Gyno Diaries: The Quest For The Right Birth Control

Sorry for the delay, pussy power rangers! The column will begin being bi-monthly from this point forward, granted we here from you gals, or trans men, or guys with gal friends, who want to talk about your experiences, anonymous or not! Email [email protected] and we will chat!

So this week’s story might seem a little mundane, but I think it illustrates two very powerful points. The first being that the repercussions of our culture not embracing and openly discussing vaginas (my computer wanted to correct that to “vagueness,” which I thought was apropos), types of birth control, types of abortion and reproductive issues has the biggest impact on our youths. Us adult women who like to get down on martinis and D typically have a network of gal pals who have varied sexual and reproductive health experiences, so we can at least have a dialogue amongst ourselves when things go strange below the belt.

Also, like Stevie Nicks said, “time makes you bolder,” and mature women typically are confident at least in knowing their options and when their needs aren’t being met by a doctor. When teenage girls approaching adulthood don’t even know what kinds of birth control are on the market, and if they have access to them through insurance or other programs, they become incredibly at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Secondly, as you will read in the following woman’s story, she ultimately opted for an IUD after several years experimenting with different types of birth control. I also had the same device implanted a few months ago, and am loving it. Granted, the insertion of the IUD was so specifically, deeply painful in a foreign, someone poking an inner organ kind of way, that I am now absolutely terrified to even contemplate giving birth. But aside from that, I adore not being able to get pregnant, and for me personally, the time line of five years with the device lines up perfectly with when I think I’ll eventually want to get pregnant, and can be removed easily if that timeline speeds up. Sex can cause some brief cramping after the fact, but that’s really been the only downside, as I personally don’t mind not having a period anymore, which is a side effect of Mirena.

But what makes me ecstatic with this story is that it exemplifies something I’ve been trying to convey to my own friends about the IUD: it’s not dangerous. We have absolutely suffered from the Republicans’ conservative, religious fear mongering when it comes to long term birth control. Yes, when IUDs were introduced in the ‘80s, they were less reliable and potentially dangerous, and after some women had horrible, if not fatal outcomes, the device left the market. Thirty years later though, IUDs have much improved, and the risk of having any of the old side effects like ovarian pregnancies, are negligible.

But for some reason this old school mentality about the device has stuck around, even when it comes to educated, liberal women. When I talk to my friends about having gotten the IUD, not a single one of them hasn’t given me a hesitant, worried look. They almost all then ask, “Isn’t that for women who are done having children?” To which I always respond, “Why do you think that,” and they say, “That’s just what I’ve heard.”

Let me tell you something. That is 100% the result of Republican propaganda. I remember when Mirena reemerged five or so years ago, they did advertise to women done having children, but that was because a) that seemed like a good target market for the device after advertising polls, and b) they didn’t want to be the subject of controversy. Now, women are more open, and getting the device in unprecedented numbers, but the stigma still persists. My own gynecologist in 2009 told me she would not give me Mirena if I hadn’t had a child. But my college roommate’s doctor had no problem giving it to her at the time. The only difference was that my doctor was religious and southern, and hers was liberal and northern. Fast forward to 2015, the same southern doctor recommended it to me. I wanted it too badly to bring attention to her fickle recommendations.

The IUD has been proven to reduce teen pregnancy to almost zero when introduced by state programs. And since being revamped for a more feminist time, it hasn’t had any of the bad press that Republicans haven’t made up for it. That’s why I’m thrilled that this young woman sent in her story. She was smart, and measured from 16 on to find the kind of birth control that works for her, and I think that’s something we all need to venture to teach our daughters someday. This isn’t a 1970’s grab a condom as you leave the party world anymore. Young women need to take control of their own bodies, as this woman did. I also think it’s important to note however, that she didn’t find the right solution right away, and that seems to be because of the typical trickle down information way that reproductive education works now. At her request, she has remained anonymous.

*****

When I was 15, I got into to a super competitive public boarding school in Illinois. My parents (more so my Mom) wanted me to be prepared so she took me to the OBGYN and told me to ask them questions about birth control if I was interested. I was a little taken back because we don’t really talk about sex and I was a virgin. So I went and meet a kind, yet firm woman in her mid-forties who ended up being my OBGYN. She stressed that “If he won’t put a condom on, his penis isn’t good enough for you.” My mom works for the State of IL (which is in a state of distress) so birth control was covered and affordable. Anyway, I got it and took it for about a year. I would miss days and start my pack late. It didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t have sex.

Then I start having sex, and used condoms too because I  knew I wasn’t reliable. After a year of eating bad cafeteria food, pizza rolls, take out and ramen I developed Hypertension at the lovely age of 16 (genetics, bad diet and Black — it was bound to happen). I had to stop taking the pill because of the risk of stroke which scared the shit out of me. The only other method I knew about was the shot, and my mom told me I’d gain a lot of weight, so I threw that option out. I was still having, sex but I only used condoms with spermicide already on (or in) it.

Two years later I was heading off to college, so I went to the OBGYN for a check up. Since I last went my previous doctor left, so I was scheduled to see a man. At first I was nervous because the only men who’d seen my labia and vagina were sex partners. Now this man who was a complete stranger was going to see it. But I’d already waited 40 minutes so I went and got my check up. He was nice, but he seemed to be in a rush. He swabbed my vagina, did an STD panel, and a breast exam to make sure everything was healthy. I asked him what were my options for birth control. I did some research before I went into his office on bedsider.org. I highly recommend this site and to do research. He said he’d recommend Implana, a small little stick that goes in your arm that releases Proestrogen which won’t increase my risk of stroke. He numbed my arm with a shot and then used a device with a large needle to insert it. I didn’t feel a thing until the numbness wore off. After that it ached to move my arm for about three days but that was it.

It took about six months for my periods to become regular. At the same time my periods became lighter, and after three more months I my period occurred every two to three months. After three years I had it replaced by an IUD (Mirena). I read on Bedsider.org that its uncomfortable to be inserted, but I felt that was putting it mildly. I felt the worst cramp in my entire life. It felt like a dull but scratchy stick was being dragged through my uterus. The cramps were less intense after three days, but those first two to three weeks were rough. I took a ton of Ibuprofen, and tried to sleep off the pain. Now its been three months, and I’m glad I had it put it. As I finish my last semester in college and prepare for graduate school, I know I don’t have to worry about heavy flows or getting pregnant. I’m glad I chose something that will last through graduate school.”