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Let’s Talk About Birth Control!

national health education week is coming to an end…

To finish up National Health Education Week, I thought it would be a great time to talk about a very important public health topic… no, it’s not COVID-related.  It’s… drum roll, please… sex education!  More specifically, birth control and why it’s so important for the health of the general population.  I’ll also be discussing my personal experiences with different types of birth control, in case you’re curious about that. 

Now, let’s talk about birth control!

Why is birth control important for health?

Wow, I’m so glad you asked! (; Birth control is important for health for many reasons and in many ways.  Obviously, it’s essential for family planning, but that’s not all it can be used for.  Some forms of birth control can be used to treat irregular or extreme menstrual cycles and the symptoms associated with these, as well as some other health issues, such as endometriosis.  Because I use birth control mostly for preventing pregnancy, I’ll be speaking more on this side of the conversation.

Family planning was not always possible, but now that it is, it’s a game-changer.  Women can now, for the most part, choose when to have children.  Of course, it doesn’t always work (because nothing works 100% of the time), but it’s better than nothing (or the pull-out method).  Being able to prevent unwanted pregnancies has allowed women to put themselves first.  They can focus on school, work, finding the right partner to have children with, and more!  They can buy themselves time to graduate college without a baby to worry about, make money without a tiny human who depends on them… you get the idea.  Birth control gives women FREEDOM.  Not to say that someone with a kid can’t graduate college or start a successful career, but it’s a lot easier to do so without a dependent – especially if the expecting parent(s) are not receiving a full-time income.  

Now, let’s talk about my birth control experiences! 

Just over 2 years ago, I started the pill.  The main reason was to prevent pregnancy, but my doctor and I were hopeful that it would help ease some of my period discomfort as well.  It definitely did help my period symptoms, although my period never fully went away.  Instead, I just had a slightly lighter flow, and my cramps were easier to deal with.  Those are the only two things I really noticed a difference in for a while.  

A little over half a year after starting the pill, I remember my mood shifted wildly.  It was right around the time COVID caused the world to shut down, so there were a lot of changes happening.  And because of this, I didn’t really notice the severity of my emotions at first.  The summer after I graduated, though, I began to realize that my mood swings were not normal for me.  I was becoming increasingly irritable, and it was difficult for me to not lash out at people; I was also crying more and more and just becoming overly emotional in general.  But because I didn’t want to completely stop taking the pill, I didn’t really know what to do.  

July of 2020, I picked up the book This Is Your Brain on Birth Control and was HOOKED.  I highly recommend this book; it talks all about the possible effects – biological, psychological, and more – of all different forms of birth control, and it is absolutely WILD.  My favorite part about this book is that the author is not trying to convince you to take birth control or not, but instead is trying to inform the reader. (: It was while reading this book that I started contemplating no longer taking the pill.  

When I got to the end of July’s pill cycle, I decided I would try a few months without it and see how it went.  To my pleasant surprise, my moods stabilized, and I felt a lot happier in general.  My periods were also even lighter than ever, although my cramps were still a bit of a doozy.  

I went without any hormonal birth control for a while, but at the beginning of this year, I started to look into hormonal IUDs.  I was pretty nervous about getting one, and it took me a while to decide if I actually wanted to go through with it, but (spoiler alert) I DID!!  And it was 100% worth it. (:

My IUD Experience

When I finally decided to get an IUD, I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood.  On the day of my original appointment, my period for that cycle hadn’t started yet, so all they could do that day was test me (pregnancy and STD).  Then, once my period started, I was able to go in and get my IUD.  (They prefer that you’re on your period when you get your IUD inserted because your cervix is more open and because there’s no chance of you being pregnant.)

I was pretty nervous the day of, but it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.  The insertion process is definitely uncomfortable, and the cramping is not fun, but it was not as severe as I had heard from some people.  Afterward, I had some cramping and spotting for a couple weeks, but it was bearable. 

birth control q+a

I opened my Instagram stories up to questions about birth control, so let’s get to answering them!!

What brand of the pill did you use?

I used Sprintec, which is a combination pill. (:

What side effects did you have from the pill?

The most obvious side effect I had on the pill was mood swings, but this didn’t really happen for a few months.  I was really irritable and overly emotional… Nick says I cried a lot more than normal (haha).  

What side effects did you have from the IUD?  Did it affect your period?

Immediately after getting my IUD inserted, I had random cramping and spotting for a few weeks.  But once my body started to get used to it, I pretty much only had random cramping, but these cramps were MUCH easier to deal with than my normal period cramps.  

My IUD has pretty much totally gotten rid of my period (I have a hormonal IUD).  I just had my first actual period since March, but it was so light that I didn’t even need a pad or tampon.  Even though my periods are gone for the most part, I still get my regular PMS symptoms (cramps, low back pain, mood changes, etc.) around the same time every month.  However, they are a lot easier to deal with now that I have an IUD.

Do you prefer the pill or IUD?

Definitely the IUD!  I don’t have any crazy mood problems with the IUD (the hormones in an IUD are much more concentrated in your uterus compared to the pill’s, which circulate throughout your whole body), and it’s made my periods nearly nonexistent.  

Is the IUD worth it? 

I would say yes!!  I’m in the middle of paying about $1200 for it (because I didn’t check with my insurance beforehand even though they claim to cover birth control… rookie mistake), but I’d say it’s still worth it. (:

Other than that, my birth control experiences have been pretty tame.  I’m glad I have access to these medical resources, as they’ve been very helpful in many ways!  If you are thinking about trying some form of birth control, I recommend doing LOTS of research.  Every form of birth control is going to affect everybody in a different way, so just because I found more success with an IUD compared to the pill doesn’t mean you will.  There are also SO many other birth control options – not just the pill or IUD – so look into those as well!!  Cost, effectiveness, side effects, and more will all contribute to your decision, so it’s good to do as much research as you can. (:

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