let’s blog about how to reset our priorities and save money and invest in eternal souls instead. I’m sorry you don’t see it as I and many others do. But I do find the whole contraceptive MENTALITY concerning. NFP or FAM is not contraceptive in nature (as long as no barriers are used, simply abstinence at the necessary times) and I know Sheila likes NFP. However, even NFP can cross a line into that zone of concern when used for the wrong reason. But we aren’t talking about “blessed is the man who’s quiver is full of many arrows (children)”- are we? It’s all about avoidance. Let’s have our pleasure and avoid the blessed consequence. To me this is very unlike God and real love.

        Reply
        • B.O.

          You know what? We can’t live like we “ought” and just get all the blessings we can from sex. Why? Because we live in a messed up fallen world where kids are shipped off to school every day or the mother is stuck homeschooling all alone and kids hardly see their fathers, and mothers go psycho with all the blessings she has to deal with all day every day!

          Reply
          • Steph

            Hi, I have six blessings who are 10 and under, one income, husband just had major back surgery, I DO home school and I’m not going psycho….I think it would be lovely to have people support we mothers in challenging situations instead of saying “just use bc”….I’m sorry you have such a rough road. It hasn’t not been tread before by others and we really need to all support one another in these tough years. It’s not peaches and cream for me either but I refuse to succumb to the modern world’s empty ambitions and false promises and in Christ all things are possible!

        • Becky

          Steph,
          This is not intended to be a slight on larger families, or on your own personal convictions. But in this modern age and fallen world, there are sometimes valid reasons to avoid a pregnancy within a marriage, and I don’t believe that using certain tools to do so is outside of God’s will. I can give you three just from my own life right now.
          I’m on the older side for starting a family, as I didn’t meet my husband until I was in my 30s. During my second pregnancy, I was considered high risk just because of my age. And in the course of it, a hip issue that started on a mild level during my first pregnancy became much worse, to the point where I needed nearly a full year of PT just to be able to walk around without constant pain. Both my PT and my OB/GYN strongly advised that I give my body at least 18 months to rest before trying for another pregnancy. And I don’t think it’s selfish or sinful to look after my own health enough to be the best mother I can be to the two children I have.
          We were actually considering trying for a third pregnancy soon, and then we learned that my husband is getting laid off next month. Which means we’ll lose our health insurance if he doesn’t find another job by that point. In the US, at least, going through a pregnancy without health insurance IS prohibitively expensive. And it would undo all of the work that we’ve labored and prayed over to move towards a debt-free life. With the financial resources we have, it’s wiser at this point to try to avoid digging us in deeper.
          Finally, I’ve been fighting vaginismus for my entire marriage. Hip issue aside, both of my pregnancies were very physically difficult for me in other ways. I have a hard enough time relaxing enough just to avoid pain every single time I have sex with my husband. If I had the additional stress of possibly getting pregnant every time we do, frankly, this whole situation would be even harder for me than it already is, and intimacy in my marriage would be basically nonexistent. So I thank God that we have the technology for things like barrier methods. Marriage is about more than just having as many children as you physically can, and what God’s will for you is in how many you have is not a black-and-white directive for all of us.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Great point, Becky–just like big families can be a blessing, the ability to say “we’re done” can be a HUGE blessing, too.
            I do have a few problems with this idea that using birth control is trying to get around God’s plan–Yes, kids are a huge blessing. But that verse is a blessing verse–not a command. It doesn’t say “have a lot of children or God will be disappointed in you.” Nope. And the only verse that shows God angry at someone for having sex with the intent of avoiding pregnancy? That was a case of a man shirking his responsibilities and duties to give the woman a child who could care for her since she was a childless widow. But then he still got to have sex with her anyway. God was mad because he used her without holding up his end of the bargain.
            It’s not as simple as “everyone should have as many kids as possible;” it’s more, “if you are able to have a bunch of kids, what a blessing that will be!”
            Like when Jesus says “Blessed are those who mourn,” we don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that we all need to mourn. It’s clearly a promise for people in those situations. The verse about having a ton of kids isn’t phrased any differently, so we can’t decide which blessings are commands, and which are simply that–blessings.

          • Steph

            Hi Becky,
            I’m an American and totally know how hard the insurance is over there. I never said by the way that everyone should have as many children as they physically can have. Please see my reply to Sheila some bit down from here that I wrote to try and clarify a bit more. There is a lot of emotional arguing going on here but I’m trying my best to clarify my points! God bless!

