Are young women totally over the Pill?
It was once our best friend, but it appears this form of contraception has become a hard one to swallow...
LATELY, I'VE FELT like I'm the last millennial still on the Pill. For as long as I can remember, my girlfriends have set daily alarms to remind themselves to pop their tiny tablets. In high school, it seemed like everyone was taking it – for acne, bad cramps, and, ya know, to avoid pregnancy.
At university, when more of us were actually having sex on the reg, the trusty Pill achieved true BFF status. But these days, well, we’re kind of growing apart. One of my pals blames it for her blood clots; another told me that taking it from age 13 to 34 was enough. One ditched it because she suspected the hormones were messing with her metabolism. I’m still swallowing it, for now, but my Pill pack has started to seem kinda like a Discman in a Spotify world… and not in a hip, ironic way.
It may be hard to imagine, but when the Pill debuted in 1960, it was bigger than God. By 1967, nearly 13 million women in the world were on the Pill. ‘Suddenly, women were in this position of having more contraception options other than to not have sex,’ says gynaecologist Lauren Streicher.
By the 1980s, up to 80 million women were users – and enjoying the newfound freedom that came with the Pill’s 91 per cent effectiveness
(99 per cent when used perfectly). Since it hit the market, the number of women in the workforce has more than tripled. Just try to name any other medication that has done so much for womankind (no, not Viagra). RESPECT.
S o why all the sudden ungratefulness? Cosmo teamed up with Power to Decide, a campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancies, to find out. And what we discovered – in a survey of more than 2,000 young women – signals a massive birthcontrol shift. A whopping 70 per cent of women who have used the Pill said they’d stopped taking it or thought about going off it in the past three years. Yup, almost threequarters of young women are no longer feeling the med that led to their mothers’ and grandmothers’ liberation.
The New Guards
‘I’ve definitely seen attitudes change over the past few years,’ says Andrea Chisholm, a USbased gynaecologist. ‘Millennials are looking for more convenience.’
A nd there are now many other easier – but just as trustworthy – birthcontrol methods out there: we’ve never had so many ways to prevent pregnancy. Our survey revealed that 25 per cent of women have stopped or plan to stop taking the Pill because there is another kind of birth control they want to try. Many are intrigued by the IUD, or intrauterine device, a longlasting and extremely effective option whose popularity has surged since 2012, when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists proclaimed newer versions to be totally safe. (In the ’70s, an infamous IUD called the Dalkon Shield was linked to serious complications, such as infertility.) Others who’ve cooled on the Pill – 18 per cent, in our survey – said they’re switching to the patch, implant or shot, all getitandforgetit methods that don’t require onceaday reminders.
For some, the new fussfree options make the Pill’s scheduling seem hella annoying, and daily dosing kind of quaint. ‘Seriously, having to take it at the same time every day is ridiculous,’ says Kaitlin, 30. What with work, working out and a personal life, she wondered, who can be bothered? ‘And if you miss one, you have a total freakout that you’re pregnant.’
Kaitlin recently ditched the Pill and put a ring on, or in, it. She changes her vaginal ring just once a month. ‘If you’re a typeA person, the Pill can work,’ she said. ‘But if you are more gowiththeflow or don’t have a structured life, it’s hard.’
An Unclear Choice
But the Pill’s decline among young women isn’t just about convenience. There are also the rumours. Some women believe a decade or more on the Pill could lead to miscarriage (nope) or that the body needs a ‘break’ every few years (false).
News reports can be similarly confusing. A recent study linked the Pill (as well as hormonal IUDs) to breast cancer. But the increased risk was relatively small, and most media coverage failed to mention the Pill also decreases your risk of other serious cancers, like ovarian and endometrial.
Then there’s what I’ll call the Goop factor. As juice cleanses go mainstream, athleisure becomes SFW, and the multibilliondollar wellness industry infiltrates Instagram, artificial hormones can feel a bit early 2000s. The synthetic hormones in birth control pretty much mimic the ones in our bodies, but they’re still labmade. But 26 per cent of the women in our survey said they were switching to zerohormone condoms versus other types of hormonal birth control. ‘I’m not all about being natural and eating organic, but I feel like, why do it if you don’t have to?’ said Kayla, 28, who just ditched the Pill after eight years. ‘I was like, Why am I taking hormones when I’m not even having sex?’
The mustbenatural craze is fuelling questionable birthcontrol practices, like the fertility awareness method. Once used mainly for religious reasons, it‘s now blowing up thanks to fertilitytracking apps. ‘I’m thrilled by technology, but these apps are basically variations of the [famously unreliable] rhythm method,’ cautions Dr. Minkin. And buyer beware: in January, 37 women using Natural Cycles, an app that the European Union approved as legit birth control, alleged they still became pregnant.
‘The idea that somehow these hormones are bad for you is incorrect,’ says Dr. Streicher. ‘No medicine is riskfree, but the risks of the Pill are quite low – especially compared to the risks of pregnancy.’ Still, side effects do exist and were cited by 25 per cent of women in our survey. Common complaints included weight gain, mood swings and loss of sex drive. It’s worth noting that other hormonal methods can cause similar issues, and the nonhormonal IUD may bring on heavier periods or increased cramping.
Essentially there is no right or wrong decision with the Pill. ‘Birth control is a journey, and women change methods all the time based on what’s right for their body or life circumstances,’ says Erlich. If you do move on, be sure to find another method that suits you, unless you’re planning kids.
As for me, I'm sticking with the Pill. Call me oldfashioned, but if it ain’t broke...
WOMEN ARE RETHINKING THEIR PACK-AMONTH HABIT