Have you ever uttered the words “birth control” in a crowded room, only to have a slew of back-to-back horror stories told to you by 10 different humans? Perhaps you’ve been to the gynecologist or your nearest WebMD web page, only to be completely overwhelmed with options and medical jargon that goes in one ear and right out your vagina. With more than 99% (!!!) of U.S. women aged 15-44 using contraceptives at some point in their lives, these issues remain hugely important to the reproductive health of ourselves and our population. For me, a woman with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), being on birth control is essential to keeping my hormones in line (they’re a buncha wild ones). For others, birth control may be used for a variety of reasons- pregnancy prevention, medical conditions like PCOS, Endometriosis (Lena Dunham speaks candidly about living with this condition), lack of/irregular/or heavy periods, severe menstrual cramps, PMS, acne, and most importantly, choosing whether or not to use birth control allows one to have control over their body and life.
Unfortunately, many don’t know their options when it comes to birth control, or how to go about finding the “right” kind of birth control. At first I was going to simply list a few of the all-star methods that are continually discussed, but I can simply give you fabulous resources that explain options here and here (there are more than you think!). I think it’s more beneficial to share what I have learned- big takeaways regarding birth control, what to be aware of and how to be a self-advocate, helping you achieve greater knowledge about the methods and access to them, while hopefully debunking a few of the infinite myths surrounding birth control in the process.
- Know. Your. Rights. Should they CHOOSE it, every person has the right to accessible birth control and true, straight-forward information regarding it. Under the health care law, birth control is considered a preventive service, making it available at no-cost. If you have trouble getting your birth control method at no cost visit CoverHer.org for resources that can help.
- You will hear this again and again, yet it is something many people gloss over and forget: Birth control affects every one differently, and sometimes it takes trying out multiple types before knowing which one fits best into your lifestyle (a few honest experiences with B.C. here). There are various types and amounts of hormones in each method, making your body’s response unique and exclusively yours. I loved the IUD, but my friend found it caused her a lot of excess issues she had never dealt with before- it just wasn’t the right option for her. There are always going to be both horror stories and super successful ones about every type of birth control. I suggest keeping a journal of your physical, mental, and emotional health, allowing you to keep track of any patterns and keeping you self-aware of your body and how it functions with/without birth control (and hello, journaling is a wonderful self-care practice).
- In addition to remaining in-touch with your body, staying informed on the various types of birth control methods, their pros and cons, whether you’ll need a prescription filled and how often, etc. will help make the necessary conversations with your health care professional about birth control wayyyy more productive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions- and a lot of them (I like to get personal too, asking what type of birth control methods my gynecologist uses)! Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself either- one of the most important lessons I learned while struggling to find a doctor or gynecologist who took my condition and me seriously was being an advocate for myself. Doctors often dismissed me because I was a college student, allowing them to write off my irregular bodily issues as simply symptoms of a shitty eater with horrible sleep habits. Say it with me- YOU ALWAYS DESERVE A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL WHO TAKES YOU AND YOUR PROBLEMS SERIOUSLY.
- Be proactive! Get emergency contraceptives and birth control prescriptions in advance. Anyone, of any gender can purchase over the counter emergency contraceptives like Ella and Plan B (always ask for the generic version of these for a much cheaper price). You can get these contraceptives ahead of time to use like a fire extinguisher- in case of an emergency. Find yourself struggling to make it to the pharmacy every month for a prescription? Ask your prescriber for extended contraception- they can legally write you a prescription for a full year of birth control at a time, cutting out unnecessary trips to CVS.
This information was compiled using various resources, personal experiences with both brilliantly-wonderful doctors and shitty ones, discussions at conferences, and conversations with peers. Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, and provide more information in the comment section.
Featured image credit here.