        • Kim

          While I respect those who choose to have large families, it’s not the right decision for everyone. There are several instances where planning out your family is the smart and responsible choice. I’m on the pill because I don’t have a moral opposition to them and I believe my doctors and all the science proving that they don’t terminate existing pregnancies. I also don’t have the finances right now to add a fourth child. I also refuse to have more children than I can provide for. It’s irresponsible to tell women to keep having babies if they don’t have the resources to properly care for them. Just because it’s what YOU believe doesn’t mean that everyone else is wrong. It’s extremely judgmental and condescending to say your beliefs are the only right ones. Please take into consideration that not every woman is meant to be a mother or can handle a ton of kids. I have a very close friend who had decided against having children because she knows she is not capable of being a good mother. She knows she’s not selfless enough and I think she is being very responsible in choosing not to bring a child into the world that she cannot devote her entire self to despite the pressure she and her husband get from their families. Just remember your beliefs are not everyone else’s and you won’t change anyone’s mind by being judgmental.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I would agree, Kim.
            I do understand the concern that entirely separating sex from procreation changes sex, and makes it far more self-oriented rather than selfless.
            Yet at the same time, I just do not see that God wants everybody to have huge families. In Old Testament times, a large family meant: 1–you became richer because you had more people to do the work; 2–you were safer because with multiple marriage alliances, people would come to your aid if attacked; 3–you had an old age security plan, because children would care for you, and those without kids were often in dire straits in old age; and 4–often fewer than half of the children that you had made it to adulthood, so you needed many, many children to ensure 1-3 came about.
            Today none of those things is true; in fact, the opposite is true in many cases.
            There’s another aspect that I’ve witnessed. If you look at girls from very large families (especially the oldest girls), and follow them throughout their lifetime, it’s amazing how few choose to have large families themselves. Large families don’t always replicate large families, and those who have large families often came from small families themselves.
            I’m just back from a 6-day road trip to New Brunswick for a family reunion for my mother-in-law’s side. She was one of 14 children, yet there are only 42 cousins in my husband’s generation. So though everyone loves their siblings, those 14 kids mostly chose to have smaller families.
            I would love to hear from those who came from large families about their experiences, because I think their perspective is needed here, too. Often we make it into only a theological or moral debate, when it affects these children in these situations profoundly. As an only child myself, I would be the first to say that having only one child (when it’s your choice to stop at one) is very, very hard on that child. Kids need and deserve a sibling. I’d be curious about the perspective of those from large families as well, because I do think it matters. It’s more than just a theological debate.

          • Steph

            I wasn’t being judgemental. I think many of us worry about the kind of mothers we’ll be…I know I did! To me marriage and children go together. Many a woman has no idea about the mother inside her until she holds her newborn the first time. Please don’t accuse some of judging another, I am trying to bring up points not talked about here. Please see my answer to Sheila below. Thank you.

        • Chris

          I heard a priest say once “abortion, pills, gels, condoms, iuds, whatever, its all fruit from the same tree.” The thing about NFP is that you can use it to avoid pregnancy, or to cause it. None of the other methods give you that choice. I am however seeing a trend that is not OK and that is seeing these young couples getting married and they have decided to have the soon to be husband get the vasectomy first. You are just profaning the sacrament at that point. There is nothing in christian doctrine that says one has to get married. But if you do, you have to be open to the possibility of life. By going into marriage closed to that possibility, you are in fact profaning marriage. To those who say i am judging, i am ok with that. To those who say they want to be married but don’t want kids so they can better serve god, imagine how much better you could serve god if you were single and didn’t have to worry about the concerns of a spouse. To Sheilas point below about big families not begetting big families, most of the nuns i had as teachers were some of the older girls in big families. Maybe they felt like they had already changed enough diapers and they knew how much work parenting is. So they chose to serve god instead. Nothing wrong with that at all.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            See, Chris, you say that people are going against God’s word but there isn’t any scriptural basis for that.
            Although I agree that we can sterilize too quickly, people decide not to have kids for various reasons. If, for example, someone had a genetic disorder that could lead to a fatal disease and they decide to get sterilized instead of passing that on, that is their decision to make. Again, I would agree that in general, we are too quick to sterilize. But I think it’s incredibly dangerous to universally say what God’s will is on a topic where there simply aren’t black-and-white scriptural references to back it up.
            I also recognize that this belief against birth control is accepted by the Catholic church. But most other Christian denominations don’t hold the same belief. And both belief systems have been arrived at through careful study of scripture. So stick with your convictions, of course, but understand that others have very valid reasons for believing differently, as well.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Steph,
      Thanks for commenting, and I do understand that this is a highly controversial topic. However, it’s also a very necessary one, because the vast majority of Christian women do use The Pill when they are married, and it’s very, very important to talk about.
      As for The Pill causing abortions, I did mention that some studies show that. However, every single Christian OB-GYN that I have spoken with says this just isn’t true. I still believe it likely IS true, because I know women who do get pregnant while on The Pill, and if it’s possible to get pregnant, then it is likely that even more fertilized eggs are unable to implant, because the condition of the uterus has changed. However, The Pill is nothing like Plan B, where you take it to abort. It really isn’t. And the medical journals (who are pro-abortion, and no pro-life, so they don’t care if it causes abortions) do not say that it causes abortion. So I’m just very unwilling to wade in to the science of it when I am not a scientist or a doctor. And I do have extremely pro-life doctors in my family (who are even part of Canada’s fight against euthanasia) who say that it isn’t an abortifacient. So I just want to stay out of it, and instead just share real people’s experiences so that others can make an informed decision.
      I know that some people are vehemently against The Pill. But I would just ask you to also understand that the vast majority of young Christian women do use The Pill, and I think it’s better to just talk about it all in a safe environment than to come down and say, “You are evil.”

