Annie Murphy of 'Schitt's Creek' Wants You to Consider — and Question — All Your Birth Control Options

The actress is opening up about her roller coaster of a journey to find the best form of contraception for her.

When Annie Murphy was ready to go on birth control at 16 years old, she recalls being prescribed "the pill" without any explanation, discussion, or education. Oral contraceptives were the norm at the time, and since doctors gave it their stamp of approval, she didn't question it, she tells Shape. But her experience was anything but trouble-free.

"I started having quite adverse reactions to it — I was having really bad mood swings and just not really feeling myself," says the Schitt's Creek star. "And I finally pieced together the fact that it was probably caused by the hormones that I was putting into my body every day."

In an attempt to shut down those side effects, Murphy says she switched to a birth control pill with a lower dosage of hormones — which provided zero relief — then ditched oral contraceptives entirely and gave the vaginal ring a go. At the time, the ringseemed less "aggressive" and "safer" than the pill, in her opinion, as the hormones weren't "pumped throughout your whole body," explains Murphy. "But then I started thinking about it over the next year or two, and I was like, 'I'm still putting localized hormones in a very, very sensitive and important area of my body,'" she says. (BTW, the ring slowly releases estrogen and progestin, which are absorbed by the vaginal lining and enter the bloodstream, according to Planned Parenthood.) After making that realization, "I stopped the ring and then I just kind of just crossed my fingers, which isn't an ideal form of birth control, either," she says.

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Of course, some people, such as those dealing with painful periods or skin issues, may benefit from hormonal birth control, says Murphy. But the 34-year-old says the idea of putting hormones into her body for an extended period of time, particularly with a medication the Food and Drug Administration approved as recently as 1960, just didn't sit right with her. "The pill, in the grand scheme of things, is still a relatively new invention, and because it is chemically based and hormonally based, we still don't know all of the repercussions that these hormones can have on our bodies," says Murphy.

Currently, the known, severe side effects of combination birth control pills and other forms of hormonal birth control — such as the ring or skin patch — include an increased risk of developing blood clots and high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke, according to the Office on Women's Health. Some research also shows the risk of breast cancer increases in women who use oral contraceptives, according to the National Cancer Institute. And compared to those who have never taken the pill, one study found that women who take oral contraceptives for 5 to 9 years have a 60 percent higher risk of cervical cancer, and the risk doubles after 10 years of use.

Annie Murphy in Phexxi birth control ad

It wasn't until the Emmy Award-winning actress tried Phexxi — a new FDA-approved, hormone-free contraceptive — that she says she felt like a weight had been taken off her shoulders. "A veil of anxiety has honestly lifted since I started using it," says Murphy, who's currently a partner with Phexxi's parent company Evofem Biosciences, Inc. The prescription gel is inserted via a tampon-like applicator up to an hour before each sex act, and it's formulated to maintain the vagina's pH levels in the presence of sperm (which typically raise the vaginal pH so they can better swim up the reproductive canal), according to Phexxi. In doing so, Phexxi curbs the sperm's mobility and chances of reaching an egg, making it 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used as directed, per the brand. (P.S. Sperm changing your pH is just one way having sex with a new partner can actually eff with your vagina.)

Unlike other forms of birth control, Phexxi is used only when you need it — there's no strict pill-popping regimen to follow or device hanging outin your reproductive organs for months (or years) on end. "What I really love about it is if I don't have sex for 10 days, I don't have to be on anything for 10 days," says Murphy. And this novel on-demand style that requires zero negotiation with a partner is what makes it so damn empowering. "It's about fucking time...It's finally in our hands to use [birth control] when we want," she says. "All of the women in my life that I've talked to about it have first been like 'That exists?' and then they're like, 'Why the fuck hasn't that existed before?'" Bonus: The lubricating gel also makes things go a bit more smoothly while doing the deed, she says.

But to Murphy, her partnership with Phexxi isn't just about raising awareness for a hormone-free birth control option or showing folks tools that could help them feel more in control of their bodies; it's also an opportunity to open the conversation about taboo topics surrounding women's reproduction and sexual health, she says. "So many people are dealing with those issues every single day, and I think the feeling of knowing that you're not alone in those struggles is very, very important," says Murphy. "[That's] why I do find it so important to engage in these conversations and continue having them as much as they need to be had, until there isn't a stigma attached and until they're considered normal." (

The first practice she's set on normalizing: Raising questions. "Ask questions about what you're putting in your body," says Murphy. "I think my generation was reluctant to do that — we just had to pretend we knew things. So that would be my advice; to be more confident in not knowing and asking questions and learning more about literally everything, but especially birth control."

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