Pill Brain

by Kelsey Perreault

A couple weeks ago, my sister was telling me about what she calls “Pregnancy Brain”. Apparently it’s a common phenomenon some mensruators experience – a feeling of fogginess/forgetfulness/feeling a little spacey. I suppose this makes sense – when we’re pregnant our hormone levels are drastically different than usual – our brain is essentially being bathed in hormones. Of course this will change the way we think and feel.

It’s a “no-brainer” (ugh…sorry about that) that hormonal birth control would do the same thing. You are, after all, totally changing up your natural hormone levels. Although I’m aware of this now, I certainly wasn’t aware of it when I started taking the pill when I was 17. My nurse practitioner (whom I love by the way) didn’t even mention the possibility of side effects as she scrawled out the prescription on her little pad. She was concerned because at age 17 I had never had a menstrual cycle. And honestly, so was I.

So I started taking the pill – and I was truly excited. Finally I would have a regular cycle like my friends and sisters had been having since age 12 or 13. Furthermore, as my nurse practitioner said, I would no longer be plagued by the occasional pimple as the pill gave you glowing beautiful skin. What more could I ask for? How terrific! I was headed off for my freshman year of college in just a few months.

As many of you may have experienced, going off to college is a huge transition. This was certainly true for me. It’s a totally new life – you don’t know anyone, you are living away from home, you are stressed by difficult college coursework, you are eating crappy food instead of your mom’s healthy cooking. This turned out to be one of the most emotionally trying times of my life. Thinking back, I know now that I was seriously depressed. I had trouble waking up in the morning, I would cry every time I listened to music, I would stay shut up in my dorm room instead of making new friends. I blamed myself for this emotional downfall. I was just too weak to handle a new life away from home. I felt so guilty that I didn’t talk to anyone about it. 

Today, I realize I was suffering from what I’ll call “Pill Brain”. In a seriously stressful time of my life, I decided to bathe my brain in hormones – it’s no wonder why I went off the deep end. To me, the “Pill Brain” phenomenon is one of the saddest side effects of hormonal birth control – we are literally changing the way we think and feel! How crazy is that? Those synthetic hormones aren’t just going straight to our uterus and ovaries – they are going EVERYWHERE in our body…our brain included.

Part of why I wanted to join the Blood Cycle Conference team is that I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. Young menstruators need to be informed about all their birth control choices. They need to be informed about what’s going on with their bodies. They need to be able to discuss freely about menstruation – a completely normal (and dare I say awesome) life process. It’s time we stopped thinking about the body with shame and instead started appreciating its unbelievable cyclic life-giving potential.

Here was our conversation from today about hormonal birth control. 

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