I was 13 the first time someone suggested that I go on birth control. It wasn’t because I was sexually active (I hadn’t even made eye contact with guys I had crushes on yet). It wasn’t because my periods were irregular or painful. They were normal, in the sense that they’d come and they’d go every month around the same date. They told me to try it because it would clear up my acne-ridden skin.
I had pimples but so did other people at that age. I didn’t mind them. They give me a defining characteristic. There were four Jennifers in my grade and people would refer to me as the Jennifer with the pimples, which wasn’t the worst thing to be called in middle school.
Over the years, conversations about birth control have popped up in what feels like all areas of my life. At brunch, friends share how they are switching from one kind birth control pill to another because the one they were on made them moody, depressed, or gain 10 pounds. Over text messages, friends will share the news that they’re getting an IUD or going off the pill to try and get pregnant.
It’s also a topic that’s been in the news a lot recently. The Affordable Care Act gave millions of women access to no-copay birth control. However, the Trump administration changed that and eliminated the guarantee of no-copay birth control.
Even though I wasn’t on the pill, reading the news and learning that politicians are still controlling whether or not women have access to a pill, made my (period) blood boil.
It’s a topic that also comes up every time I visit the gynecologist for a yearly exam.
“Birth control will solve all these problems,” she promised as she scanned my face, feels tissue lumps in my breast, and hears about the ovarian cysts I recently found out I had.
“I’m not going to give you the option to say no,” she told me, handing me a prescription slip for birth control pills I can pick up at my local pharmacy.
I’ve become good at telling her, “I’ll think about it,” and then going home and ripping up the birth control prescription. Just because she recommends it year after year, doesn’t mean I will change my mind.
These are the four reasons I refuse to use birth control and why nobody will change my mind.
1. Too Many Choices
Finding the right birth control feels like dating. You have to try one out for a month or two, before seeing how it affects your body, your mood, and your cycle. Then decide if you want to keep using it or kick it to the curb. There’s Alesse, Lessina, Levora, Yaz, Yasmin, Nordette—and they all sound like names of people I used to be friends with in high school. There’s also the option of taking a pill, wearing a patch, getting an IUD, inserting a ring, or getting a shot every 12 weeks.
Every time I consider trying one out, I ask my close friends if they’ve ever tried that one and, just like Yelp reviews, I find out that some love it while others had such a negative reaction (like weight gain, depression, even more pimples) and my frustration sinks in.
I don’t want to go through a trial and error phase with my body, my mind, and my cycle just to find a birth control that works well for me. To me, It seems like a better idea to just ride out my symptoms instead.
2. I’m Team Natural
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been against putting things in my body that aren’t natural. I won’t take Advil when I have a headache and I won’t take cough medicine when I have an uncontrollable cough. I don’t like medicine or anything that changes the natural state of your body.
Birth control pills or patches contain man-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones work to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy and stop the body from ovulating.
It’s always seemed unnatural to me to take something that stops you from doing something your body was designed and meant to do.
3. Too Many Side Effects
While friends and gynecologists will say that birth control has its perks, it also has a handful of side effects that I’m not eager to come face to face with.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the effects of continuously raised estrogen levels in the female body due to taking birth control pills may include an increased risk of breast cancer, blood clotting, migraines, liver problems, increased blood pressure, weight gain, and spotting between periods.
Those symptoms are serious and keep turning me off from just giving birth control a “casual” try.
4. It’s My Body & I’ll Decide If I Want To
Going on birth control isn’t something I have ever wanted or needed to do. If I’m willing to handle my menstrual cycle symptoms, acne, and keep monitoring my ovarian cysts, there’s no health reason that makes me desperate to lean into the Pill. I believe that birth control should be an option available to all women, whether they need it, want it, or just want to know it’s readily available to them. Still, it’s not for me.