500 words on the pill
Illustration by Anna Sudit
I was eighteen when I went to the doctors to go on the contraceptive pill. Despite the prescription arrangement being pretty simple, the appointment itself has been something I have discussed with friends and admittedly found myself revisiting. Having been asked the usual questions on health history and sexual activity, the common procedure of taking my blood pressure resumed. A subtle squeeze on my upper arm and then the male doctor looked me dead in the eye and asked, “And what does your boyfriend do?” This was followed up by additional probes of what he studied, at which university and what his career hopes were for the future. I answered from pure coincidence, not remembering ever mentioning a boyfriend.
I have now learned several years on that as a woman, these situations will occur in your lifetime. It is not an if, but a guarantee of eye-roll inducing circumstances that you will endure in one form or another. I have always had trouble understanding the many assumptions that the doctor took asking me those questions. As minimal as his intentions may have been, or as harmless as the conversation was, what he did for myself in that moment was take away the focus from my body and reasoning for the appointment, and place it around an assumed person who I had not declared existed nor should have even mattered. I wonder if I had been a boy myself and gone in to ask for a C-card if I would have been asked about my girlfriend’s future endeavours. Sure, it would have been okay for him to make conversation, if he just hadn’t made the ever so subtly misogynistic assumption that my appointment was about anyone else but me.
Unlike most pill-related articles, I am not here to project another scare story onto you about dodgy side effects and mood swings. In fact, the actual medicine has never been my gripe, but more the misinformation surrounding it. Last year, The Guardian stated that the pill is still the most widely used form of contraceptive in the UK. If you yourself have never taken it, you will know somebody who has. So, my question is this: why are the resources surrounding taking this overly prescribed medication just so non-existent? When last year, articles came out claiming the seven-day break of the combined pill was put in place purely for the Pope’s satisfaction and you didn’t actually need to have it, I found myself angry again that information surrounding a medicine prescribed for people with wombs was determined by those without them. For a drug that is so freely prescribed to so many young women in particular, why is necessary information only provided on speculatory health forums? It took Netflix’s Sex Education to point out our heavily flawed sexual education curriculum, proving we only have our GPs to turn to, which in my experience has caused me dread and left me dissatisfied. Until then, we reside to the unsafety of our mis-informed Google diagnoses.