Author: Chiara Hollender

Raise your hand if you’re a woman on the pill, who has never been told of the side effects of the oral contraception you’re taking by the doctor who prescribed it. Now I can’t see how many hands are going up, but I know a lot of you are raising them because I am certainly raising mine. I am 22 and, until recently, had been on an oral birth control pill since I was 15. That is almost 8 years I was on medication without any knowledge of what it is doing to my bones, estrogen levels, mental state, and overall health.

I was prescribed the pill to prevent pregnancy as well as to help the acne I had at the time. When prescribed, I wasn’t warned of any side effects, which, by the way, can include depression, increased risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer, blood clots, heart disease and weight gain to due decreased bone density. I’d also like to mention that I talked to not only my pediatrician about the pill, but also my OBGYN and dermatologist. No one mentioned the side effects. I come from a family who openly talks about sexual health and wellness (my father and sister co-founded Sustain) and even so I had no idea about these side effects until 8 years into my use of oral contraception. Because I’ve been in the dark about this information for a large part of my life, I am going to assume other women have been too.

So, who exactly decided that I or any other woman would rather avoid getting pregnant than suffer from depression? Who decided that women would rather be at risk for breast and cervical cancer than avoid the “plague” that is pregnancy? If doctors know this information (and trust me, they do), why aren’t they telling women about it? Why are they leaving woman in the dark, unable to make decisions for themselves because they don’t know there is a decision to be made?! Isn’t it my right as a person in society to be told the risks I am being exposed to by the medicine I am being prescribed? I think it is.

As a young woman, I am made to feel inadequate to decide the fate of my own life. My friends are suffering from depression and being put on antidepressants without being exposed to the information that the birth control pill they are on may be causing their depression in the first place. Natural hormones can improve a woman’s mood especially when she is in a particularly high estrogen phase. When a woman’s natural hormones are being replaced with synthetic hormones, that process doesn’t have a chance to occur. This not only can lead to a depressed state but can also lead to decreased energy levels. I have been off birth control for three months now, and have noticed a dramatic positive change in my happiness and energy levels.

I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am a young woman who is scared and confused by the medical help I and hundreds of thousands of other woman have been given by doctors, psychologists, OBGYNs, and dermatologists. I am capable of making my own healthcare decisions. So give me the facts--and I mean all of the facts--I need to take control of my reproductive system. Safe birth control is a decision that every woman has the right to make for herself, period.

Chiara Hollender

*We had been doing some reading on the pill lately. While we were gathering our thoughts, wanting to write something about it, Chiara Hollender--that's the daughter/sister of our co-founders--beat us to the chase with some choice words based on 8 years of taking it.

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