© 2016 by Bwalya Newton

Testing Ground
 

In the mid-sixties, the contraceptive pill (and its variations: Cerazette, Cilest, Loestin 20 and Rigevidon) ushered in the age of Sexual Liberation. Half a century later, science and society are still coming to terms with the cost of this freedom. Most recently, trials of a male pill were brought to halt because of the same side effects - blood clotting, loss of libido, depression – that many women wade through each and every month.

 

The following insightful discussion – lifted from a Facebook comment thread with over eighty replies - is a rarity in public spheres. Honest and unflinching, this excerpt lays bare the paradox that in order to retain autonomy over our bodies, women have made severe sacrifices to their physical and mental health:

 

Amina  – Had the worst experiences on hormone contraceptives. I've never felt more uncertain and depressed about myself. After my decision to stop, I had my follow up consultations; each one was sloppy, insensitive and patronising, never again. 3 Oct. 17:25

 

Safia – It's the worst, I cried everyday and didn't want to see anyone. 3 Oct. 17:29

 

Jyoty – What do you use now? 3 Oct. 17:41

 

Bwalya – Condoms and prayer. For real though, I track my periods quite religiously and use condoms. I've heard good things about the non-hormonal coil, buuuut I have an incredibly low pain threshold. 3 Oct. 18:23

 

Bui – Crying at the realness of condoms and prayer. 4 Oct. 21:55

 

Sanaa – Never been so depressed in my life than when I was on one of these demonic pills!! Very important message!! 3 Oct. 18:14

 

Sarah Mei – Omfg! I came off it, because although it took years to see, I realised how depressed and dark I became. It took a while to let it clear from my system and my brain.  3 Oct. 19:29

 

Sanaa – Sarah, what do you use if you don't mind my asking? 4 Oct. 18:55

 

Sarah Mei – Sanaa, nothing except condoms now. I use Clue to track my periods and know at least roughly when I'm fertile. I can now recognise [premenstrual syndrome] and when it's due. 4 Oct. 19:00

 

Ling – When I was at uni they moved me from one pill to the next after telling them I thought I had depression! It's terrible that so many people think there is something wrong with their mental state. 3 Oct. 21:08

 

Jyoty – Guys, I am in shock, I've always heard these things and had wondered if me being on the pill (for YEARS) has been one of the reasons I'm feeling this way… I thought being on one without oestrogen would make a difference, but now I'm not sure?  4 Oct. 00:37

 

Rivah – Copper coil is awesome, ladies! Insertion was quick/pain free. Most importantly, it doesn't release any sort of hormone into the body. 4 Oct. 11:43

 

Jyoty – Babes, this is so important and for some reason not something we easily discuss in the queue for a club or on the tube on our way to work. I'm so glad I commented. 4 Oct. 11:52

 

Cee – Realest talk, coil insertion hurt like a mofo for me but I absolutely don't regret doing it. At first your body is like, "new object, who dis?" 4 Oct. 17:16

 

Sanaa – Bwalya, listen mate! I’ve been rolling around on the floor like a possessed woman since I've been 22! Let's not talk about the erratic soon-comeness of it all! Bloody EVE! She couldn't resist again lol. 4 Oct. 17:26

 

Sarah Mei – Cannot wait for male hormonal treatments for some timely retribution. Although the pill was a significant scientific discovery and hugely liberating for women, the same does not apply now. The last thing we should do is teach girls that this is a massive opportunity for them to take charge of their lifestyles. 4 Oct. 18:47

 

Rivah  – Sarah, okay so before the coil my periods were super heavy, crampy and lasted for 7 days (felt like 7 long years lol). Now they last for 3/4 BUT the week before I experience some cramping and light bleeding. It's different for all but like everything, we power through. 4 Oct. 20:10

 

Cherie – FAM method. Natural, free, get to know your own body and when you need to use condoms. 4 Oct. 20:34

 

Cee – Re: the coil, it made my periods heavier but shorter (4 days max) past 3 months they are not as heavy and like Rivah, I get a very light spotting a week before. 4 Oct. 21:17

 

Bwalya – Cee, Sarah, I can't wait for that AND the male pill, which I read is almost ready... 4 Oct. 21:17

 

Sarah Mei – I’m concerned it will have similar implications for men though. Although twice as many women suffer from depression, the number of male suicides due to depression is about triple that of females. 4 Oct. 21:30


Lizzie – Always male doctors telling me that what I'm feeling can't be true. Hormonal coil made me have pure rage and was told (again by a male doctor) that it was impossible to be affected by such a small dose of hormones. 4 Oct. 13:30

 

Gynelle – The last time I took the pill I was 17. It made me so depressed and crazy. I didn't even realise until I came off of them that I'm not naturally a crazy bitch. Whenever I am at the GP or go for a smear test etc. they’re always in shock that I'm not on a form of contraception and always try and push one on me. Nah mate. 4 Oct. 18:08

 

Lucy – I was dumped once for constant bleeding after having the contraceptive injection and the guy said "well what's the point if we can't have sex?" 4 Oct. 18:29
 

Yewande – Microgynon was the absolute worst!! Dianette and Yasmin have been taken off the market because, "Oh, whoops, there's a pretty high risk you may die of a blood clot." 26 Oct. 00:15

 

Sarah Mei – "Women make superb guinea pigs.” – Alice Wolfson protesting at a 1970 US Senate hearing investigating the link between pill usage and depression - a hearing that no women were asked to speak at. 23 Oct. 15:43

 

Bwalya Newton

2017