      Reply
      • KellyK

        I took the pill for the first year and a half of my marriage. The thing is you have to take the pill at pretty much the EXACT SAME TIME EVERY DAY otherwise, you could get pregnant. Same thing if you forget to take it one day. Or if you are taking any kind of antibiotic while on the pill, which will make it ineffective and you could end up pregnant. Many doctors fail to tell their patients this when they are on the Pill and are also prescribed an antibiotic. That while you are on the antibiotic, you’ll need to use a back-up method of birth control, like condoms.
        As for me? A 46 year old woman with a 55yr old husband, He got a vasectomy over 10 years ago. It’s been 100% effective.

        Reply
        • Ashley

          I want to comment that from all the reading that I have done, you don’t have to take the combination pill at the same time each day for it to be effective. You do have to take it around the same time, like before bed. But if you take it at at 9:00 one night and at 10:30 the next night, you’re ok. It’s the progesterone only pill that you have to be so much more careful about timing with.
          Also, I took topamax and the pill together for a couple of years. That has the same effect as antibiotics and the pill. But I didn’t get pregnant. Would I advise anyone else to do that? No, not unless you are open to the possibility of pregnancy.

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      • Steph

        Sheila
        I never said anyone was evil. I also never said that everyone should just go make as many babies as they can as fast as they can. I am being accused of saying things I didn’t say. I find a lot of emotional arguing happens here. I was not being condescending or know it all. I have suffered much in my marriage as a high drive spouse who has had to have periodic continence at times when I couldn’t balance another pregnancy either. But I don’t regret that. Life is hard, doing the right thing is hard. What I was originally pointing out is that I find this contraceptive mentality concerning. Entering marriage already contracepting. Already lacking generosity with God. I am Catholic and blessed to have the Magisterium of the Catholic Church guiding me so that I don’t have to argue for hours on end trying to figure out what God’s intent was with this or that Bible verse. What I understand God desires in marriage is souls to be happy with Him in Heaven and to glorify Him in Heaven forever and ever. Obviously we need prudence. I didn’t think I’d be able to even conceive a baby when I got married as I had lots of female issues happening and that’s what a dr had told me. I couldn’t believe it when I was pregnant 6 weeks after getting married! God’s plan is always the perfect timing. When we use periodic contience or NFP it is really hard, really a sacrifice. But it isn’t birth control in those times when that prudence is needed. One is not contraceptive but abstaining from their rights which they are free to use or not use. But I do have friends who use NFP as birth control and share that contraceptive mentality. Sheila, what I’ve been trying to say, apparently not clearly enough, is I think these conversations are one sided and need to be stood even further back from and discussed from all sides. I personally find it demoralizing to assume that everyone is using or wants to learn to use BC from even the start of marriage! Why people see my thoughts as mean and judgemental I honestly have no idea!
        Blessings,
        Steph

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      • Christine C.

        Sheila, I just wanted to chime in and say that Plan B is not an abortion pill. It is taken to prevent ovulation and/or fertilization. If you are already pregnant, it will not cause an abortion. There are abortion pills, but Plan B is not one of them.

