Our Republican-led Congress is hell-bent on defunding Planned Parenthood and reducing contraceptive coverage. Millions of women could lose access to family planning if this happens, and, as the state of Texas has demonstrated, there will likely be many more unplanned pregnancies, particularly among low-income women.
Yesterday, Into The Gloss published a very informative breakdown of nine options yesterday, and today we're adding to the conversation. To show that we stand with Planned Parenthood today and every day, we asked some of our favorite contributors what birth-control methods they use and why.
I've been on the birth-control pill on and off for almost fifteen years. It's the only thing that can control my endometriosis pain, and it's made my skin clearer, my moods more even, and my life altogether finer. In college, before I had a diagnosis of endo, I'd go off it whenever I broke up with someone or just felt restless. During one of those pill-less periods, I decided I was going to use the contraceptive sponge, newly back on the market. I was visiting a boyfriend and taking an eleven-hour Greyhound bus to get there. I was so excited to have sex and so intent on making it seamless and romantic that I inserted the sponge in the bathroom of the moving bus five hours before we arrived. I emerged to find a man auctioning off a Subway sandwich, because that's the joy of a Greyhound. I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to leave a spermicidal sponge in your pussy for that long, and by the time I got to him I had insane burning, and my distress was palpable. The rest of the weekend was a wash. I did not use the sponge anymore despite Elaine Benes's endorsement.
Since then, I've tried a bunch of different birth-control pills and settled on an extended-cycle pill called Seasonique. My periods are painful and disruptive and can put me out of commission, so limiting them to a few times a year is better for my health and happiness. I know that without the pill, I would not have been able to be a productive and functioning member of society, and that's not an exaggeration. I am genuinely nervous for the day I go off it in an attempt to get pregnant because it's such a big part of regulating my body, and the routine makes me feel really safe. Also, my pill case is a gorgeous, appropriately fleshy pink.
I take a birth-control pill to regulate my periods. I've been on it since my freshman year of college. Right now, I take a generic version of Ortho Tri-Cyclen, which has different hormone levels week to week. The month starts off with a high dose, and then by the time that I get to the week before my placebo week, it's a lower one. I'm on this type of birth control because the last three that I tried made me bleed during a non-placebo week, but this one finally seems to be working (knock on wood). I've been on quite a few different pills over the years, because my insurance has changed and things fall out of the coverage line. I went from being able to take name brand to generic versions, but the generics work just as well so far. The pill makes my period less heavy and my cramps less debilitating. When I'm not on it, my periods are nearly impossible to handle.
I'm currently debating going on the combination pill Yaz because I have hormonal acne, which my gyno says is a result of higher testosterone levels, and which my psychic witch of a tarot-card guru and yoga teacher in Savannah, Georgia, says is because I have too much "divine masculine." That means even though I love makeup and lacy bras and other performances of the female gender, I'm a bit of an aggro dude at times. Part of the Yin solution, according to my guru? Be around water. But I'm hesitant to go on Yaz. For the past five and a half years, I have been in a monogamous relationship. I'm scared of hormonal birth control (I'm a "triple Leo," so I have a lot of fire and don't want any more emotions). And I've heard horror stories from friends about their cramping from IUDs, which my phone always autocorrects to IEDs because I'm a Middle East correspondent. So the past half a decade has been a mixture of condoms and coitus interruptus and the occasional pregnancy test. I'm pretty confident that if men got pregnant, birth control by now would be as simple as a no-side-effects implantable chip. Sigh. A luta continua.
I was a birth-control-pill girl until I went so hormone crazy I had to stop. Never found the right one. Now I'm 43, so who cares? I hated condoms, though, and was thrilled when I finally was in enough of a long-term relationship that I could stop wrestling with that bullshit. I remember a health educator in my Catholic high school saying "Men are like basketballs! They dribble before they shoot!" when talking about the effectiveness of ye-olde-pull-out method.
