HomeLifestyleThe Sharing Circle: Women’s Birth Control Stories

The Sharing Circle: Women’s Birth Control Stories

I stood there in front of the sexual health clinic, having swallowed two Ibuprofens, and holding my boyfriend’s hand. Crying children in strollers had followed us all the way there, the looming possibility of pregnancy right behind us if we just turned around. 

I signed in, waiting to hear what my name would be today, and smiled at the nurse who’d innocently butchered the pronunciation. The appointment was routine at first. Then, it wasn’t. 

From a conversation about IUDs and the pill to England’s terrible healthcare system, the nurse settled on birth control simply not being worth it. “What’s the point of it when your libido is so low you don’t even want it anymore”. I did not know what to do with myself. I nodded as she uttered, “Honestly I’d just wear a condom”. 

I went ahead with the IUD insertion, laid on the examination table, spread my legs awkwardly and waited as the nurse and gynaecologist opened the curtain loudly. What happened next is not to be discussed, but what was supposed to be mildly uncomfortable felt like fifty stab wounds. Indeed, Caitlin Moran was not lying, and I certainly should have taken some stronger pain relievers. 

After what felt like an eternity of “Oh, it’s not going in” and “huh, that’s strange”, I was told it simply would not work unless we used more intensive measures. The speculum was enough for me, and I ran back home with two packs of BC pills in one hand and my boyfriend’s hand in the other. 

The pill was a completely different story and one that can be compared to King Kong obliterating New York into dust and fire, but alas, that was me. Birth control seemed to work for just about any woman I spoke to. I wondered for long whether other women experienced the same side-effects as I did. The pill made me feel as though I were standing on a ledge, with a constant fear of falling. While my anxiety was high and my libido was unfortunately on the floor, my skin was flawless. Was I alone in this?

The Numbers

In a survey by NYU Grossman School of Medicine, 215 people partook in a survey centring on the hormonal contraceptive. The most common side effects mentioned were mood changes, sexual side effects such as loss of libido and anorgasmia and suicidal thoughts.

Findings from the same school recorded 188 responses, with 43.6% experiencing mood changes as a side effect at some point in their lives. However, mood changes were cited significantly more by women with previous psychiatric illnesses. 11% of participants stated that their condition significantly improved, with the majority reporting that their health provider never mentioned psychological side effects. 

According to Rachel K. Jones, 58% of women who use birth control use it for reasons other than just preventing pregnancy. Specifically, “Thirty-one per cent use it for cramps or

menstrual pain, 28% for menstrual regulation, 14% for acne, 4% for endometriosis, and 11% for other unspecified reasons.”

Indeed, birth control, according to Jones, is known to support women who require relief from menstrual pain, acne treatment and menstrual regulation. For this reason, birth control has been proven to aid women with underlying conditions such as dysmenorrhea and endometriosis, that would otherwise struggle in their daily lives. 


The Women

I searched high and low for women with differing experiences (a task much harder than I once suspected). Every one of these women felt strongly about their experience and to that I understand that no one body is the same.


I got on the pill for hormonal imbalances because, like many, I was told it would regulate my cycles and heal my hormones. It was great at first acne went away, pms stopped, and then slowly my energy, libido and happiness faded away. The way my boyfriend smelled changed. I lost attraction to him. I slowly stopped wanting sex at all. Talked to a gyno and was laughed at. Told me “If you have low libido and you are losing attraction for your boyfriend then find a new boyfriend”. At some point switched to the IUD hoping it would be better, but it wasn’t. And not to mention it was horribly painful to get in. They actually put women under anaesthesia in other countries because it is so painful, but the US doesn’t give a shit about women’s pain.

Got to the point I was a danger to myself because my depression was so bad. I hated myself for not wanting my amazing boyfriend anymore. I hated myself for being sad. Told that to my doctor and they said it was because I had generalised anxiety disorder and depression. Told my gyno I thought it was the birth control and she said she couldn’t see me for 2 months and that there is no proof it is the birth control.

Took matters into my own hands, removed my IUD 3 years ago and never looked back. Best decision of my life. My life is so much better & I can confidently say it was the pill that made me feel that way.

Now, as far as the hormonal imbalances I got on the pill for like acne and PMS. All that came back with a vengeance since it hadn’t healed my body, only put it on pause. Hit the mute button on its cries for help. So, I have been working on healing that stuff for the last 3 years and am finally back to normal.

Despite the women who have positive experiences with the pill, the unfortunate truth is that the pill has a negative impact on all women’s health long term via nutrient depletion. Many experts believe this nutrient depletion is correlated to a lack of serotonin production, potentially causing increased rates of anxiety and depression.

It may be helpful at silencing negative symptoms such as painful cramping or PMS; however, the pill does not treat root causes of hormonal imbalance. Only puts things on pause.


I think I’ve had quite a positive experience. Perhaps if I’d have been as educated as the younger people now, I might have felt about it differently at the time. But going back I was 16, we didn’t have the social media we didn’t have access to information that people have online about different stories from different people. Sometimes it’s a good thing sometimes it’s a bad thing because you might be misinformed about something.

