What I wish I knew before I started taking the pill

When it comes to the myths on social media about the pill, Marie shares how speaking with her doctor and doing her own research helped her find the right solution.

Written by Marie-Helene Junker


The contraceptive pill is one of the most popular hormonal contraceptives in Ireland. When used correctly, the pill can be extremely effective in preventing pregnancy.

In the process of finding a pill that suits my body, I have advocated for myself and my health. Just because it works wonders for me, doesn’t mean it will do the same for you. 

Birth control, especially in recent days, has gotten a bad rap. People on social media talk about how ‘coming off the pill did wonders for them’, how all these hormones are just bad for you, etc. and all I have to say to that is: Take it with a pinch of salt. 

My experience with birth control was a very, surprisingly for most people, positive one. I first started taking it when I was 17.

It was frowned upon by a lot of people when they heard it because the first thing they associate with birth control is sex. In reality, there are a lot of reasons why people take it and not all of them have to do with sexual reasons. 

My starting contraception was a blessing and a real lifesaver. 6 years later and I am still using the exact same one I first took at 17. But everyone is different and everybody has different needs, so be careful out there in a world where we have thousands of different opinions and listen to your gut!

Contraception not just for birth control

I was prescribed the pill for health reasons. I developed really bad acne, and the pill they put me on is a “mini-pill” which contains just progestogen while the combined pill contains two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen.

Another reason why I started taking it was that I had the world’s worst periods. I had such bad blood loss, that lasted for about 9 days every month, that I was unable to go to school, let alone do any social activity when I was on my period. It was also very irregular and due to the blood loss, I turned out to be dangerously anaemic. 

Then my journey with the pill started. I know all the side effects that people are always worried about; weight gain, depression, hormonal imbalance and so many others. As soon as my body got used to it, this took me about a month or so, everything clicked into place. 

I now knew, down to the exact day and even the exact hour every month, when my period came, as well as what day it would stop. Blood loss? Barely. I was suddenly able to live a life and my blood levels evened out so much over the years that I went from being very anaemic to me now donating blood a few times a year. 

What I did notice though, was that now I had slight period pain, or discomfort, when I was on my period once in a while, and as annoying as that can be, I was able to cope with that far better than with blood loss. The most noticeable thing though, was my hair. I always had very big curly hair growing up. Six years down the line, my hair is pin straight and no one would believe it was ever curly (I do really miss it sometimes).

Do your own research

When I moved to London at 19, my usual pill wasn’t available so my doctor checked the ingredients and prescribed me a UK equivalent of that pill (or so she said) and two months on it and I had nothing but problems. 

I had periods that lasted 2 or more weeks, excruciating pain, and my overall health wasn’t good. I eventually was smart enough to check the package and turns out it was the complete opposite of what my regular pill was. 

This one was a full hormone dose and as I later found out, they stopped prescribing it as there were many cases of organ failure and other issues. Safe to say I came off it straight away. I don’t recommend doing that as it is quite unsafe, and even if a pill isn’t agreeing with you, it is always safer to finish the pack and THEN switch to a different one. Two months later and my body was back to normal. 

What I am trying to say with that story is, do your own research beforehand, tell your doctor about your worries or needs. Do your own research, talk to your doctor and most importantly (!) don’t get pressured into it. Don’t let family, friends, a partner or even social media tell you to take or not take it because you know your body better than anyone.

This piece is part of ‘Under the Sheets‘, the National Action Panel’s Voices campaign to raise awareness of the importance of unbiased fact-based inclusive sex education for all young people. Access more information and supports for sexual health.

Illustrations by Ezra Pinkerton.

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