I make no secret of the the fact that taking hormonal birth control ruined arguably the best part of my twenties. Since ditching it 18 months ago, I’ve preached to whoever will listen about alternatives that don’t compromise the very fabric of a woman’s being. I offer evidence-based logic and a plethora of personal accounts from some courageous ladies that I have the pleasure of knowing why taking the pill might not be the best choice for your health. It has been glorious hearing one story after another of great awakenings and self-discovery after ditching that pesky pill. It honestly sets my soul on fire. Whether it’s sex drive, skin issues or soothing a leaky gut, I am an open book and revel in the discourse.
At a time when pseudoscience penetrates society more than ever before, it is vital that biologists like myself keep attention on the facts, so we know exactly what’s occurring, what isn’t and look at viable paths forward from our medical woes. When it comes to those precious bodies of ours, we can’t afford to be misled.
Some new research caught my eye this week and it’s pretty staggering. So much so that it threatens the very foundations of our relationships as long as we continue to stick to our daily birth control pill. I kid you not: the pill impairs our ability to interpret complex emotions in others. Let’s just pause and process that for a moment, shall we?
A team of German scientists wanted to expand on some earlier research that indicated that ladies on oral contraceptives detected fewer expressions of sadness, anger and disgust than non-users. We know that being able to accurately interpret the facial expressions of others is essential to our relationships, and with so little known on the side effects of hormonal birth control on our cognitive function and social interactions, even the slightest hunch is arguably worth exploring. Particularly when there are accounts aplenty across pill-users of ways the medication sent things south for them.
Participants in this study were invited to the lab, assessed for suitability (i.e. not on any psychotherapeutic treatments) and presented with various facial expressions with only the most subtle of cues indicting the differences. A special eye test was used to assess how their brains registered the faces and a statistical difference was found between those on hormonal birth control and those who were non-users. Interestingly, the differences were most pronounced in the realm of negative emotion rather than positive emotion.
Now, of course I won’t jump the gun and boldly claim that all women on the pill must be living with delusions of grandeur that everything is fine when it is not (ignorance is bliss though, as “they” say!) but it is worth taking a closer look. We know the pill changes who we’re attracted to. And this gets us into all kinds of trouble, chasing the wrong men and ending up in muddy water when we later decide to stop taking our daily dose for baby-making or general self-exploration. It’s understandably a really uncomfortable topic to talk about considering over 100 million worldwide take hormonal birth control—many of whom met their partners while on it!
But aside from all the stuff with our genes that’s responsible for this changing-who-we’re-attracted-to-malarky, the impairment of our cognitive function in allowing us to accurately interpret the thoughts and feelings of those around us really only adds fuel to the fire. Whether it’s our intimate relationships or wider social circles, not being able to correctly judge social cues from coworkers and friends might mean the difference between gauging when something has gone awry and letting it slip by; intervening at the opportune moment or letting the opportunity pass you by.
One of the things that I harp on about more than most of my nearest and dearest IRL (sorry guys) would probably care to hear about, is how deeply sad I am that the pill stood in the way of me and the authenticity that I wasn’t offered the opportunity to embody until I stepped away from taking it. The brain fog that it caused for near-on a decade dominated my waking life to the point where I missed more opportunities than I dare to count, if I’m honest. Yes, there were multiple factors combining to form the chaotic meltdown that was happening on the daily inside my body and brain, but how much of that was down to my inability to properly connect with others? Misinterpret the signs or miss them altogether?
We’re sitting on the cusp of a great feminine awakening. Better phrased as equality finally within our grasp. Jade eggs and goddess mantras aside (although if those things resonate with you, by all means go for it, babe!), we are long overdue a celebration of the female form in all its divine wonder. The balance that feminine energy offers to society as we pave our way forward through difficult times is invaluable. More understanding, nurture and empathy go a long way, so I’ll rally for all women to celebrate their authenticity for as long as I’ve got breath in my lungs and a voice climbing out of my throat.
If you’d like more information or are considering ditching the pill, Holly Grigg-Spall of the cult book Sweetening The Pill – Or How We Got Hooked On Hormonal Birth Control is running a 4-part workshop starting next week (Feb 27th) titled ‘A Feminist Guide To Going Off The Pill” that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make the informed decision to quit if that’s the best choice for you right now.
Have you been affected by the hormonal birth control pill?
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