Millennials Are Ditching The Pill


 
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By Raquel Laneri

Michelle Cady, founder of wellness consultancy FitVista, had been on the pill since she was 17. So she was shocked when, about four years ago, she went to lunch with a couple of nutritionists who began bashing the contraceptive method.

“They were saying how it’s a fake period and it messes up your hormones and it just covers up what’s going on underneath the hood,” Cady, 32, tells The Post. “I had been on birth control for 11 years! As soon as I heard that, I went home that night and did not take my birth-control pill. I was like, I am quitting cold-turkey.”

Now, Cady — who is in a monogamous relationship — tracks her cycle using the period app MyFLO on her phone. She also uses the Fertility Awareness Method, aka the rhythm method commonly associated with the Catholic Church, to know when she’s ovulating. In 2014, she quit her job in finance to become a health coach, and many of her clients are young women who have quit, or want to quit, hormonal birth control.

“There’s a huge increase [in terms of interest] in wellness and things being natural, and people are suspicious of anything like prescription medication,” says Cady. “Before, you went to your appointment and the doctor told you what to do. Now, women are taking health into their own hands much more.”

Millennials are increasingly ditching the pill — that miracle tablet that ushered in female empowerment and free love — and opting for more old-fashioned methods of contraception, from condoms to the rhythm method to diaphragms. A new survey of 2,000 US women by Cosmopolitan magazine found that 70 percent of millennials who have used the pill have stopped taking it or thought about stopping in the past three years.

In its place, some are using new fertility apps designed to tell a woman when she’s ovulating — and thus likely to become pregnant — such as MyFLO, Clue and Natural Cycles, the first app certified for contraception in Europe. These companies, featured in sponsored Instagram posts depicting beautiful women on restorative vacations drinking coconut water, make going off the pill look as trendy as green juices and SoulCycle.

“Girls who are living life doing yoga, juicing and buying crystals are beginning to wonder, ‘Wait, why am I doing all this but am still on a medication to [disrupt] my hormone production?’” says Alisa Vitti, an integrative nutritionist and founder of FLOliving.com, which launched the MyFLO Period Tracker last year. “It just doesn’t jibe well with the rest of [these women’s] healthy lifestyles.”

“The millennial generation wants to work with their bodies and understand them,” says Jolene Brighten, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in complications that arise from quitting the pill, such as losing one’s period altogether, bad cramping and acne. Plus, she says when most women got on the pill as teens, they didn’t really understand how ovulation works.

“Women now recognize that you can get pregnant [a] maximum [of] six days out of the month, so why are they suppressing hormones every day when getting pregnant isn’t as much a threat as they thought?”

Hormonal birth control works by stopping the ovulation process. Some methods halt bleeding altogether, but most popular forms of birth control, such as Tri-cyclen, include placebo pills that result in a simulated period.

Dana Humphrey, who owns her own PR firm, had first gone on the pill when she became sexually active at 16, but had switched to a birth-control injection called a Depo-Provera when she was 22. With Depo-Provera, she didn’t have to remember to take her dose at the same time every day, and she didn’t even get a placebo period. But two and a half years ago, at the urging of her sister, a nurse, Humphrey decided to stop injecting hormones into her body. (She now uses condoms.)

“At first I was not happy to be getting my period, but now I really am,” says the Astoria resident. “I’m kind of getting in the rhythm of being a woman and being in touch with my body … It’s really fascinating: I’m 35 years old and I feel like I’m discovering my period for the first time.”

For some young women, however, hormonal birth control isn’t just unnatural. They are also worried about its long-term effects, from depression and digestive disorders to — on the more extreme end of the spectrum — stroke, blood clots or breast cancer.

“I knew I wanted to get off [the pill] after reading an article saying that birth control is going to be the cigarettes for this generation in terms of health effects,” says Alexandra Roberts, a 31-year-old Upper West Side resident who works in public relations. But she finally quit last December, after a friend of hers got off the pill in order to get pregnant — only to find out that she had early menopause.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with the pill, but you just never know if they could have caught things sooner or realized that something was happening sooner,” says Roberts. “I knew I wanted to have children, so I was like, ‘Holy s–t, is this going to happen to me?’”

Yet, physicians will tell you that anxieties about hormonal birth control are greatly exaggerated.

According to a study published in December 2017, while hormonal contraceptives do slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, such a risk is highly dependent on age, family history of breast cancer and other factors, such as smoking cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the National Blood Clot Alliance reported last year that only one in 1,000 women taking birth control pills will develop blood clots.

“Yes, there is a general concern [among the public] that people don’t want to take medications and worry about the risks of taking hormonal contraception,” says New York-based physician Tania Elliott, adding that millennials tend to be the most skeptical. But, “generally speaking, the pill is safe in healthy individuals with no risk factors.”

Plus, doctors say that if your goal is to avoid pregnancy, hormonal birth control is the best option: When used perfectly, the pill is 99 percent effective. (Planned Parenthood puts the real-world figure closer to 91 percent, since not everyone on the pill remembers to take it every day.) Meanwhile, fertility apps, when used alone, “may not be sufficient to prevent pregnancy,” according to a 2016 study.

Elliott says that the best way to explore getting off hormonal birth control isn’t by taking matters into your own hands and consulting an app, but by talking with your doctor.

Robin Randisi agrees. The 34-year-old nutritionist has never used hormonal birth control as a contraceptive but says that for some women the pill is the best option.

“I think it’s cool [these apps] are bringing attention to the topic of fertility, but I myself am really leery of trusting an algorithm or an app to do something that is so complex,” says the Greenpoint resident. “[The app is] fine as a tool, but I wouldn’t use it as contraception.”



 
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Articles in this issue:

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    Kirsten Nicole

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    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
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    Kimberly McNabb
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    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
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