14 DECEMBER 2017
Even though more than 50 years have passed, the pill has barely changed. Can this be affecting millennials’ opinions on the beloved contraceptive miracle?
According to the NHS, the number of women using the pill between 2005 and 2013 dropped by more than 13 percent. These numbers tend to include mainly millennials (born roughly between 1982 and 1999), but why do the numbers keep dropping?
As faithful internet users, it doesn’t take long to link the pill to its dangerous side effects like blood clots, depression or, worse case scenario, cancer. Only a few clicks away is the explanation for the symptoms women experience daily: heavy blood flow, drastic mood swings, weight gain and so on. As expected, along with the search for symptoms, it is a matter of tabs until someone falls into the trap of auto-diagnosing themselves.
Hannah Witton, a 25-year-old Youtuber known for her sex-positive channel, created the hormone diaries, a series where she describes her adventure on getting off the pill. She starts the first episode (uploaded on 9 August 2016) by taking her pill one last time, after taking it for 7 years non-stop. “I just want my body to do its thing,” she says.
On the course of these episodes, Hannah describes how not taking cerazette (the oral contraception she was put on since she was 17), was impacting her physical and mental health: “I was recently in LA and, one day, I was just like “Oh there’s the pain, it hurts again” and I just had this feeling of like ‘No, not again!’ and if this is how I am mentally and emotionally reacting to my cycle, then maybe I should stop them.” After coming to that realization, Hannah made the decision of getting the merina coil.
Maria João Soares, a doctor from Porto, explains: “Even though the pill is one of the cheapest and easiest methods of contraception, it has its inconveniences. The coil is cheap (can be inserted for free on an NHS clinic) and it lasts up to 10 years. There are two types of contraceptive coil: the IUS (intrauterine system), which is a small plastic device that slowly releases a hormone called progestogen, and the IUD (intrauterine device) which is made of copper and does not contain any hormones. The coil can also be an advantage when you don’t have to worry about taking it every day at the same time, and a lot of young women leading busy lives commonly forget to take their pill.”
Inês Gueifão, a NOVA University medical student, adds: “The coil is an amazing device usually recommended to younger people with troubled lives and/or families. It is a great alternative to the pill, even though there might be some risks when inserting it, as it is advocated to women who have been pregnant before.”
Even if the pill continues to be someone’s oral contraceptive of choice, the seven-day break is, according to Professor John Guillebaud, still “outdated” and “should be consigned to history” since it had been made 60 years ago, and based “arbitrarily on the calendar, and not on science.”
The pill is now known to have contributed to the death of over 553 women and, if these numbers keep growing, it is believed that the number of young adults taking it will keep lowering.
Written for Introduction to Broadcast Journalism
(BA) Journalism at London South Bank University