Real Talk: On Birth Control & Protecting Against Pregnancy, Part 1

This week’s Real Talk focuses on birth control: what we use, why, and our thoughts on all the issues surrounding the way we keep our bodies pregnancy-free! The second half of our conversation about contraception will run tomorrow.

The participants are:

  • Rose Fox is a book and magazine editor, event organizer, and activist. You can find them on Twitter, LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, and many other social media platforms as ‘rosefox’.
  • Carrie Murphy is a poet, freelance writer, and birth doula. She tweets @carriemurph.
  • Patricia Valoy is a civil engineer, writer for Everyday Feminism, and host for Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio. You can find her on Twitter or read her blog on feminist issues from the perspective of a Latina.

Avital: Thank you all for taking the time to talk contraception with me! Let’s start by sharing what birth control method we’re on. I’m #TeamIUD. I have a Mirena.

Patricia: Right now I’m on the pill.

Rose: I have a Mirena too! I’m on my second one and I love love love it. I originally got it before I started identifying as genderqueer, and one of the things I love about it now is no menstruation — or, as a trans friend of mine calls it, no “cognitive dissonance week.”

Avital: I love that phrasing. And it’s so interesting to hear the range of physical reactions to the IUD, Rose.

Carrie: I use the Fertility Awareness Method as described in Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler, plus condoms. I’m interested to hear how much more common IUDs are now. When one of my friend’s moms suggested she get one in high school we were all like, ‘Uh, what? That’s so ‘80s.’

Avital: Yeah, the IUD is making a comeback

Rose: I had to shop around a bit for a doctor who would give me an IUD, since I hadn’t given birth (and don’t plan to).

Patricia: It’s true. I only asked about it out of curiosity and my gynecologist looked at me like it was out of the question.

Carrie: Me too! The gyno I’d had since I was a teenager doesn’t do IUDs in general — I’ve never heard of another doctor having that policy — so I had to switch doctors.

Avital: Why did you all choose these particular methods? I have to admit that, like Rose, there was an appeal to lighter/no periods that I had heard about.

Rose: I had very irregular and heavy periods, and the promise of lighter/no periods really appealed to me

Carrie: What made you guys get the Mirena rather than a copper IUD? I feel like the Mirena is more readily available.

Avital: My midwife offered me both, but I went with Mirena for the low dose of hormones that promised the lighter/no periods.

Rose: I had heard bleeding can increase with the copper one. I did my own research on it.

Avital: I also liked that it was a co-pay of $25 and I’m set for at least five years.

Patricia: I chose the pill because I have very irregular periods. It helped regulate my period and of course, it’s birth control. So it just served the purposes I needed it to.

Rose: I’d been on many varieties of the pill, and the patch.

Carrie: Well, I’d been on hormonal birth control since I was 18 (I’m now 27). Ortho Tri Cyclen Lo, Lo-Estrin, Alesse (maybe they’re the same), Yaz, a whole bunch of different pills. Then I decided I was done with taking pills and got on the NuvaRing for a year. Then I had to get off my mom’s insurance so NuvaRing was $90 per month, even with insurance. I got a few free ones from my gyno, but after fighting with the pharmacy and my insurance company each month even after the free birth control law went into effect last August, I was so frustrated. Plus, I felt like I’ve been on hormonal birth control for as long as I’ve been sexually active, and I wanted to see what my body would feel like without it.

Avital: How long have you been on it, Patricia? I was on the pill for eight years.

Patricia: I’ve been on the pill for about four years. So far it works for me. I like that I can get off it anytime I want and then come back to it.

Carrie: I wanted a hormone-free method, but I didn’t want an IUD. And I’m a doula, and kind of crunchy, so I heard about FAM and it seemed cool, so I got the book, downloaded an app on my phone and started doing it! I use condoms at my fertile time (which I track by tracking my cervical fluid and temp). FAM was way easier than I thought it would be and I really like it so far.

Avital: It’s interesting to hear about FAM. I definitely don’t think it’s talked about too much when birth control is discussed.

Carrie: Honestly I think most non-hormonal forms of BC are not discussed, aside from condoms.

Rose: I’m interested too, from the perspective of someone who is going to have to pay for sperm when we do reach the “want to get pregnant” perspective. It’s important to track fertility so we don’t waste it!

Patricia: The women in my family who don’t use BC for religious reasons rely on their cycle. But I don’t trust myself enough to do that. I would get so nervous and ruin the moment.

Carrie: I mean, when I was in sex ed as a teenager and in college, I felt like it was the pill or condoms. That’s all I knew about.

Rose: I know lots and lots of people who use condoms (I hang out with a lot of polyamorous folks and safer sex is like religion for us).

Carrie: I wrote a whole article about diaphragms last year and a lot of women were like why would you even do that? And I was like … it used to be THE THING! for people. Hello, Erica Jong.

Patricia: I rarely use condoms. They irritate me.

Carrie: I think most barrier methods other than condoms seem too outdated/complicated for people.

Avital: Yeah, they do feel that way to me, although obviously they’re available and folks are using them.

Rose: I’m really interested in the research being done into reversible semi-permanent contraception for men and other people with penises.

Avital: Yes, Rose! Birth control that impacts the sperm rather than our own hormones is so fascinating to me.

Carrie: Will it ever be real?!?!

Avital: I feel like they’ve talked about a “male pill” for 10 years or so. India’s done some successful testing on this type of BC for a while now.

Patricia: I wish they would hurry up with that male BC pill. I could use a break! But really, how many men would use them? There’s a lot of stigma.

Rose: The “reversible vasectomy” possibilities always seem just on the verge of a breakthrough. But yes, very hard to convince people to do it.

Avital: The stigma issue would be tough to navigate. I wonder if it would impact other discussions on reproductive rights.

Patricia: I actually feel really naive to other forms of birth control. I went to my gyno, I got on the pill, and that was it. I didn’t know there were many options so I didn’t search for them.

Carrie: Patricia, I feel that’s a really common experience.

Rose: I got very thorough sex ed in high school (HS class of ’96), so I knew about the options. But the most important option was the bowl of condoms in the bathroom attached to the nurse’s office!

Patricia: I still have a bowl of condoms.

Carrie: Oh man, I don’t think my high school had condoms. We had good sex ed, but not condoms.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our Real Talk discussion on birth control!

[Image of birth control pills via Shutterstock]