From before I was even having sex, I was using birth control. For people with vaginas, there are so many forms that birth control can take each with their own unique advantages and drawbacks; I have tried three different kinds of birth control and here’s what I found from each of them.
Oral Contraceptive Pill
I began taking “the pill” before I was sexually active as a way to combat acne and heavy periods. I started on the lowest dose of the Junel brand pill, and that worked relatively well for a while. Junel is a daily contraceptive pill that contains two hormones: progestin and estrogen. It’s commonly used to regulate period cycles and clear up acne.
Before I was sexually active, accidentally missing a pill wasn’t a big deal. However, when I missed a pill after I started having sex I would send myself into a full-blown panic attack thinking about the possible repercussions. Being a forgetful person in general, the pill already wasn’t working out super great for me. However, I kept taking it because my acne cleared up and my periods became so much more manageable.
One drawback of this dosage is sometimes my periods would linger on throughout my whole cycle. They eventually became so irregular that I was spotting all the time. When I talked to my doctor about it, she put me on a higher dose of the Junel pill. I was never really told about any side effects of the pill other than the slight risk of pregnancy.
This higher dose affected my mood so much. I became depressed, especially during the week of my period, and I suffered terrible mood swings. I felt irritable and not like myself with the increased hormones in my system. I didn’t even realize that my birth control could be the thing causing this until I saw a video posted by the New York Times about how birth control can affect different people. I eventually stopped taking my pill and felt better almost immediately. My mood swings and depression lessened, my sex drive returned, and I didn’t need to worry about missing pills anymore.
I was using condoms while I was on birth control and I still use them to prevent STIs. Condoms are a pretty low-risk form of birth control. They’re a non-hormonal physical barrier designed to prevent both pregnancy and STI contraction. I have only ever used latex condoms, but other materials exist, including animal skin. However, latex is generally the most effective material in preventing pregnancy and the spread of STIs.
This form of birth control leads to interpersonal problems between my partners and me. I got tired of hearing “it just feels better without it” and men essentially trying to manipulate or guilt me into not using one. I didn’t like that my male partners had the power in this form of birth control since it was my body that was at risk for pregnancy.
The other reason I was wary of using condoms was that the risk of them breaking was too high. I know that condoms shouldn’t break when used correctly, but it happened far too frequently to me. Every time a condom broke, I couldn’t relax until I took an emergency contraceptive pill. Too often I found myself running to a 24 hour CVS and dropping over $50 on a mistake that could have been prevented with a different form of birth control.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The IUD is the most recent form of birth control that I have tried and am still using. Since I had problems with the hormones in my oral contraceptive pill, I opted for the non-hormonal Paragard IUD. The Paragard IUD is a copper-releasing IUD that is effective in preventing pregnancy for 10 years. Neither hormonal nor non-hormonal IUDs prevent against STIs.
I had heard horror stories about the IUD insertion process from friends who had gone through it, but for me, it wasn’t super painful. After the insertion, though, I had the worst cramps and back pain I had ever experienced. I took Ibuprofen and sat with a heating pad on my stomach for over two hours and just waited for them to subside. After the initial day, I had some cramping for the next few weeks but nothing nearly as bad. In addition to the cramping, I had some spotting for the first few weeks following the insertion. It was totally manageable though.
The downside to this IUD started when I had my first period after having it inserted. Before I had used the Junel pill, my periods were on the heavier side, but nothing unbearable. One of the side effects of the Paragard IUD is that it can make periods heavier and longer, which I thought wouldn’t be a big deal. The first three days were absolute hell; I was losing so much blood I felt like I was going to pass out and I had cramps so bad I felt nauseous and no medication eased the pain. My acne flared up again and wouldn’t clear up seemingly without the help of the hormones I was on before.
Based on my experience, no birth control is perfect for everyone and it takes some trial error to find the right match. I believe that the Paragard IUD is the right match for me, even with the horrible periods and acne. Basically, I had to choose between a worse mental condition caused by hormones and peer pressure and a worse physical condition brought on by the IUD. I chose the latter. Unfortunately, I’ve found that every form of birth control requires this evaluation of the pros and cons.
Have you found the right birth control for you? Tell us in the comments!
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