The side effects of contraception and why no one is talking about it

SHU journalism student Ellie Houghton conducted her own research to find out how women are affected by the contraceptive pill.

Over 60% of people on contraception think it has a detrimental effect on their mental health and a whopping 78% would rather not take it, a recent study has found. But why are so many women still being prescribed it?

Birth control pills first became easily accessible in the UK in 1974, after previously only being available to married women who already had children. Now, millions of women in the UK take some form of contraception and experience a whole range of side effects.

The NHS lists the side effects of the combined pill to include mood swings, nausea, breast tenderness and headaches, with the possibility of increasing blood pressure, blood clots, and causing cervical cancer. A pill with so many side effects, some of which are serious, is commonly prescribed to women for reasons other than its sole intention- to prevent pregnancy.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Personal trainer Alex Stimpson, 25, has been on the combined pill since the age of 14.

She said: “I went on the pill when I was younger to help regulate my periods, and I’ve been on it ever since. I don’t get any serious side effects like other people, but my hormones are always all over the place.

“I’ve been on it for so long though so I’m not sure what it really does to my body and mind. Maybe if I came off it I’d be different!”

Over 54% of people were initially put on contraception for a reason other than birth control, most of whom were prescribed it under the age of 18. The pill is often the first port of call for any health issues faced by women and people with female reproductive organs, despite the never-ending list of side effects.

Despite the over-prescribing of contraception, many people do not even know the possible side effects of their medication – 44% of people state they were never informed of, or cannot remember, being told the risks of their contraception.

Operations Manager Bronti Robson, 24, has endometriosis and has been on and off contraception since the age of 13.

She said: “I was put on the mini pill at 13 to stop migraines, and then when they got worse they put me on the depo injection. They act like the fix for everything is contraception – whenever you have a problem, sexual health related or not, they just give you the pill. I have endometriosis and often contraception can make it worse.”

The side effects have stopped Bronti using any birth control at the moment.

“I’ve not been on anything for three years because the side effects outweigh any positives. I definitely think there is a link between the amount of contraceptives I’ve been on and how bad my endo is now.”

The NHS website lists the combined contraceptive pill as one of the main hormone treatments for endometriosis, the aim being to limit or stop the production of oestrogen which can encourage endometriosis tissue to grow and shed.

The study found 94% of women think there should be more research into male birth control, but with a trial for a male contraceptive injection being called off due to side effects, the future of pregnancy prevention still relies heavily on women.

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