        Reply
    • Ashley

      Steph, I read this post, and I’ve read your comment and all the replies and I just have to add my own reply. I want to share my story with you, at least the nutshell version. The man I married turned out to be an emotional abusive sex addict. Once I realized what I had gotten myself into I definitely didn’t want to have children with him. I used various kinds of birth control throughout our entire marriage. (We are divorced now.) Of course people in my church had no clue what was really going on and judged us for our “empty quiver.” Not having children with him was a very wise decision. Right now I am having to live with my parents because I can’t afford even a small apartment on my own. What if I had 3 kids? And what would the emotional ramifications be that those precious babies would have to endure? It’s bad enough that I have had to suffer. It’s unthinkable that sweet babies would have suffered along with me.

      Reply
  2. KR

    thanks for the info! Something else to consider is the moral implications of birth control pills as well, since it doesn’t prevent the sperm from meeting the egg- it just prevents it from implanting in the lining of your uterus. Something to think about in terms of when you believe “life” starts.
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Christine C.

      KR, the birth control pill’s primary mechanism is to inhibit ovulation. If there is no egg, the sperm has nothing to fertilize, and a pregnancy cannot occur. They also cause your cervical mucus to change so that sperm have a harder time moving. Some people theorized that it also works by preventing implantation, but most scientists say that that isn’t true. In any case, preventing implantation isn’t the primary mechanism–the chance of fertilization happening is so miniscule.

      Reply
  3. MB

    I think that the weight gain from the pill is likely less than weight gain from pregnancy and post-pregnancy – also that many women are afraid to admit that as we mature our bodies are bigger, and are blaming a maturing (and heavier body) on the pill.
    There are many women who benefit from the pill who have endometriosis, which actually is very regulating to both hormone and energy levels. See this study: https://youngwomenshealth.org/2014/08/01/endometriosis-continuous-hormonal-pills-ocps/
    I think that the Pill gets a really bad-rap because it is blamed for changes that are already happening for the woman.
    I would also question anecdotal evidence from someone who cannot name what type of pill she is using, she may be attributing the rise of the sun to the birds singing.
    The pill is not complicated to learn. You can learn about them and based on your own body knowledge, navigate which is better to try. Some are known to have a few months to adjust.
    I absolutely agree that there are more options than the Pill. I am just concerned that it is getting a lot of bad PR in the past decade when it actually is not as negative as what has been portrayed (women, we must learn the formula and our bodies!).
    Personally I do not like the idea of the IUD as it actually has MORE hormones than the pill and requires a profession to insert/remove. I like the freedom of the pill…..
    Of course there is always abstinence, condoms, or having sex with someone who does not have active sperm.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Of course weight gain from the pill is less likely than pregnancy weight gain–weight gain while pregnant is unavoidable and completely healthy!
      But a lot of us really did experience intense weight gain while on the pill and were not warned about it. I can name the exact brands of BC I was on, and it severely impacted my weight. I have friends who had the same experience. And the minute we got off the pill? Dropped 15 pounds again.
      This whole idea of “we must learn about the formula and our bodies” works great if your body is one that reacts well to hormone treatment. But I really wish I had known these effects before I went on the pill in the first place–it really screwed with my head to the point that I became suicidal, which is why I got off the pill eventually.
      The pill is getting a bad rep for a reason, tbh–because people who have bad reactions were not warned by their doctors. So now we feel we need to warn others because we wish we had been fully informed!
      But just because it isn’t as negative for some people doesn’t mean it’s not horrible for others. We just all need to know the risks going in, and right now they aren’t being told well.
      Overall, don’t be so quick to dismiss people, claiming they’re stupid so their opinions don’t matter. I recognize the pill is great for some people, but comments like this are quite offensive and unnecessarily patronizing.

      Reply
      • Cara

        Rebecca-
        👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
        Yes!!!! I want to share what happened to my daughter and to myself because drs hand it out like candy with no warning.
        Also, that’s ridiculous to say that someone is gaining weight and blaming the pill. My daughter was 18. That’s HARDLYam she that is associated with middle age spread. And her other (atrocious) side effects-seriously, she was tested for colon cancer and other intestinal issues-started soon after starting the pill. With NO other changes.