When I was 16, I started my period and they were very heavy, making me really ill. Going to school, the pain, you know it just wasn’t nice. And it was a shock as well, it’s a shock for a teenage girl when they first start their period, no matter how much they read about it, prepare for it, and then you start thinking, God this is gonna happen every month, and then you start thinking this is gonna happen for the rest of my life. And I was doing GCEs at the time, and my mum took me to the lady doctor. We talked about it, and she suggested that I go on the contraceptive pill. She said it would control my symptoms, control periods it might work it might not.

And I remember I probably did put on a bit of weight at the time, but I think I was quite slim anyway, so it didn’t bother me at all. It did take quite a while for my body to get used to it. But once it did, I just felt so much better. I knew exactly when the period was going to start. I knew how long it was going to go on for.

As a teenager at 16 you know it really was a positive thing for me and I went up to A- levels and it was as if it was all in control. Early 20s, you meet your boyfriend, and it also came in handy then because I could be comfortable and enjoy intimate relationships without worrying about anything.

Then you go through your life, you know I’ve got to learn my work and my career, and I quite enjoyed that control and knowing that there was nothing that was going to knock me off track and that just gave me confidence. I didn’t have to have time off because of monthly cycles. I was fine, I didn’t have mood problems.

I came off the pill and we decided we needed a family. Then, when you have your family, you still have the issue of contraception, because I’m thinking I’m happy with what I’ve got. We can afford what we’ve got. I’d like to do a little bit of work. It was important for me to have that again.

Then, I didn’t have any contraception and worried a bit, had a few near misses, but the period started again getting really bad, really heavy, started feeling really ill. So, the doctor recommended the coil (Marina) for my age. I didn’t feel a thing (during insertion). They took me in, and they sedated me and put the coil in. That was better than the pill because I have had no side effects and it’s been brilliant for me; I’ve not had any worries. I don’t feel I’ve had any side effects. It’s controlled my periods. I think it’s helped me a lot.

But then now I think to myself gosh you know I can’t believe that this journey’s coming to an end. I’m 52 now so I think in a couple of years or a year they’ll probably take the coil out and the whole thing will not be an issue to me, not be a problem.

I’m a little bit nervous over it, taking it out. I’m not quite sure how they’ll do that. But I’ll be up front and say that I’m nervous about it to make sure I don’t want any pain. And, you know, hopefully they’ll listen.

And, you know, I just think people need to listen to positives as well. I see a lot of articles about young people and their use of contraception. I think young people as a whole are much more educated in terms of what they put in their body. So, when it comes to things like contraception and particularly taking the contraceptive pill, they are very sceptical about it and the effects it might have on them (which I completely get).


My experience with the IUD was not the greatest, unfortunately. It was the copper. No pain relief during the procedure. I was given pain tablets afterwards though. The actual insertion procedure was quick and not painful, so I was okay it no painkillers given when the procedure was done. I had it removed after 3 months of having it. I personally feel my body rejected it. I got extremely ill it was awful. My experience with it was awful. The worst contraceptive I have ever tried. Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The fact that my gynae was also reluctant to take it out didn’t help. He was adamant it wasn’t the IUD that was making me ill. Tried talking me out of removing it. I had severe headaches. Was nauseous all day every day. Couldn’t keep food down. Had no energy whatsoever, it just got worse with time. Would not recommend it to anyone.


I used to have debilitating periods (endo suspected). I would pass out, get nauseous, get the shakes, sweat anytime I got my period due to the pain of my cramps. I would miss school and work every month because I could not get out of bed. I was prescribed birth control and for once in my life I was actually having a pain-free period.

The negative side effects are actually talked about more than the positive and the negative fear-mongering of birth control is what stopped me from getting on birth control for months because I was terrified.

My doctor did warn me about the raised chance of blood clots but that’s only 1 in every 10 women who take birth control, and for me, the fact I can function properly on my period overrides that risk by a lot.

*All the names have been changed. 

Every Woman’s Body is Different

No woman has the same experience with birth control. While it is crucial to understand the facts and cautions, it is also important to go with your gut. No one knows your body better than you do. If and when you have a question, make sure to ask a doctor and always underline any former conditions or illnesses frequent in your family. 

While birth control will continue to be both positive and negative for women, the healthcare system certainly needs to provide women with a full-rounded explanation of birth control’s possible side effects. 

Additionally, as Caitlin Moran and Naga Munchetty have positioned, the lack of pain relief during the IUD insertion is abysmal. The procedure is invasive and can certainly be more than uncomfortable for some women. I urge doctors to at least offer a bit more than “two Ibuprofens before the appointment”. 

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  • Anaïs Wyder Pivaral

    Anaïs Wyder Pivaral is a Swiss-Guatemalan English Literature graduate from the University of York. With a passion for all things wellness and culture, she seeks to write stories that bring new dimensions and perspectives into the wellness, health and beauty industries.

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