We’ve written a lot in the past about the confusing world of female contraception, and weighed up the merits and downfalls of apps, pills, and everything else under the sun. It’s tricky to know what type of contraception is best suited to you, and finding honest, relatable information is harder than you might think. So, we were overjoyed when Alice reached out to tell us about her peer-to-peer platform which aims to take the mystery out of female contraception. Take a peek below (oo-er) to find out more…
Hi Alice, for those who haven’t heard of The Lowdown, can you tell us a little bit about the initiative?
It’s the world’s first peer to peer review platform for contraception at www.theldown.com. Women submit a short review, describing their experience with a type or brand of contraception they have tried or are using. We analyse this data and produce graphs and stats to show which methods have the highest satisfaction, most common side effects, and if it impacted women’s weight, sex drive, periods and mental health.
What inspired you to create this platform?
Personally, I’ve had some terrible experiences with hormonal contraception since I started taking Microgynon when I was 16. I always thought I was a very emotional teenager, but it wasn’t until I stopped taking it a few years later that my personality completely changed. I was calmer and stopped crying all the time about stupid things like my parents wedding anniversary.
Throughout my twenties, I’ve spoken to countless women who have all had issues with contraception at some stage in their lives. I realised that you can’t find user based data on real women’s experiences and side effects from contraception at scale, anywhere. You either speak to friends, read an intimidating internet forum, or ask your doctor. All of these are small sample sizes, and you’re never sure whether one person’s experience is the norm or the exception.
To test my idea for The Lowdown, I created a survey to ask women about their experiences using contraception. I sent it out to my friends on Whatsapp and Facebook, and within 24 hours I had 500 responses. It was then that I knew I was onto something and had to make it happen!
What have some of the most eye-opening testimonials been and how have they shifted your mindset/the mindset of those using The Lowdown?
The most eye-opening thing has been the impact contraception is having on women’s mental health. Over 37% of women who have left a review so far feel that their contraception has negatively impacted their moods and emotions. We genuinely believe there could be thousands of women out there who are currently unaware of the impact that hormones may having on their mind and wellbeing – and doctors and medical professionals who don’t think that contraception could be a cause.
We’ve had a few really sad reviews from women who have accidentally got pregnant whilst using Natural Cycles app, which have really surprised and shocked us.
Oh, and my mindset has changed around sex drive. I always assumed that contraception was a libido killer, but our results actually show the opposite; 27% of women have found their method has increased their sex drive, vs. 3% feeling it’s decreased. I’m really pleased that we’re showcasing the positive impact contraception can have on our lives too.
Your team is made up of four men (and yourself). Have their attitudes shifted to contraception? Did they come onboard already passionate about the lack of real stories or have they been inspired to take a more active role in these conversations since The Lowdown started?
Yes, it’s definitely changed their attitudes and they’ve all been surprised by the amount of interest it’s generated. I’ve really enjoyed working with a team of men because it’s given me a more independent perspective.
My CTO Jourdain has probably been the most shocked as he’s been the closest to all of the information, side effects and data we’ve entered onto the site. In his words, ‘girls get it tough!’
I’m actually in a relationship with our Analytics Director Keiran, and it’s fair to say analysing reports on ‘vaginal discharge’ and ‘thrush’ has made for some interesting conversations…
Where would you like to see the conversation around contraception move towards?
I would love to see it becoming more data-led, with women empowered with better information to help shortcut the trial and error approach many of us endure.
If you knew that the majority of other women, your age, life stage and BMI, who found Cerazette caused them bad skin, but Marvelon was better – would this information be helpful? I think so.
My vision for The Lowdown is to use data to build predictive models like this, and educate and lobby the R&D and pharmaceutical companies to hopefully improve the development of the drugs themselves. The truth is there has been very little innovation in contraception for years now, and the options women have available to them simply aren’t good enough.
Oh and I would like the conversation to become less patronising. Women are not idiots. We deserve proper statistics, and a deeper understanding of the risks, ingredients, hormone types, potency, after effects, and so much more!
What, in your opinion, are the greatest misconceptions around contraception?
That you have to put up with (sometimes incredibly debilitating) side effects. You don’t, and no one should have to. There is a long, depressing history of discounting and ignoring what women report as contraceptive side effects.
In general there is also a misconception that it’s straightforward. Contraception is complicated and transient; women’s bodies, needs and hormones change so much over time.
And finally, the question we ask everyone, what advice would you go back and tell your 16 year old self?
Avoid hormonal contraceptives – it’s their fault, not yours. Stop trying to change people/boyfriends, they are who they are. Having small boobs will not be an issue for you in the slightest. Oh and you’ll never be able to go into Boots without spending at least £15, so give up now.
Huge thank you to Alice for this chat. Check out The Lowdown here & leave your own review or just browse the site.