Birth Control Gap

150 million women take birth control pills.

Myself included. However, when you ask these women the side effects of the pill, or ask them about other contraceptive options, over half would be unable to answer, which is crazy when we literally put this product into our body for a desired out-come yet we know very little about it or the other (safer) options that we could use. So here are some most common contraceptive options for women, the side effects to consider and personal anecdotes from women currently on these methods of birth control.

The contraceptive pill:

Your body, typically, ovulates once a month, releasing an egg to journey down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it would be fertilized by a sperm cell. When taking the birth control pill, synthetic hormones are released into your body. The pill contains high levels of estrogen that theoretically convinces your body that you are pregnant and that you do not need to ovulate, meaning your uterus lining will thicken and your body will eventually fall into a natural menstruation. This seems so abnormal and strangely, this very interesting fact- that your body believes it is pregnant, it never discussed before taking the pill.

Risks include:
Libido drop, mood swings, weight gain or lose, nausea, irregular bleeding, migraines, infertility, blood clotting, yeast infections, heart attacks or strokes and finally, cancer.

So why do women continue to take this birth control when the risks can be life altering?

Personally, I am on the contraceptive pill and have been since I was 15. The reason I have never changed birth control is because it has always worked for me. It is easy to use, to obtain and even with the side effects, I have never considered changing even though I do suffer with constant pain and weight gain and lose in both extremes and I am not the only girl I know who is only using this method because it is what the doctor recommended on their first consultation and therefore, enver challenged it.

Vaginal ring:

The vaginal ring is one of those methods of contraception which school education seems to avoid, however it is 99% effective and causes no hormonal changes to the body. The ring is placed inside the vagina and can be used for a whole month and can, of course, be used during sex. The ring is also said to relieve period pains, making the flow lighter. The ring thickens the mucus within the uterus making it more difficult for the sperm to travel, also making the uterus wall thinner so that the egg cannot attach to the wall.

Risks include:
Vagina discharge, uncomfortability, breast tenderness, headaches, the ring can come out on it owns and does not protect against diseases.

Note from S- ‘I had tried most types of contraception and was unhappy with how all these methods were physically changing my body. I hated putting on weight, then losing it, feeling uncomfortable in my skin and having severe acne. I knew I wanted a type of birth control which I had control over as I did not and still do not trust condoms, so that’s when my doctor recommended a vagnal ring. It is uncomfortable at first and unless you have a good relationship with your body and vagina, it can be awkward at first but now, I am never going back.’

The implant:

This method is more than 99% effective, and it is the longest lasting method, lasting 3 years once implanted. It is best used by women who cannot use estrogen infused methods. It can be easily removed, or replaced and works by releasing a steady flow of progesterone which prevents the release of an egg. Much like the ring, it thickens the mucus and also thinnings the wall of the uterus.

Risks include:
Period completely stops, become irregular or lighter, some medicines can affect the effectiveness of this method, acne, does not prevent sexual diseases.

Note from L- ‘I have been on the implant for 4 years now. I had one change so far which was a little traumatising. I never thought I would become comfortable with feeling it under my skin, sometimes it still weirds me or my friends out but recently, I have grown to just see it as a part of me. I love the implant as it means I do not need to keep track of my medication and can let it be for 3 years! However, I do know someone who kept theirs in for 5 years without changing it and unfortunately had to make some difficult decisions when the implant ran out.’

Cervical cap:

The cervical cup is a soft barrier that covers the cervix to prevent sperm entering the uterus. Spermicide is added to the cup to kill the sperm- fun fact! It has a 20% failure rate meaning that every 20 out of 100 women get pregnant when using this method which is a high rate compared to the other birth control methods.

Risks include:
Spermicide is messy, prescription is needed and it may cost to purchase the cup, it may cause cervical changes, could get stuck in the cervix, can cause infections.

Notes from M- ‘I decided to use the cap because I already use a menstrual cup for when I am on my period and I find them really comfortable. I’ve had no personal issues but my partners have, they find it weird for me to use and ask if I can remove it.’

These are only a FEW options out there for women.

Choosing the right birth control is something that should not be taken lightly. It is not something that you should decide on the spot in your doctors office, especially at a young age as I did. Take your time to research different options, trial them and see which ones work for you and which ones are perhaps better left off the list. Methods like the vaginal cap and ring are easy to use and remove yourself so those are good methods to trial first, the pill and implant need more dedication and time. Chat to friends, gather the knowledge you need before choosing a method which could have drastic consequences.

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