Time For A Change: My Birth Control Upgrade

June 20th, 2011  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Dating Chatter, Videos  |  1 Comment

I’ve been trying to remember where–at 16 years old–I got the good sense to get on birth control. My parents and I never discussed sex at all, so contraceptives certainly never came up. My best friend at the time was having sex, but in efforts to discourage me, she told me the common myth that birth control makes you fat (certainly didn’t end up being true for me). And my boyfriend (new at the time, but we lasted 5 years) supported the idea, but from afar.

I think one day I just called 411 and asked for a free place to get health services (this was before Google–not to mention Bedsider’s health center finder–entered my life). And that’s how I found The Door, one of the most supportive places for teens I have ever encountered, in so many areas–though I only went there for their health services. After a conversation with one of their doctors, I decided to go on the Pill. I got on Ortho Tri-Cyclen at first, but after I had an allergic reaction they switched me to Alesse. I never had an issue again. I went to The Door religiously for re-fills until I aged out at 22.

That was also around the time I broke up with my now ex boyfriend, so in a weird way it all worked out… Until…

Last year I was in a “Non-Relationship” (i.e.: a monogamous situation with no commitment) and I went to Planned Parenthood to get a prescription for Alesse. Don’t remember exactly how much it was, but when the doctor told me how much I’d have to pay each month, I decided to go with a cheaper generic brand instead. But of course I had the same allergic reaction that I’d had to Ortho Tri-Cyclen at 16.

Now, as an uninsured 25 year old who’s not ready to be a mom anytime soon, I’ve been researching longer-term birth control options. Here are the three I’ve been mulling over:

  • The Shot (a.k.a. Depo-Provera): The birth control shot is an injection of the hormone progestin, which prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucous to block sperm from getting to the egg if you do release one. Each shot prevents pregnancy for three months.
  • The Implant (a.k.a. Implanon): Implanon is a thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm and protects against pregnancy for up to three years.
  • The IUD (a.k.a. Intrauterine Device): The IUD is a small, “T-shaped” device made of flexible plastic. A health care provider inserts it into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two brands available in the United States:
    • The ParaGard IUD contains copper (no hormones) and is effective for up to 12 years.
    • The Mirena IUD releases a small amount of progestin, a hormone that helps prevent sperm from reaching your eggs. It is effective for up to seven years.

Because I want to go for a longer-lasting option, I’ve decided on the Mirena IUD. It’s also nice to know that the IUD, along with the implant, is the most effective reversible method available. Nevertheless, I’ve told three friends about my decision and 2 out of 3 have tried to discourage me from getting it, because there’s still a lot of misinformation about it out there. I’ve also read a few articles on how painful the insertion is, but the way I see it, it can’t be more painful than childbirth.

And though they didn’t know what I was contemplating in my own life, my interviewees in my last video blog, Birth Control: Should Men Step Up?, also said a few things to give me pause:**

After hearing what they had to say, I searched the Internet to find any studies that made a link between autism or miscarriages and birth control. I found none. I consulted one of SexReally.com’s medical experts, who explained that the reason it’s difficult to find research on these myths is precisely “because they’re myths!”

So I must admit I’m still a little nervous, but I’m also sure about my decision. And guess what? I’m not alone. Check out Lena Chen’s video What You Need To Know About The IUD, The Newest Birth Control Trend. Lena also gave some advice in “No Pain, No Gain: The IUD Insertion Process” to have the best experience possible. An excerpt lifted directly from Lena’s post:

  • Say yes to drugs. Getting a prescription for something that dilates your cervix will do wonders to minimize pain and make insertion easier.
  • Welcome Aunt Flo. Schedule your appointment to coincide with your menstrual cycle since your cervix will already be slightly dilated then.
  • Midol will be your best friend. After your appointment, keep handy Midol and any painkillers that target lower abdominal pain and menstrual symptoms.
  • Rough sex is out of the question. (At least for the first week.) Your cervix won’t appreciate head-on collisions for a while.
  • Heat up. Self-heating stick-on pads (the kind you can get at drugstores for sports injuries or menstrual pain) help alleviate discomfort throughout the day. At home, a hot water bottle or an electric blanket will also do the trick.

If you’re contemplating an IUD, or just curious, read all of “No Pain, No Gain: The IUD Insertion Process” for yourself. I also found the comments on Lena’s post helpful. Everyone co-signed on how painful it is, so I now plan to ask one of my girlfriends to come with me!

What birth control method do you use? Would you ever consider trying the IUD? If you use one, do you have any advice to add?

Originally written for SexReally.com 

**SexRealy’s Editor’s Note: the comments in the embedded video about the pill causing acne and weight gain are also myths. Some types of birth control may even help with acne and, with one exception, which you can read about in our article “Does Birth Control Really Make You Fat?” no study has shown any consistent effect of birth control on weight. As for the statement that birth control can cause strokes or death, we’re guessing the interviewee is talking about a couple specific brands of the pill that are being investigated by the FDA for increasing the risk of blood clots.  To learn more about the risk of blood clots from hormonal birth control, check out EmpowHER’s article on the subject.

Originally written for SexReally.com 

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