For as long as I could remember, I’ve been suffering from severe acne. It started when I was in primary school, and no matter what I tried, it still won’t go away. I have tried western medicine, Chinese medicine, going to see a dermatologist, changing my diet, but nothing works.
To be honest, the medicine given to me by the dermatologist worked for a while until he stopped giving them to me because it could have severe side effects and it is in fact a controlled drug. And then when I was 12, one of the doctors recommended that I take birth control because she said that from the looks of it, the cause for my acne is mostly hormonal.
Since I was only 12, my mom said no, since I was too young even if I wanted to give it a go. And after years and years of living with low self-esteem because of my skin condition, I finally reached adulthood. I was able to use it without needing consent from my parents.
So, at the age of 22, after consulting multiple doctors and pharmacists, I began taking birth control medication, called ‘Diane 35’. I was told that this is the one that people go for when they wanted to treat hormonal acne, and since I have no intention of using it for actual birth control, I agreed to it.
My condition got much better since I started taking it. Here’s what I’ve learned after taking it for a year.
The stigma surrounding birth control is harmful
There are so much stigma and controversy surrounding birth control.
The first thing that comes to one’s mind when you mention that you take birth control is that you must have a lot of sex. I don’t know about other people, and I’m not in the position to judge others, but in my case, it is not that. It is nice to have another layer of protection when you’re having sex in addition to wearing a condom, yes but that’s not why I started taking it.
There are people who take it for different reasons, like to regulate menstrual cramps, treat symptoms of endometriosis (a painful uterus condition), control PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and so on. Heck, birth control not only helped me with my acne, it helped me with my menstrual cramps too. I used to have such horrible cramps during my period that I couldn’t even stand up without fainting because the pain was just too much to bear. But now with the pills, I don’t even need to worry about fainting at random places during my period (yes, it’s happened before). Hence, the use of birth control is NOT ONLY sexual.
Another thing that infuriates me when I tell people that I’m taking birth control is that they automatically assume that I will NEVER have a baby in the future. Yes, I might not be able to get pregnant now, but when I get off birth control, I’m able to get pregnant again!
It’s not like it’s a forever thing. My mom was so worried about this even though I reassured her again and again that this will not happen. Maybe it was just a myth that they were told before to get them to not use birth control because you know, women are oppressed and are only viewed as baby-birthing machines.
Birth control is expensive and difficult to get
The bad thing about birth control is that it’s expensive and not easy to get. You can’t just walk into a 7-11 and purchase a box of birth control like you can with a box of condoms. Condoms are available literally everywhere, but not birth control.
You have to go to a pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for it, which is usually accompanied by their judgemental looks. Before giving it to you, they will ask you lots of questions, and some pharmacies even require you to fill in a form.
For an introvert like me, it’s quite embarrassing to have to write down my name and what I purchased. I understand that it’s a way of keeping track of the stocks, but you’re never asked to write down your name when you buy a box of condoms.
Additionally, the brand I’m taking currently costs between RM44 to RM48 (price varies from different pharmacies, I wonder why). Honestly, it’s so expensive.
The side effects are horrible, but it varies from people to people
Before taking it, I was briefed about the possible side effects, like ovarian cancer, DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), migraines, weight gain, mood swings and so on.
The first time I took it, I only felt slightly nauseous and hungry all the time, but nothing major. Mind you, you will definitely feel some of the side effects when you first take it. However, the severity of it varies for different people.
After about 4 months of taking it, my mom insisted that I stopped before I can’t give her grandchildren permanently. So I did. After I stopped, all of my problems came back.
My acne got worse, my period cramps nearly killed me, and I was having migraines so bad I can’t even describe them. In the end I decided to go back on it and this time, the side effects were even worse.
I was so nauseous to the point where I can’t even stay conscious or lie down without vomiting all over myself, migraines, mood swings and so on. The side effects lasted longer than before, but when it was finally over, everything went back to the way it was again and I’m glad. It made me fear going off birth control just in case all of my horrible symptoms come back again.
In conclusion, remember that the choice of taking birth control is your choice and your choice only. No one has the right to tell you whether you should take it or not. Only you know what is good or bad for you.
However, before that, do consult a doctor (or maybe 5). A lot of women take birth control, and it’s not uncommon. It’s just the stigma that’s unbearable and hurting the women. Birth control actually helped me, and I don’t regret taking it at all.
For more articles like this, read Living with Tourette’s Syndrome and 5 Things You Should Know About Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).