When Alice Pelton was 16, she started taking the pill. But she didn't realise the effect it had on her personality until she stopped taking it a few years later. After spending a considerable amount of time trying to find a more suitable form of contraception, she decided to start the TripAdvisor of contraceptive reviews. The site's name is The Lowdown; so-called because it aims to be the one place to find easily accessible and honest information from thousands of contraception users.
Leaving a review takes only a couple of minutes. All you have to do is list the type and brand of contraception you are currently using or have used in the past and answer a few questions about your experiences. Obviously, a lot of these relate to the numerous side effects that can come with certain types of contraception. As the BBC notes, the pill can lead to depression, blood clots, and more.
All reviews are published anonymously. The only information made publicly available is your age, height, weight, and whether you've previously given birth (if you decide to give these details). Users can then filter reviews based on satisfaction level, ranging from good to average to bad.
"The idea just came to me one night: we review everything from our car salesmen to our hotels. Why don’t we review our contraception as well?” Pelton recently told The Sun, adding: "It’s such a fundamental part of the lives of many young women but many are making their choices with relatively little information."
She plans to obtain 5,000 reviews for each type of contraception, including pills, implants, coils, condoms, and even the controversial fertility-tracking app, Natural Cycles. This will give her and the rest of The Lowdown team enough data to examine "trends" in side effects and impact on things like periods, weight, mood, and sex drive. The site does already analyse all of these things for each method, presenting them in an average star rating and easy-to-understand graphs.
Hundreds of people have left reviews so far, according to The Sun. "By far the most common complaints are tender breasts," Pelton noted. "42 per cent of women using various forms of the contraceptive reported that, with around 30 per cent of women reporting vaginal discharge, spots, and womb cramps too."
She added to the paper that plenty more side effects were mentioned "from increased and darker body hair and dizziness to issues wearing contact lenses. It’s an insight into quite how intricately the hormones can affect our body chemistry."
Of course, lots of people are A-OK with their contraception. Although 39 percent of site users said hormonal contraception had negatively impacted their emotions and mood, 70 percent said they were happy with their current choice.
It's important to remember that what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. And it goes without saying that allowing a couple of negative reviews to majorly influence your contraceptive choice may not be the best move.
But reading candid reviews from people of all backgrounds may give you information that a leaflet perhaps never could. It may also kickstart a more productive conversation with your doctor, resulting in the best contraception for your body and lifestyle.
Now that I can definitely get on board with.