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    • KSM

      FYI the IUD’s hormone (progesterone) is contained in the uterine lining and not released systemically like oral contraceptives. I like the freedom of “set it and forget it”, but to each their own. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Olesya

    You missed a big one. Hormonal contraceptives aren’t perfect, and can result in ovulation, which then allows for conception. However, the uterine lining will not be fertile to allow implantation to occur. Thus unknowingly allowing for a very early abortion. It’s not just a health issue, but a moral issue if you believe abortion is wrong (hopefully your readers do!).

    Reply
  5. SC

    I personally had a good experience with the combo pill in my early married life. No real side effects. Was able to get pregnant quickly after coming off them too. However, after my 3rd child, I decided to try a progesterone only pill because I had a friend (my same age – early 30’s) who had had a stroke (possibly birth control related). This pill sent me into a deep depression where I considered suicide (I had never even struggled with depression before). I was fortunate that those around me helped me realize that the depression was hormone related and I got off the pill and recovered quickly.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous wife

    I agree with your stance on the possible risks of the Pill. In fact, I would choose not to take it even if it weren’t for the physical/emotional side effects (which sound bad enough!), simply due to the risk of a very early and virtually undetectable abortion. I’ve found Fertility Awareness to be a good alternative because it poses no risks to anyone’s health and helps me to be more aware of my own body and why my mood might be different throughout the month, for example. I understand that some women need hormonal birth control pills to treat PCOS or another condition; I just think it’s best to avoid them if possible.
    Thanks for writing on this complicated subject!

    Reply
  7. Ashley

    I have mixed feelings about the pill. I’ll try to sum them up though. I don’t believe it’s evil. I was on it for 4 years and had my hormones tested during that time by my naturopath. She forgot I was on the pill and told me my hormones were the level of a menopausal woman. She was concerned! Then I reminded her I was on the pill! Anyway, I said all that to say that if my hormone levels are so low, I’m not at all worried I was ovulating and aborting.
    I can identify with what another commenter said about thinking symptoms are caused by the pill that aren’t necessarily. I started having migraines after being married a little over a year. The pill was a possible culprit, and I did change which one I was on a couple of times trying to get relief. After taking the pill for a little over 4 years I went off it to see if that would fix my migraines. That was 2 years ago, and I still get them. I have determined my unhealthy marriage was the cause of them and some other health problems.
    I was glad for my own natural lubrication once I went off the pill. But I enjoyed sex all along.
    Something I don’t think anyone has mentioned is acne. When I went off the pill, it was like being like a teen again, especially on my period. It took a few months for my face to clear up, but it did. A lot of people feel like the pill fixes acne, but it doesn’t really fix it; it just hides what the underlying problem is. I’m not saying don’t take it. Just be aware of that.

    Reply
  8. J. Parker

    I had a great experience with the pill for years, and then I don’t know what happened, but it all changed. Big-time. I became clinically depressed, my doctor put me on an antidepressant which I ended up having to stop, but then when I got off the pill for other reasons, my depression lifted. A few years later, I had a second bout of depression on the pill, and when I stopped taking it, the depression went away. My doctor suggested we try different variations to find what type/dosage wouldn’t give me depression, but at that point I was DONE messing with my hormones. I asked for alternatives, decided on a diaphragm, and loved it! All this to say that the pill might work great for a while and then not. And, as you say, there are definitely alternatives.

    Reply
  9. Heather

    Although I recognize that the Pill works wonderfully for many people I get worried that it has become the new antibiotic of the medical world. Ear infection? Antibiotic. Cough? Antibiotic. Even if it’s considered to be viral, doctors will hand out antibiotics just to give their patient something (when antibiotics wouldn’t do a thing against a virus). Many women go on the Pill because of hormonal issues, but they’re just covering up the symptoms of a much bigger problem. They’re trading one health risk for another (blood clots, headaches, all the things you mentioned). The underlying problem is still there and I believe that a lot of women are not being advised to try to change their eating habits or lifestyle in order to treat their disease. It’s a benefit but also a disadvantage of modern medicine. You don’t HAVE to change anything about your life because you can just take a pill.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I think this is actually a really good point. I’ve had hormonal imbalance issues for years and have gone on the pill twice to try to fix them. Both times the issues just came back as soon as I got off the pill.
      What I’ve found helps is actually–shocker–a ton of intense cardio and strength exercise. Either on their own don’t work. But if I do both, or HIIT training which combines them, my hormonal issues start to go away. Same with eating healthy–I eat a ton of chips/processed foods, I have a horrible period. I eat more nutrient-dense foods? They get better.
      Mind you, this did take my body 3 years to figure out. But I 100% agree that we shouldn’t use the pill to cover up issues that could be fixed by lifestyle changes. I wish I had learned this when I was 15–I think I’d be a much healthier person if I had realized that my relative inactivity could have been triggering the issues I was facing (and I’ve never even been overweight or really out of shape and my body was still reacting to inactivity! My body is just made to be a lot more active/athletic I think, I think, so it wasn’t getting what it needed).
      That being said: people with actual hormonal issues may really really need hormone treatment. But I also do agree that there are many people like me where the pill was just masking symptoms, not solving the problem.

