I think it is safe to say that the majority of women in the United States are on some form of birth control. I was told to start taking the birth control pill when I was 18 years old for acne. This week on my podcast, WITH WHIT, I had an incredible conversation with Sarah E. Hill, PhD all about the birth control pill and the effects it has on women’s brains and hormones.
Dr. Hill, a research psychologist and professor who studies health, relationships, and other forms of social behavior using the super-generative theoretical tools available from the evolutionary sciences. Dr. Hill shares her extensive research on birth control in her new book This is Your Brain on Birth Control. This book provides an even-handed, science-based understanding of who women are, both on and off the pill. It’s so amazing that she is getting answers to questions that women deserve to know and have trouble getting! We need to understand the full picture of birth control and what it does!! Below, Dr. Hill provides her story on why she wrote the book as well as some must know facts!
Listen to the full episode with Dr. Hill at one of the below links! Please, subscribe, rate and review…I want to hear from you!
AND buy her book from Amazon here!
This Is Your Brain On Birth Control
Some words from Sarah E. Hill, Phd
I wrote This Is Your Brain On Birth Control after my own experiences going off the pill made me realize – firsthand – how much having a change of hormones can influence how we think, feel, and experience the world. For me, going off the pill made me feel like I woke up. It was like I walked out of two-dimensional black and white drawing into a vibrantly full-color, three-dimensional, meaning-filled life. I started exercising and cooking again – things that I used to take a lot of pleasure in, but had kind of forgotten about. I had more energy. I noticed attractive men. I cared about how I looked in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. I just felt…alive. Vividly, awesomely, humanly alive. I knew from these experiences that the pill had to be doing a whole lot more to women’s brains than just telling their ovaries not to release an egg each month. Once I dove into the research on the pill and the brain, I discovered that researchers in psychology and neuroscience have been documenting psychological effects of the pill on the brain for decades. Women just weren’t being told about it. Instead, they were being led to believe that any psychological effects that they had on the pill were “all in their heads”. I wanted to put this information in the hands of women so that they could understand that psychological changes that can happen on the pill and use it to make more informed decisions about their health. The information isn’t scary or alarming – knowing everything I know now, I am still a huge fan of the birth control pill. Instead, it just gives women the information they need to better understand their experiences and who they are, both on and off of the birth control pill.
A taste of what you will learn!
- Although there is a tendency to think about our hormones as something that “happen” to us, this isn’t how they work. You literally ARE your hormones. They are part of what your brain uses to help form your very identity, the beliefs that you have about yourself, and your behaviors. So, going on and off of the pill can change your very sense of who you are.
- Although women aren’t told this by their doctors, the artificial hormones that are in their birth control pills are structurally different than their body’s own hormones. This can make them behave in surprising ways. I teach women about the four different types of synthetic hormones that are used in all of the pills on the market, how they are different from one another, and how to use this information to find a pill that works best for their own body.
- Research finds that being on the pill might influence who you choose for dates and mates, and may have important implications for women’s relationship satisfaction and the likelihood that their relationships will survive.
- Women on the birth control pill exhibit a fundamentally different cortisol response to stress than non-pill taking women. These differences are similar to what is observed in people who have suffered chronic stress and may impact everything ranging from a woman’s ability to cope with stress, her ability to learn and remember things, and her risk for autoimmunity.
- Being on the pill can increase women’s risk of depression and anxiety, especially for young women who are on non-oral products. Although many women’s doctors tell them that the effects of many non-oral products (the hormonal IUD; the vaginal ring) are localized and do not affect the brain, this simply isn’t true. All hormones that enter the body go everywhere that blood travels, including the brain.
- Why special caution should be taken when giving the pill to women who are 19 and younger.
- Each woman is different and will respond to the different formulations of the pill out there in ways that are specific to her body. This is why there is no such thing as a one size fits all birth control strategy. Women need to be taught what to look out for so that they can best strategize a birth control strategy that works best for them and their unique bodily needs.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself if you go on the pill:
- Do I feel like myself on the pill?
- Have my behaviors changed since going on the pill?
- Has my mood changed since going on the pill?
- Have my relationships (both sexual and non-sexual) changed since going on the pill?
- Has my performance at school or work changed since going on the pill?
- Have my interests changed since going on the pill?
- Have my motivations changed since going on the pill? Am I more or less motivated to do things that I used to like to do before going on it?
…and this is the big one…
- How do I feel about all of this?
If you start to freak out about all of this, don’t! Remember: you are a unique you. Although the pill changes the version of yourself that the brain creates, the way that each woman’s body responds to each type of birth control pill can vary hugely. This is why it’s so important for you to listen to your body and become an expert on what works for you and what doesn’t. If you are on the pill and feel good, that’s the only data point that you need to know. Know that if you want to be on the pill, this is a decision that you can safely make. It is an amazing time to be alive because we have a lot of options. Just know what to look out for and I am confident that you will be able to find a method of birth control that works for you.