#FWOTM: Holly Grigg-Spall, Author of Sweetening the Pill

Holly 2If last month’s Fierce Woman of the Month, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, got to know the work of this month’s Fierce Woman of the Month, Holly Grigg-Spall, we are certain she’d be spearheading the introduction of another similar bill to Congress, like the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act we reported on last month. Bill or no bill, Holly, in the true pioneering spirit of a Fierce Woman, took it upon herself to research and delve more deeply into a woman’s health issue that is oh so dear to our bleeding hearts (and vaginas) – birth control pills.

The ingredients and effects of synthetic laden oral contraceptives are not only questionable but even worse, they are sometimes used to thwart menstruation completely! To many, the idea of no periods may sound awesome, but as Green Feminine Hygiene Queens and in the experience of Holly and many other birth control users, there is something that’s just not right or natural about that.

As Fierce Women, we are naturally feminists. Like some of the reasons that increased the use of tampons in the history of tampons, early feminists appreciated the freedoms provided by oral contraception. Fifty five years ago when birth control pills were first introduced to the market, they too provided a way for women to engage in previously male dominated arenas of work and play without having to deal with the sometimes “hassles” of the exclusive feminine experience of menstruation and conception.

In the process of gaining these new freedoms, millennial feminists are starting to rally and march to the beat of a new drum tune that asks “What are we losing in ignoring and deleting our menstrual cycles?” …and…”How can something that separates you from your most primal and natural identity be empowering?”

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These are some of the primary and intriguing questions featured in the trailer for the documentary inspired by Holly’s book, Sweetening the Pill. While we may not yet have clear conclusive scientific evidence to provide answers to the above questions, the documentary will capture the essence of some of these startling facts and statistics found in Holly’s book:

  • Today eighty percent of women will take the birth control pill at some point during their lifetimes.
  • The Pill significantly lowers a woman’s libido — sometimes irreversibly so, since “the impact on testosterone levels is permanent.
  • Using hormonal contraceptives greatly increases a woman’s risk of developing many life-threatening conditions, including heart disease and breast, cervical, and liver cancers.
  • Recent research shows that if a woman starts taking the Pill before she turns twenty her risk of developing breast cancer in later life is doubled.
  • 63.7% of women go off the pill within the first year due to unwanted side effects.

The documentary will hopefully fuel more research to be done on the effects of the birth control pill and explore holistic recommendations for safer contraceptive methods, while most importantly empowering women to make the most informed contraceptive choice.


The team behind converting “Sweetening the Pill” to a documentary is just as fierce as Holly; some of the members include our friend, period party partner and Hormonal Health Coach, Nicole Jardim, and the dynamic duo who produced the groundbreaking documentary “The Business of Being Born” – Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Due to the controversial nature of the documentary, this dynamic team is having trouble getting the funding it needs to get the film complete and to the masses, which led them to launch a Kickstarter campaign that needs the support and backing of other Fierce Women like you who deserve and demand more insight in regards to women’s health.

If you’re not yet convinced to back this project, check out our exclusive interview with Holly below to learn more about her inspiration for writing the book that will hopefully change the way we handle and think about birth control in the future.

At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why?

Carol Downer – she is a women’s health activist who has been fighting for our reproductive sovereignty since the 1970s. She began the vital and revolutionary self-help movement, which resulted in a huge leap in knowledge and information regarding women’s bodies. Carol collaborated on ‘A New View Of A Woman’s Body.’ She founded the feminist women’s health clinics of California and the “women’s health in women’s hands” initiative. Carol is fierce and she is utterly fierceless, participating in protests across the country. She has championed my book, for which I am very grateful and when we meet, which we try to do regularly, we end up talking for hours.

What inspired you to write “Sweetening the Pill?”

It began as a blog that I wrote about my experience using the Pill for ten years and then specifically using a popular brand called Yaz. I had written a feature for Easy Living magazine titled ‘What You Should Know About The Pill’ and I was, at the time, newly moved to the US with no working VISA and lots of time on my hands. Writing the blog – subtitled, Who am I when I’m not on the Pill? – allowed me to blend my personal experience with research. I had many many women get in touch with me and I realized this was a subject – the side effects of the Pill – about which very little was being said and that women badly needed more information. I wrote a few pieces for newspapers etc, then some two years later or so I pitched a book proposal to a small independent publisher in the UK.

Did you ever think your research and book would be turned in to a documentary with the help of other fierce women like Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein? Are there any other documentaries on the topic out there?

There aren’t any other documentaries on this topic specifically, no. There have been a few TV specials and long form articles in big magazines like Vanity Fair, but no documentaries. I wrote about Ricki and Abby’s film The Business of Being Born in my book, there were so many parallels between the experience women have with birth and with birth control. This one-size-fits-all approach wherein the woman’s health is not always paramount. While I was still writing the book I wrote to Abby, but it took a year for us to meet (just after the book came out). At that time I had been trying to make a documentary with a small team in LA, but we had little time and no money. Meeting Abby and Ricki and having them feel so passionately about this and just really “get” it in the best way from the very start has been brilliant. Even if I had known or hoped they might make this film, I would still have been amazed at how supportive and smart they are about this women’s health issue, particularly one that is so little discussed. I am thrilled to see how they take my book and use it as a springboard to discuss this topic in a way that it bound to surprise and inspire even me.

What would be your advice to other fierce women out there looking to positively change the norm for other women’s  health issues like you are doing in the realm of hormonal health and birth control?

Start the conversation – that’s how it happened for me – two friends talking about how the Pill made them feel and what they wanted to do about it. Talk about the things you don’t think you’re supposed to talk about. If you’re experiencing something, it’s very likely other women are too. Do the work you do from a place of wanting women’s lives to be better and wanting them to feel validated in their experiences. Take note of the evidence others dismiss as anecdotal only, as it’s the canary in the coalmine. Be someone women can come to, via email, at parties, for advice and to speak in confidence. Don’t mind being battered with criticism and personal insults, just know you’re part of a progression and try to stay true to your first feelings.

You recently joined us in writing a guest blog post on the topic of the Robin Danielson Act, a bill that is asking Congress for funding to do more research on the toxic ingredients found in conventional feminine hygiene products. Are there any similar bills being introduced to Congress for birth control pills?

Not exactly, but a group of parents who have lost daughters to the NuvaRing and Yaz as a result of the higher blood clot risk inherent in these methods are fighting for change in the FDA process, in research publication and proliferation,and in how lawsuits are dealt with when a birth control method results in serious injury and death. See Informed Choice for Amerika for some of their work – http://www.informedchoiceforamerika.com/ – this is a very important cause as many women don’t know the risk or the symptoms they should look out for. We will be investigating this further in the documentary.

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