Real Talk: On Birth Control & Protecting Against Pregnancy, Part 2

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 first half of our conversation about contraception ran yesterday.

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: Do any of you struggle with challenges or pitfalls of your birth control method? I know my only thing is that I’m nervous when I have to get this one out. It did hurt getting it inserted (and I bled for a month after. I almost removed it! But since then, smooth sailing)

Patricia: I’ve had issues with the pill. After prolonged use my uterus lining got too thick and I was bleeding heavily for a month. I was told I would need surgery to scrape the excess lining … that was scary. I have to switch pills every eight months or so. My body just gets all weird and stuff. It would be nice to use something else, feel like myself again. But I really just don’t know the options.

Carrie: Well, using condoms again after three-a-half years in a relationship is kind of weird for both of us, I think. Some days I forget to take my temp, or something, but since I’ve been tracking my cycle for months I at least have a rough idea of what might be going on. I’m really happy with it right now, but I’m sure that will change eventually. I just really like how my body feels when it’s not on hormones! My PMS is way worse, for sure, but I have a better sex drive, clearer skin, and I just feel less moody/tired overall. Honestly, the idea of having to get an IUD out and plan that succinctly to try to conceive is one reason why I didn’t choose to get one.

Rose: Getting my first IUD hurt a LOT. For the second, my gyno gave me a local anesthetic injection and also prescribed cervical dilation medication, and between the two, the swap was nearly painless.

Avital: Yeah, I remember getting it and wondering if it hurt that bad for me postpartum, how must it feel for somebody who hadn’t given birth.

Rose: Avital, my blog post about getting my Mirena swapped out might be useful for you.I did have a weird moment that I don’t mention there — when the first one was removed I felt a real sense of loss, like it was … rude, somehow, to just throw it in the trash.

Avital: Well, it had been a part of you for a long time.

Rose: …and i thought, “this is maybe .0001 percent of what it’s like to have an abortion.” And then I spent a while feeling really grateful that I have always had access to birth control!

Carrie: I just really like/appreciate both of those statements, Rose!

Avital: Yeah, that’s a big point though, Rose. Have any of you struggled to get access to the kind of birth control you wanted?

Rose: Other than finding doctors willing to do IUDs, no, I’ve always been very fortunate in that regard. I’ve never even had partners who refused to wear condoms (an experience that I know a lot of people have).

Patricia: I’ve been really fortunate to get what I needed, but I do feel that gynos prescribe what THEY feel is best for you without actually asking.

Carrie: I think, if the NuvaRing hadn’t been so expensive…$69 with one insurance and then $90 on the next, I might still be on it. But I just couldn’t afford that every month and I wasn’t willing to go back to a daily pill. So, I guess I’ve kind of struggled? Not a real struggle, though.

Avital: Did being a relationship play a role on what type of birth control you use?

Patricia: Definitely for me. I discussed going on the pill with my boyfriend. I felt like I did it for the both of us, not just for me.

Rose: Since I’ve been poly for a long, long time, all my BC negotiations are mostly safer sex negotiations. Lots and lots of condom use, on penises and toys.

Carrie: Since I’m in a relationship I feel more able to experiment with different methods. My boyfriend was supportive of my going off of hormonal birth contorl, even though I’m SURE he’d prefer I was just on the pill so we didn’t have to use condoms. But I think he knows how empowered I feel about my cycle now, so he’s into it. I’m always like, I just ovulated! Or, my luteal cycle was x days long! Or, I’m having fertile cervical fluid today, so we can’t have sex or we have to with a condom! And it’s weird, I guess, but I like being open about it.

Rose: Carrie, that’s adorable, not weird at all.

Patricia: That’s so sweet. I feel like my guy would totally be into that.

Rose: Terrific that you can be that open with your partner.

Patricia: Honestly, I’m just nervous I won’t be able to read my body and make a mistake.

Carrie: I felt like, how the fuck did I get to be 27 years old and not know that what comes out of my vagina at certain times of month is related to how fertile I am. Like, WHAT? PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THIS.

Avital: Any other final thoughts on birth control?

Rose: I’d just make a general note to remember that “man” and “woman” aren’t the same as “person with penis” and “person with vagina”, and that those are also not the same as “person who can impregnate” and “person who can get pregnant.” So any conversation about access to options needs to include everyone who needs those options.

Patricia: Thank you for that, Rose. I really have never thought about it.

Avital: I think that’s a great reminder, Rose, because that can leave a lot of people out of a very important conversation. Especially a conversation that can have real-life legal implications like we’ve seen (too often).

Carrie: Good point, Rose. I wish sex ed and other avenues of info about BC were more inclusive in that way.

Rose: …and people with dysphoria can have a really hard time talking about those parts of their bodies! So I’d love to see more trans*-inclusive discussion of how to have BC/safer sex discussions.

Carrie: Also, Patricia, hormonal birth control isn’t bad!!! At least, I don’t think so. It doesn’t harm you. I mean, maybe it does, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist or doctor, but I think just making it so people are more aware that there ARE options other than hormonal birth control so they can make the right choice for them. Different choices for different partners, stages of life, etc, even.

Patricia: Yea, it’s true. At this point the pill (and sometimes condoms) work for me. Eventually it will get tiring and I would like something more permanent.

Avital: Thank you all for participating in some real talk about birth control. It’s been really interesting to hear from all of you.

Avital Norman Nathman blogs at The Mamafesto. Follow me on Twitter.