Now? We have two kids and two pretty demanding jobs, which does the trick. We are back to pull-out, which is NOT recommended for the young and fertile.
Monophasic pills. I've been taking them since I was a teenager, and, what can I say, I'm a creature of habit. I also prefer pills because they feel the least intrusive, and I feel most in control.
The whole point of long-lasting reversible birth control is that, in the parlance of the industry, you can set it and forget it. But that's not exactly what happened with my Mirena and me. Instead, after years of worrying about pregnancy, begging for my period to come, trying two types of birth-control pills and, of course, condoms, plus an occasional morning-after pill, I can't stop thinking about my IUD. It's been a little over three years now, and I still find it utterly unbelievable that such an easy solution exists. IUDs are wildly effective, so I (most likely) won't get pregnant accidentally, but I also don't have to expend energy thinking about how to not become pregnant, which frees me to think about how great not thinking about that really is.
I am a Depo-Provera devotee. After proving incapable of taking birth-control pills regularly, I switched to the more foolproof once-every-three-months shot. I was warned that I might bleed continuously or have random spotting, but eventually my period disappeared. This was an added bonus for someone who couldn't be counted on to take birth-control pills on time, much less remember to carry tampons. After seven years, the only side effect is an increased likelihood of crying at commercials toward the end of the shot's cycle, but it's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
I always call it "the copper one," but my IUD, a hormone-free intrauterine birth-control device, is formally ParaGard brand. It picked me in 2012. I was a failure of Southern-public-school sex education, a shattered, unstable 22-year-old who'd just had her second abortion. I'd never used protection. With my mental health in mind, a doctor recommended I return to Planned Parenthood after I recovered to get an IUD insertion — for free — to offset another pregnancy. The procedure was hellish, but I'm an advocate for the IUD because it offers a decade or more of prevention. (The failure rate of the pill is 9 percent; it's .08 for the copper IUD.) It afforded control and stability when I had none. Five years in, I'm steadier on my feet and grateful for this method of birth control because it gave me time to become my adult self, without children.
"It's tearing up my dick," my ex-boyfriend yelled from the bathroom.
"It" was the NuvaRing, a small, bendable piece of plastic I jimmied inside
myself once a month. I had a different theory as to why we were both being rubbed dry, but he was as uninterested in that as he was in my pointers about how to make me wet. I suspect the NuvaRing was probably a fine option for me, but I got rid of it, and then I got rid of him. (I wish, dear reader, that I could confess a different order.)
That's not to say my body has gotten along with every form of birth control I've taken, a relationship that began at the age of seventeen. In college, Depo-Provera was all the rage, and while it put five pounds on my small frame in what felt like five minutes, I appreciated the convenience it provided; once a month, I'd go to the campus health center, and they'd shoot me in butt with a syringe and then hand me a flyer on the dangers of licking other people's eyeballs. Within a few years, however, news broke that the shot caused significant bone-density loss. I moved on, to the patch, but it kept falling off and was highly visible and vexing to my grandfather. Now I rely on pills, which feels as if the process has come full circle. I don't remember the brand I took at first, but this one is called Sprintec, which sounds zippy, like it's fueling the woman I've become, one I trust my younger self would be proud of.
While there is a certain pain management to the act of not getting pregnant (i.e., not having to give birth), my use of birth control has always been about a more immediate sort of pain control. Periods through middle school were cramping, heavy-flow nightmares. The amount of Tylenol I took to get through a day on the rag was going to give me the liver of a 60-year-old alcoholic. The pill wasn't a magic wand, but it made it possible for teenage me to sit through history class in a chair, rather than writhing around on the floor in pain.
At 29, my body's calmed down a little. I can get my period without the pill now and still exist as a functional human being, but I still pop my Lutera three to four months out of the year. Have you ever tried changing a tampon hidden underneath three layers of costume petticoats? Neither have I, thanks to the the pill, which I now take to stave off my period during important things like comic-book conventions. Pain or no pain, when has a constant flow of blood from between your legs ever actually been a convenience?