I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary since ditching hormonal birth control (HBC)—and what a year it has been. I prepared myself as much as possible for the skincare and dietary changes that I would need to support my crazy hormones through their journey to homeostasis. I battened down the hatches for what might be horrendously painful periods. I read every book and blog and braced myself for whatever my body was going to throw my way. Only, some things you can’t prepare for.
So much has changed in this past year that I believe to be a direct result of letting my body get back into its natural rhythm. It’s also been an incredibly empowering process. But, it hasn’t been easy and the more research I’ve done into the consequences of interfering with our hormones through the likes of HBC, the more sinister I’ve found the entire industry to be.
Today I’m discussing relationships in particular, and the devastating effect that HBC can have on them. There’s some super interesting science going on, so try to stick with me here. You might even find yourself shouting at the screen “KAT, THIS HAPPENED TO ME!!!” by the end of it and girl, I am so with you if that’s the case.
The pill does many strange things to our bodies as a result of interfering with our natural hormones. This can have short-term perks such as preventing pregnancy, clearing up acne and getting rid of those heavy periods. Sounds like a panacea, right? Only, as many women out there will know, this often comes at a price. For some, it’s the battle with poor mental health that ensues. For others its the extreme mood swings. And some women encounter the very real risks of things like Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), breast cancer and heartbreaking struggles with infertility later in life.
When you come off the pill, you can’t prepare yourself for every eventuality; particularly if you’ve been on it for much of your adult life. It’s hard to predict how your body might cope with the bounce-back. One such area that is going quietly undiscussed is the way that the pill alters those to whom we are attracted. There’s a silent epidemic among women ditching HBC and losing interest in their partners almost overnight.
In our natural state, we are attracted to men with Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC) genes that are different to our own. This signals to us that making a baby with said individual would result in healthy offspring with a strong immune system. Regardless of whether you actually want children or not, this is how attraction works and the genes are detected via body odor.
So this all makes sense, right? The aim of any organism is to produce healthy offspring and further the species. Only, the pill does something really strange: it reverses the genes to which we’re attracted. Numerous studies have found that HBC confuses our senses and makes us attracted to men with similar MHC genes to our own. This has huge implications, because it means that children born from the pair are likely to have a weaker immune system.
The reason that HBC does this is that it puts the female body into a state similar to that of pregnancy. And when you are with child, it’s more important to you–whether you like it or not–to be with a partner that will help raise that child; not with someone that you find attractive and want to make more babies with. This reverse attraction is thought to arise because pregnant women are more likely to seek out family members. Genetically similar men…more like a family member…it keeps getting weirder, doesn’t it?
When it comes to sexual satisfaction within relationships, another study found that women who had inconsistencies in their methods of hormonal contraception while in a relationship were likely less satisfied in that department than women who either abtained from hormonal methods altogether, or those who were consistent with the method used for the duration of that relationship.
Relationships are tough enough as they are, without us interfering with this most basic aspect of ourselves. With rates of failure through the roof you’ve got to ask: why do we keep putting ourselves through this? Why aren’t we made aware of things like this before being handed our prescriptions?
My five-year relationship ended within several months of coming off the pill. There were several reasons for our parting of ways, but a part of me can’t deny that this may have factored into it. The more that I’ve connected with other women on their journey back to healthy, happy hormones, the more shocked I’ve been at the sheer number of instances that coming off HBC has led to another relationship failure.
But it’s the relationships that don’t end that concern me most; those women that are forced to remain silent because marriage or children complicate matters and make it that much harder to walk away. Who is the voice for those women? Who can give them the support that they need?
As I navigate the world post-pill, dealing with what my body throws at me, I am happy to persist with the healing diet and hormonal breakouts, the period pains and daily charting of my cycle because the satisfaction of knowing that the me I’m putting out there into the world is the authentic version brings me more joy than I could have ever thought possible. And my nose no longer lies.
Have you experienced any relationship difficulties as a result of hormonal birth control?