Getting Over the Pill

I know when the romance started for me. I was at summer camp, where all the best romances begin, getting a windbreaker or a jean jacket–some outerwear-oriented excuse for busting in where I wasn’t supposed to be. contraception_591At the sink, I saw my counselor, older, cooler, and in my memory, always blonde, popping a candy necklace pill out from a plastic flip-top compact.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to know what I was seeing. But I did. She was on the pill. Having sex. Which somehow made me feel a few steps closer to having sex myself. Inside that pink clam shell was the secret of adult life. Everything I needed to know about sex and men in its own handy dandy carrying case.

Now, of course, I realize she might not have been having sex, and I want to swaddle my younger smartypants self in a thick blanket, knowing when and how she’ll have the easy answers bruised out of her.

But there was no reasoning, then. And no reason to reason … I was in love with the pill, and as I grew up, I could see I wasn’t alone. It was the hot girl’s one and only punchline in Sixteen Candles and Roseanne’s cool-mom badge of honor, and long before that, Loretta Lynn was singing its praises for good reason. The lyrics make it clear how much the pill could change the fundamental facts of a woman’s life.

You wined me and dined me when I was your girl
Promised if I’d be your wife you’d show me the world
But all I’ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill
I`m tearing down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the pill

But we’ve been romancing the pill for over fifty years now–you don’t need me to tell you how she can do you wrong. The side effects are legendary, and they can get you coming and going, when you start taking the pill and then again when you stop. There’s the cost, anywhere from $15 to $50 a month, the heckling blowhard talk radio hosts, the Internet trolls, and the latest unwanted side effect brought to us by the court challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate: the dawning realization that your boss has opinions about your vagina.

Maybe it’s time to give our first love a little tough love. Take a look at one of her big sisters, the diaphragm. It’s a cervical barrier method, and it’s been around since the 1880s. Before the birth control pill hit the market, it was the American contraceptive of choice, used by a third of all married couples. These days its popularity has plummeted, but it’s nothing a little rebranding can’t fix. Given the right’s knuckle-dragging march into the past, you can even say it’s trendy!

Like the best second loves, the diaphragm rights the pill’s most egregious wrongs.

  • It’s a barrier method. No hormones to enter the bloodstream. Some women may be sensitive to the silicone, some may be sensitive to the spermicide that must be used with the diaphram, but sensitivity is sensitivity–a blood clot can be fatal.
  • You only need one. Diaphragms last for about two or three years.
  • They’re cheap, anywhere from $15 to $75.
  • You only need to use it when you’re going to have sex. Worried about spontaneity? You can insert the diaphragm up to six hours before you have sex. If that’s not enough leeway, it probably should be, and if it’s not, now you have something to do while he puts on a condom. Nothing like a show of good patient faith to show him you take safe sex seriously.
  • They’re just as portable as the pill, and their plastic clam shell carrying case looks every bit as nifty as the pill’s. The upside is you don’t have to open it every day you’re not having sex and think about all the sex you’re not having.

Though my allegiance is clear, you should use the birth control method that works best for you. If you’re looking for less cheeky advice in making that decision, you might want to go here.



About Jodi:
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.


  1. Thanks for this great post. I’ve been writing on this topic for some time at and have a book coming out this summer ‘Sweetening the Pill or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control’ –

  2. Debbie Franko says:

    I was chuckling and reminiscing all the way through that one. You hit this one outta the park, Ms. Jodi.
    Love the whole Loretta Lynn reference as it fit into the story effortlessly. Thanks for putting a smile on my face to start the weekend off right.

  3. Roflmao…then there are those of us that use nothing because we learned the hard way that TAKING the pill equaled a little bundle of my now 24 year old son…

  4. EEB (Aust) says:

    I’m in my 50s and have never used the Pill due to serious medical barriers. I knew the Pill had nothing to do with cancer screening and that bimanual pelvic and breast exams were unnecessary, unhelpful and risked my health. Most doctors were male in the late 70s and 80s as well. Anyway, medical coercion was not something I was prepared to I went to classes on the Billings Method and worked with a teacher until I felt confident. It was the best decision of my life, it gave me control of my body, a deep understanding of my body and protected me from medical coercion and harm. The routine pelvic and breast exam are no longer recommended here. The only clinical requirement for the Pill is a blood pressure test and your medical history. Cancer screening stands alone and legally and ethically requires our informed consent…colonoscopies, prostate, bowel screening and cervical and breast screening are all options and can never be “required” for anything…
    Now we know over-screening with the pap test produces huge numbers of false positives which can lead to excess biopsies and potentially harmful over-treatment. It was the numbers that didn’t work for me…near zero risk of cervix cancer, but testing carried a 77% lifetime risk of colposcopy/biopsy. Now we know only about 5% of women aged 30 and older are HPV+ and at risk, most women cannot benefit from pap tests and there is no need for invasive testing for most women. Dutch and other women are now using a HPV self-test device invented by Dutch gynecologists…then women can make an informed decision, HPV- and you cannot currently benefit from a pap test, you should be offered another HPV test in 5 or 10 years time (depending on age)…HPV+ and there is a small chance you might benefit from a 5 yearly pap test until you clear the virus. This is the new Dutch evidence based program, it will save more lives and spare huge numbers of women from a lifetime of unnecessary pap testing with the high risk of over-treatment. Huge profits are made testing and “treating” women who’d be HPV- so women will have to demand evidence based testing or take matters into their own hands. I know more Aussie women are ordering self-test kits online to find out whether they’re at risk.
    So the Pill IMO, placed women under the control of the medical profession (a very paternalistic medical profession) forcing them into unnecessary gyn exams and serious over-screening and inappropriate screening with the Pap test. Decades later women still often face medical barriers to access the Pill…which can lead to serious health and life consequences, unplanned pregnancy, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy and abortion. Can you imagine men being told they can’t have Viagra unless they agree to a colonoscopy and/or unnecessary prostate/genital checks? It would never happen…
    I would never have used an IUD or anything that needed to be fitted or inserted into my body. The Billings Method worked well for me…but it’s a method that doesn’t suit everyone. I know many doctors would try to talk you out of it. One doctor instantly reached for the prescription pad after hearing I was using the Billings Method. Strange though…at that point I wouldn’t have felt as safe on the Pill…because I wouldn’t know what was happening in my body, I’d been trained to read the natural signs for many years and it was second nature at that point.

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