      Reply
    • Ashley

      I agree with you, Heather. I would highly recommend going to a naturopath for some of those things. It can definitely be expensive, and not everyone can afford that. But it made a difference for me! So many things can be treated with better diet and good supplements, but many times we don’t want to do the hard work, or simply don’t have the know-how. I tend to have too much estrogen in my system, and I currently use a progesterone cream to help bring that down. I’m also supposed to be including flax seeds in my diet daily, but I forget. Oops!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes! A good diet! And I love flax seeds, too. And chia seeds. Smoothies are your friend!

        Reply
  10. nylse

    I never did like the pill – for most of the reasons mentioned.
    I came from a big family and never wanted a big family – but I sort of ended up with one thanks to not being able to figure out BC.
    BC is burdensome and does reduce the pleasure of sex, but I never felt that it was a moral imperative to have as many children as I could based on my understanding of the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if I was misguided in this area – anyhow, its true a lot of young ladies initially try the pill. My daughter did, even though she knew that I didn’t think it was the wisest choice, but came off because she had some of the side effects mentioned here The youngsters I find are really good with making NFP work, and I think that’s commendable.

    Reply
  11. Tricia Leng

    Shelia, thanks for posting this. I had horrible side effects and major surgery due to the pill and doctors no longer would prescribe them for me. Now both of my daughters are married and I am concerned for them.
    But my basic question for you is this – I have read that there were actually birth control pills developed for men but never were commercialized because of side effects that weren’t nearly as severe as for women. Do you know if this is true or have any resources? I am unhappy about the fact that birth control is mostly deemed a female problem and leads to so many life altering things like abortion, for example. Just wondering if you had knowledge or thoughts on this topic.
    Thanks so much for your blog and your courage to address such topics.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Tricia, YES to your question about birth control for men. They did develop a pill that would stop sperm production, but it made men moody and lose their libido and tender and sore, and so they couldn’t market it. And yes, that’s basically what the female pill does to women, too.
      We really do need to talk about this more, because it is seen too much as something that the woman needs to care of! And then it’s expected that she’ll take these potentially drastic steps just so that her husband doesn’t have to use a condom (sorry if I’m getting worked up, but you should see the emails I get). We do need to change the way we talk about it.

      Reply
  12. Ali

    I took the Pill from the beginning of our marriage. I spotted with the first one, so was changed to a different one, but as you mentioned was the case with so many others, I don’t actually know anything at all about which Pill I took. I had no side effects of which I was aware in any way, and when I stopped taking it two years later, I became pregnant in that cycle and had a normal pregnancy. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that the low-dose Pill I took was not overly effective in preventing ovulation or fertilization, just in preventing implantation, which is the main reason I now would not recommend it.
    However, after the birth of my second child, I did have two injections of a hormonal birth control, each “good” for three months. Although I experienced no side effects while on it (except for no period, which I appreciated!), shortly after the second injection I learned that, like the Pill, it seldom prevented ovulation or fertilization, just implantation. After the second injection should have “worn off,” it was another two months until I had a period, and then I bled for 8 weeks. My periods were extremely random in timing, duration, and heaviness over the next year. Not until I went to a different doctor to find out why I wasn’t getting pregnant did I learn that the erratic periods and lack of fertility for such a long time were quite typical for that injection, and that doctor did not recommend it. He was quite honestly surprised when I did get pregnant with my third child as soon as I did (not much over a year after discontinuing the injection).
    Since then, when wanting to prevent pregnancy, we have used the diaphragm. (Twice for just a few months after a miscarriage, to give us time to heal emotionally, and then continually from about a year after the birth of our sixth child.) The one time I got pregnant in the last seven years of continuous use was definitely because of sporadic use, not because of ineffectiveness of the diaphragm itself. Although the baby wasn’t planned by us, we were very sad then to lose the baby, and relieved to know that it was not caused by our method of contraception.

    Reply

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