If the pill remains the preferred method of contraception for French women, it has experienced a persistent decline since 2012 following the debate on the risks associated with 3rd and 4th generation pills. Between fed up with side effects, contraceptive burden and the desire to be better informed, they testify to the reasons for this lack of love.
In 2010, 50% of French women used the pill. They are only 33.2% in 2016, according to the health barometer of Public Health France. Scandal of the 3rd and 4th generation pills, side effects, desire to return to nature … Mistrust is growing around this tablet, once considered a symbol of sexual liberation for women. This disaffection particularly affects women aged 20 to 29, the study said. Several women have agreed to tell us why they stopped taking the pill.
In 2017, I stop the pill, the first work of the independent journalist Sabrina Debusquat, throws a pavement in the media pond. While the survey is very controversial, it helped raise the issue of contraceptive suffering. The second book by the author, Tired of suffering for my contraception, a feminist manifesto in which she calls for a national consultation on contraception, is accompanied by a column published in Libé. A campaign is also launched on social networks with the hashtag #PayeTaContraception, which will then give birth to the Instagram account of the same name.
“I feel like I'm less apathetic”
Like many young girls, Marion, 24, started taking the pill as a teenager. "I took it as soon as I started having sex with my boyfriend at the time", she recalls. Two years later, she decides to stop it on her own, without waiting for her gynecologist's advice. Weight gain, low libido, depression… Marion constantly feels sad and extinct. “It took a load off me. I felt better, physically and psychologically ”, she confides. “I started taking the pill because I had an extremely painful period, so the only positive effect I remember was that the pain had decreased considerably”, says Léa *, 28 years old. She subsequently noticed many negative effects, especially on her mental health. “My sanity has plunged. My premenstrual symptoms resulted in very strong depression, almost paralyzing, and impacted me in my work ”. She then decides to change contraception: “It's a bit strange to explain, but there really was a moment when I felt that my body was out of order”.
Anna, 22, said goodbye to the pill six months ago, after six years of hormonal contraception. “I suffered from a complete lack of libido which had a very negative impact on my social and psychological life. I also noticed a difficulty in feeling emotions in general ”, says the young woman. Since stopping the contraceptive pill, she declares to feel much better psychologically, to have found a correct libido, and to be prone to less mood swings. The same goes for Marie, 30, who took this contraceptive for 10 years. When she stops taking it to get pregnant, she notices emotional changes right away. “I was getting angry about nothing, I was on edge, I wanted to slam doors. In fact, I felt like I was living my second teenage years! ", she notes. "I feel like I'm less listless since I stopped her, I feel things more strongly", remarks the young woman who now uses a copper IUD, to “Stop taking hormones”.
In fact, I felt like I was living my second teenage years!
Fed up with the contraceptive load
Valentine's doctor prescribed the pill for her to relieve her irregular and painful periods. “At the time, I waited several years before starting to take the said pill. In the end, I made up my mind to take this one when I had my first companion, knowing that I would be the only one concerned about our contraception ” says the 24-year-old woman. "Looking back, I can only observe that I did not experience it as my own choice, but more as a decision made out of spite", she regrets.
When she begins a stable relationship again, 3 years after stopping her pill, Marion refuses to suffer again because of her contraception. "I was very clear with my boyfriend: it was out of the question that this responsibility fell entirely to me". The young woman then inquires about the copper IUD, and finds a professional who agrees to pose it to nulliparas (women without children, ndlr). "He inquired with me and accompanied me to the dates, I felt supported, and that was already important to me".
I didn't experience it as my own choice, but more as a decision made out of spite
“After both doing tests for STIs and then discussing the subject, I presented my partner with my wish to change contraception. Common agreement. I now use a diaphragm, with spermicides ", Valentine tells us. “I watch my cycles, I'm still learning to familiarize myself with my cycles, and my partner also does withdrawal, as a precaution. We are both learning about our contraception as a couple. We communicate freely about it, with consent, respect, and no taboos – which is paramount in any relationship. Certainly, the burden of contraception is mostly carried by me, but this time, the difference is that there was this exchange with my partner, and above all: I was able to choose. " While waiting for male contraception which will finally allow straight cis couples to share the contraceptive burden.
Reclaiming your body
“What I take away from this transition, without being anti-pill or even essentialist, is learning, taking back ownership of my body, accepting its changes, reconnecting with it. I realized that in the end I didn't know a lot about him ", wonders Valentine. “My cycles have stabilized. I no longer experience a lack of lubrication, while I thought the cause was on my body, like other effects that were ultimately due to the pill ”, she notes, nonetheless aware that she was lucky to have had few noticeable side effects, apart from skin problems, and irregular cycles for a few months.
For her part, Marion evokes a feeling of reconnection with her body, and feels more attentive to its sensations. "I know exactly when I'm going to have my period, but also when I'm ovulating". However, the young woman notes certain drawbacks: "I have heavier periods, and some hair problems that have arisen since stopping the pill".
The best contraception is the one you choose
For every woman her contraception
The pill remains the most widely used contraception in France. It has many advantages: positive effects on acne, reduced period pain, more regular menstrual cycle … It can be reimbursed or obtained free of charge from a pharmacy, when it is prescribed. Finally, if taken correctly, its effectiveness rate is 99%. For Ambre, 22, who suffers from mild adenomyosis, stopping the pill caused severe pain, "roughly one in four months".
All contraception has advantages and disadvantages. What some women regret, however, is the almost systematic prescription of the pill as the first contraceptive, despite the varied contraceptive offer in France. “The best contraception is the one you choose!” can we read on onsexprime.fr, the site of Public Health France dedicated to teenagers. "Contraception is a personal choice that you can makenot depending on their expectations, their lifestyle, their romantic situation, their constraints … Which can change over time ".
In a column published in the newspaper Le Monde in 2017, several professionals warned against the stigmatization of the pill:“Instead of condemning the pill, a method which, it should be remembered, seems to suit many women, it is the words of the latter that it would be fair to consider in all its diversity and complexity, that – either favorable or not to hormonal contraception ”.
In total, there are about fifteen means of contraception, such as the patch, the vaginal ring, the IUD, the condom, the information of which can be found on the site Choose your contraception, designed by the National Public Health Agency. Some natural methods (withdrawal and periodic abstinence) are presented in the same way as other means of contraception, although they are “Remain restrictive and therefore unreliable” , specifies the site.
To find information on the different methods of contraception:
The Family Planning website, planning-familial.org
The onsexprime.fr website, onsexprime.fr
The comparative table of contraceptive methods, choisirsacontraception.fr
See also: What is the sex load, the other mental load of women?