#ThxBirthControl: A Love Story
I am happy to announce that I have finally found THE ONE. I have to admit, it was rough going for a while. After my rocky history of incompatible pairings and utter disappointments, I often wondered if I would ever find my match, my perfect fit, the one that could keep up with my busy lifestyle and still make me feel happy and safe. I was sick of putting myself out there, time and time again, always starting off so full of hope, but ending up left with a roller coaster of emotions, physical pain and even the occasional rash.
But all of that is behind me now, because I am 2 years into the most successful relationship I have ever been in. We had a few bumps along the way, but I have never felt so safe, so free or so sure of anything in my life. No, I am not talking about my boyfriend (although he and I are doing great, thanks for asking!) I am talking about my current form of birth control.
Among adult women who are sexually active, 99% report having used some form of birth control. Me, I have probably used about 99% of the forms of birth control available… It sure feels that way, at least! Since the age of 18, I have tried a wide variety of birth control methods, including several types of oral contraceptives, condoms, the ring, the patch, something that I am fairly certain was a diaphragm, the pull-and-pray method followed quickly by a Plan B chaser, and there was also that 11 month period of self-enforced abstinence — A great option, health-wise, but would not recommend long term.
When I was a teenager, most of my friends were on the Pill in the same way that most Los Angelenos are gluten-free. They liked to talk about it, bond over it and complain about it, but were wildly inconsistent in the actual practice of taking it. We were teenagers walking around with oozing hormones and sloppy birth control methods, like tiny baby-making time bombs. By the time we reached the legal drinking age, many of my friends either had kids, had been pregnant, or had several intense pregnancy scares under their belts, which seems to line right up with the statistics: Nearly 1 in 4 teenagers will become pregnant before they hit 20 years old.
I look back and wonder why none of their parents, teachers, older sisters or friends told them that maybe the Pill wasn’t the best option FOR THEM? Oh right, because the adults in our lives had no idea how to talk to us about it. For that matter, they were probably operating under the delusion that there wasn’t anything TO talk about.
Luckily (or unluckily) for me, I get caught at everything. My parents found out I was having sex at 16 and set me up with an OB GYN who carried the burden of giving me my birth control education. We started with The Pill, in several different varieties, but soon figured out that I was not a consistent enough pill-taker to make it worth the hormonal outbursts and weight gain. Soon after came the Nuva Ring, which used to fall out at awkward moments and get carried around by my incorrigible terrier. There was the patch, which gave me consistent yeast infections, as did most condoms. By the time I hit 22, I was done with a capital D. No more hormones, no more emotional breakdowns over fast food commercials, no more spotting and cramps and expensive trips to the pharmacy. I would either have sex with condoms or not at all… Until I started having regular sex with the guy that would soon become my boyfriend of 2 years. Sex that was SO good, it deserved to be experienced condom-free.
I had heard all about the IUD from several girlfriends, all of whom raved about it. Still, when my OBGYN suggested it, I had some concerns. What’s the maintenance? What are the hormones like? Would I gain weight? Break out? what’s the success rate? Are there risks?
Ladies, I can not say this enough, ASK YOUR DOCTOR EVERY QUESTION POSSIBLE WHEN CHOOSING YOUR BIRTH CONTROL. Seriously, that’s their job. That’s what they’re there for. My doctor sat with me and explained how the IUD worked, what the process would be like and what to expect once it was in place. I took a week or so to think about it, talked it over with my mom and my friends, and came to the conclusion that this form of birth control was the one for me.
I won’t lie to you, getting the IUD wasn’t a pleasant process but it was all worth it in the end, because two years later I am proud to be sexually active and still blissfully child-free.
The moral to my story is that birth control is not a “One Size Fits All” situation; what works for one woman might not work for another. I had a great experience with the IUD, but many women have not. Several of my friends have been on The Pill for years and have had no problems, while my experience was a nightmare. It’s important to learn what your options are and try them all out, until you find the one that fits your specific needs. (If you’re not sure what methods are available, or which one might be right for you, Bedsider.org is an amazing resource at your disposal!)
Let me be clear here, ladies, because this is important: There is absolutely NO excuse for not using birth control. NONE. Birth control was named by the CDC as one of the ten most important public health achievements of the 20th century, right up there with immunizations and clean drinking water. We have so many tools available to us, and we are lucky to be sexually active in a time where we have these options. Take it from a girl who’s tried them all before she found her BC Charming — Find the one that works best, and don’t let it go.
I wrote this blog a little over a year ago, but honestly it feels like it’s been a lifetime. So much has happened in 2016, and unfortunately the state of women’s sexual health is on the verge of a crisis. Not to get all political on you, but the recent election results may directly affect women’s ability to have access to affordable to birth control. As stated by a New York OB GYN in a recent article for CNN:
“‘Between last week and this week, my talking with patients has completely changed… Last week, it was all about, ‘Let’s talk about what’s best for you,’ and it was all about the patient. This week, politics is in the chair next to me.”‘
We don’t want to believe that we will have to fight tooth and nail, or pay top dollar, in order to exercise our reproductive rights, but the fact remains. We don’t know what the future will bring, so I encourage women now more than ever to make an appointment with your gynecologist NOW. Get in there and discuss your options, while you still have them. You deserve to enjoy sex without the fear of unplanned pregnancy. It is your right to control when and how you make a baby. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.