Pin It
Illustration Sophie Rawlingson

The zine telling you the truth about contraception

Preventing pregnancy and periods can literally drive you mad (confirmed by science), The Peach Diaries aims to unpack the ups and downs of trying to take control of your own body

Recent studies are now confirming that the pill can be pretty dire for your mental health. But we kind of already suspected that.

Side effects and motivations for using contraception aren’t always the same. For some, the pill is used to improve acne. Or, it allows women to choose when they want to have a period (if at all). Many consider the coil but can be put off by urban myths about the device becoming embedded in wombs or falling down on and impaling penises. Really, every option comes with its own downsides.

It isn’t easy to tell your doctor your boobs feel like they are about to express milk at any moment, you’re feeling really down about where your life is headed and you almost broke up with your boyfriend because he looked at you a bit funny. And Creative Director, Elinor Christie, and her Graphic Designer sister Sophie Rawlingson found that drinking and over sharing with friends was far more eye opening than looking at the side effects listed on the back of a packet or speaking to a nurse at the clinic.

The frank and honest discussion inspired Ellie (a self-proclaimed zine making obsessive) to do a call out to find out other women’s experiences with various forms of contraception. With her lust for self-publication and Sophie’s creativity, they’ve successfully created an outlet for women to rant about their complicated relationships with their bodies in The Peach Diaries.

We spoke to them about the importance of keeping the contraception conversation alive.

Why did you and your sister decide to make a zine about contraception?

Ellie Christie: My sister Sophie is also the amazing illustrator for The Peach Diaries! The very idea of it was to reach other ‘sisters’ in a female unity kind of way. It came around after we had both separately chatted with friends, drunk and over-shared. We and our friends had been using contraception and the effects on our mental and physical health were really beginning to become apparent. It was so interesting how different everyone’s experiences were with each method. Some of the stories were so awful. It made me feel sad they felt it couldn’t be mentioned out loud in public. 

Once they get on the topic almost every girl has some sort of horror story to tell but what has worked best for you?

Ellie Christie: Finding something that works for you can take a lot of trial and error which is taxing. I have tried various methods and various brands of the pill and am still trying to find the best fit. I remember coming off one brand of the pill and having a real moment of clarity, I hadn’t been myself for so long.

Why is it important women continue this dialogue amongst themselves rather than just talk to a doctor and enter into a cycle of trial and error?

Ellie Christie: So these problems are widely shared and can't be ignored by doctors. The more we talk about the symptoms the faster we can break this wall without having to experiment with different methods on ourselves. 

Talk me through the illustrations throughout this zine, what were you trying to convey?

Sophie Rawlingson: The illustrations throughout appear to float around the page. They represent random thoughts, unorganised musings about contraception. A combination of all the things that are going on in your life. The things that occupy your mind. When using contraception or during your period you are just supposed to get on with it all, the day to day, and not dwell. The illustrations reflect the everyday musings of a woman. 

I found it interesting you included the Google search page because personally when I felt like I was going insane the first time I realised I wasn’t alone was through Google. Is this a common key moment of self-discovery?

Ellie Christie: Somehow we turn to our computers to check we are ‘normal’. Often these pages online are full of women asking each other questions like ‘Has anyone else?’ with answers ‘OMG I had the same thing’. This kind of open discourse is amazing. 

Sophie Rawlingson: The Internet can really be a safe space for those who don’t feel they can talk about it IRL. However, there is the problem with people misdiagnosing themselves when looking online for answers so it's important we are careful with the information we find online by weighing it up in our heads and decoding it with experience and rational thinking, and medical advice.

Your zine covers the many motivations for using non-hormonal methods which stories stuck with you the most? 

Ellie Christie: The one about getting the coil before going travelling as a way to have a pregnancy safety net without carrying around pills and a way to make her periods more manageable. The very opposite happened and she had non-stop bleeding and it has such an emotional effect on her too which I can imagine was just so draining when constantly on the move. 

Sophie Rawlingson: Hearing that some girls use contraception as a method to control their periods or mental health issues that come with their natural hormonal cycle was something I hadn’t thought of before. I assumed that people like me were using it to stop getting pregnant. It seems some GP's use contraception as a solve-all medicine.

“The pill is a feminist landmark, and we are lucky to have it. There are many countries where this is not the case but that doesn't mean we should stay quiet” – Ellie Christie

The pill is often seen as a feminist landmark, giving women control over their own bodies. However, do you think this project has made you look at it differently?

Ellie Christie: It is and we are lucky to have it. We live in a bubble within this world where we have easy access to doctors, medicine and are able to try different methods which is amazing, there are many countries where this is not the case but that doesn't mean we should stay quiet. A large part of feminism is reclaiming and having control. It's amazing we can control our periods, we can delay the emotional/physical effects that come with it allowing us to smash a meeting at work or run a marathon, and prevent pregnancy.

What do you think could be improved in how doctors deal with female contraception?

Sophie Rawlingson: I think assigning a method of contraception over a 10 minute GP session is never personal enough. There needs to be a discussion that takes place beforehand or a website/leaflet so that before we have this 10-minute meeting, we are prepared. You can use contraception from 16 yrs old – I wasn’t nearly half as informed then as I am now.

What could be improved with how men (significant others or casual partners) approach the conversation around contraception?

Sophie Rawlingson: I think that you need to be super open with your partner, whether you're in a relationship or not. Men should not expect you to automatically be "on the pill".

Ellie Christie: Tell your partner honestly, even the gross stuff if you need to. If they respect you they wouldn't want you to suffer for their gain. In every type of sexual relationship contraception is an important thing to suss out.

Can you imagine a world where there is a male pill?

Sophie Rawlingson: I am really excited about the male pill. Obviously, there was controversy around it and it's clear why (if they don't have to put up with symptoms then why should we). I don't think I would feel comfortable asking my partner to take a male pill if I knew it would make them change to the point they start to not feel themselves. I hope we can reach a place where both men and women can take a symptom-free method of contraception.