Ah, birth control. That niggly aspect of having sex we hetero and bisexual women have to deal with for the majority of our adult lives. Having recently started dating someone new, I’ve found myself faced with the same old predicament; which method of contraception is best for me?
I’ve had a long-term, love-hate relationship with birth control. I’ve tried a bunch of different options, suffered from a host of nasty side-effects and eventually decided to give up on it altogether. But here I am, in the throes of a new relationship, ready to kick condoms to the curb (after both undergoing thorough STD checks, of course).
Since it was first introduced in the 60s, birth control in its various forms has revolutionised women’s health and reproductive rights. But, more than half a century later, the majority of hormonal contraception options available to women still come with a host of side-effects recognised as “normal” by the medical profession. So what’s a sexually active gal to do?
The first, most obvious birth control option is of course the oral contraceptive pill. Inexpensive, easily accessible, and more than 99% effective if taken correctly, it seems like the best option. But after taking the pill for nearly 10 years, during which I experienced a handful of side-effects including bouts of depression, weight fluctuations and decreased (read: non-existent) libido, I have little interest in reigniting a relationship with the colorful blister packs that littered my nightstand for almost a decade.
In fact, as someone who is pretty cautious about the products I put in and on my body (no parabens here please), the idea of having synthetic hormones coursing through my bloodstream kind of grosses me out. For this reason, I’ve ruled out most non-localised hormonal birth control options, including the injection and the implant.
I’ve tried a number of natural birth control methods, which require you to record your daily temperature and keep a “discharge diary” to determine when you can safely have unprotected sex—both as tedious and unreliable as it sounds—and have looked into non-hormonal options including the sponge, diaphragm, and female condoms, which are generally considered to be a lot less effective than their hormonal counterparts.
I’m considering a localised progestin IUD, such as the Mirena, as well as the non-hormonal, copper IUD. But these also come with a host of negative side-effects and, quite honestly, I’m not sure I want piece of plastic floating around in my uterus for the next five years.
I’m aware that some of the methods of birth control I have mentioned above work really well for some women, and that’s great. This think piece is very much based on my own experience and that of my friends, but I think what all this really boils down to is why?
Why do all my birth control options suck? Why does a contraceptive method as widely used as the pill still have such debilitating side-effects? Why do pretty much all birth control options offered to women fall short in at least one respect? And why (oh, why) is it women who are solely responsible for birth control? Oh yeah, that’s right—because men can’t deal with the side-effects women have put up with for nearly 60 years.
As Sindha Agha puts it in this brilliant opinion piece, “I deserve to make decisions about my body, and I deserve a health care system that doesn’t consider what’s unacceptable for men to be the gold standard for me. Yes, I deserve birth control, but I also deserve better birth control.” Amen, sister.Support Villainesse