The Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, in 1960. Five years later, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that birth control was protected in the Constitution under the right to privacy, and married couples were given the right to use it. However, by the time that happened, my grandmother had four children.
Thinking back to when I was a teen, my mom and I never had a birth control talk, simply because she trusted me. Now, I know you're thinking, "Parents always think they know their child, meanwhile, their child is leading a completely different life." However, that wasn't true for me. My mom is my best friend, and we talk about everything -- good, invasive, embarrassing, and indifferent. I wasn't sexually active, therefore, birth control wasn't a necessary topic to discuss.
When I started doctor-prescribed birth control, it was not for its intended reason, and I was not a fan of the outcome.
My initial journey with birth control started at age 24; I'd always had an irregular menstrual cycle in adulthood (I'd go months without a menstrual cycle, but when it came on, I would have a heavy cycle for a little over a month). But this particular time, Ruby, as I've affectionately named her, wouldn't go home. I became weak and felt like I was going to pass out after attempting to do minute things like loading the dishwasher or taking a shower. After getting labs done, the results came back that I was severely anemic after losing so much blood, and if I hadn't come in when I did, I would have needed a blood transfusion. Not to mention, my hormones were completely out of whack.
Doctors prescribed me birth control pills to stop my cycle and iron pills to settle the anemia. As a young woman, I felt weird taking birth control pills, for two reasons: 1) I still wasn't sexually active and was taking a pill powerful enough to manipulate my body to do something it was naturally supposed to do on its own; and 2) I'd heard so many horror stories from friends and family about weight gain, mood swings, and nausea -- among other things.
The pills were not a good fit. After taking them for a little over two weeks, I felt very moody and irritated over the smallest of things. And as if I didn't need to lose what I already had, I started to gain weight. Eventually, my cycle did stop, which was a relief. But at this cost, it wasn't worth it to me, and I stopped taking the birth control pills and scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist.
This is when things started to get interesting. Welcome to the wonderful world of doctor-prescribed birth control alternatives! I was introduced to the intrauterine device (IUD), a small, flexible, T-shaped plastic device (it reminds me of handlebars on a bike) that is inserted by the doctor into the uterus and is 99% effective. It lasts up to 10 years (non-hormonal) and three to five years (hormonal). Both can be removed immediately by the doctor. The implant, which was recommended for me, is a really small, invisible rod inserted under the skin of a woman's upper arm; It is also 99% effective and lasts for three to five years. It can also be removed immediately by a doctor. There is also a shot that is 94% effective, which is administered by the doctor and lasts up to three months.
Honestly, after hearing about the implant, my gynecologist might as well have been Charlie Brown's teacher. There was a mention of a vaginal ring, a patch, and the inevitable pill again. I noticed the last three had a 91% effectiveness and wouldn't last long. I also realized that collectively, they all came with side effects such as spotting, cramps, weight gain, and nausea, in addition to cycle infrequencies that would cause me to have irregular periods or no periods. After thorough research, I concluded that none of those birth control options were for me. I felt it would do more damage than help. I mean, why would I welcome such side effects and, once more, potential irregular cycles that I already have?
I guess you're wondering, "If she's opting out of birth control preventatives, what is she doing?" The answer is simple: Nothing. I'm not waiting for marriage, but I'm most definitely waiting for something real, and as Wendy's slogan goes, "You know when it's real." And because of this decision, my doctor has respected my decision not to take any contraception. Having my body medicalized was a feeling I don't wish to experience again. It still amazes me the power that modern medicine has. However, I prefer the natural route -- I don't need anything altering what is naturally supposed to happen in my body, and I definitely don't need unwarranted side effects adding to the problem. There are of course beneficial side effects, if you are willing to stay the course.
This is, of course, my experience with birth control, not meant to sway or persuade. If you are looking for a contraceptive, you may just have to weigh the pros and cons. Maybe the pills work for you, or maybe you forget to take them at the same time every day and prefer the shot or an implant. Or you have no experience with irregular periods and can't relate (kudos to you!). Perhaps having a baby isn't a good idea right now in life, and you need a contraceptive. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and try. You'll never know what works without a little trial and error. And let's not forget that condoms are still a 98% effective form of birth control. If you want to be extra safe, you could also take the pill or another form of birth control along with using condoms. Safe sex is the best sex, or so I've heard.