After we shared Christina’s article on pregnancy, nutrition and fertility, many of you came forward to ask us about sexual health. We were honored by your curiosity, openness and trust in our opinion. Inspired by your candid comments, I’m gettin’ real honest about my approach to contraception. Disclaimer: I’m not an authority on anything, these are just my thoughts/experiences.
I have an IUD. I’ve had one for just over two years and I couldn’t love it any more than if it brought me chocolate chip cookies and tea every day. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to get off the pill. I was stressed about all of the hormones going into my body and the lack of control I had over them. I didn’t use the pill to regulate my skin or my period so whenever I could, I would stop taking it. This didn’t do much to help my hormone regulation, but I always felt unsettled using it when I didn’t need it. I was on the lowest dose of hormones possible but I saw a noticeable difference in my mood, attitude, and well being whenever I went off the pill. And every time I went back on, I felt slightly off-center. The whole relationship seemed very co-dependant, stressful (anyone who’s forgotten to take the pill for a day knows what I mean), and expensive.
Speaking of expensive, I was twenty-five and knew that I’d lose my dad’s fancy schmancy insurance plan soon enough. As a freelancer, I would have to pay for this medication out of pocket once I turned twenty-seven. It seemed downright crazy that I’d be shelling out my coffee/dinner/new shoes money on contraception every month for the foreseeable future. So, I did some digging. I knew I wanted a zero hormone situation and since I am WAY too type A for something like the rhythm method, it seemed like the copper IUD was my best/only option. I went down a research rabbit hole: I read articles, and message boards (this is pretty dangerous, set a timer), and took my friends out for coffee to pick their brains. The consensus was mainly positive. Some complained of heavier cycles and incredibly intense cramps, others said they saw no change whatsoever. The message boards swore blind that I’d be taking Ibuprofen everyday for the rest of my life. But the community of women I spoke with face-to-face, had much less dramatic experiences. My (former) gynecologist looked at me like I was a crazy person and warned me that I’d be writhing in pain for one week every month and that I probably could not handle it (hence former gynecologist). A more objective gynecologist explained that each body would have its own reaction, but in all likeliness, I would be fine. Especially since I hadn’t really suffered from cramps in the past.
I booked an appointment with my local Planned Parenthood. Even though I had an insurance plan that would have covered this procedure, I went with Planned Parenthood on the recommendation of many women. The overall consensus on this is that gynecologists and nurses at PP tend to be much more experienced in implementing the IUD (since it is the cheapest and most effective option). For me, it was the right choice. But if you have a good relationship with your gynecologist, I’m sure they would be an excellent option. The procedure was painful but short. The pain is brief and totally manageable. I usually describe it less like a pain and more like a feeling of deep discomfort in a part of your body you did not really know existed. My doctor was supportive and kind, explaining each step of the way. Half an hour after arriving, I took a cab home and settled in for an afternoon of chicken noodle soup, ice cream, and off-the-charts agony...
Not so much for me. I was uncomfortable and very attached to my heating pad for the day, but overall I was fine. In my experience, the actual procedure was the most painful part of the whole thing. I haven’t had any issues with my IUD. My period is heavier than before, but it’s also shorter. And since the first year, it’s gotten lighter and lighter. I definitely cramp more. But not every month and not every day during PMS. Just occasionally and more intensely. For me, it’s 100% worth it. I love knowing that my hormone level is not being tinkered with on a month to month basis. I love not worrying about whether or not I forgot to take my pill. I love that I don’t have to decide whether I should ‘stop’ taking my contraception when my boyfriend is out of town. I love not having to stress about accidents and emergency contraceptives. I love that I don’t really need to worry about my contraception until 2020 at the earliest. Yeah, I’m not going to lie, that part is awesome.
I have a friend who had an incredibly painful procedure. And one’s who’s after-effects had her in bed all weekend. I have friends who now have a lighter flow and no cramping. And some that say they didn’t see a change at all. Most, say the first year was the most extreme but everything gotten progressively easier since that. I would have to agree.
Many women I know have been on the pill since they were thirteen or fourteen and attribute improvements in their weight, skin and period to the drug. The pill may well have helped regulate your hormones when you were in the throes of adolescence, but chances are, your body is now stable enough to manage itself. Leaving the pill would throw your hormones into a state of shock, but it would not revert you back to your sixteen-year-old self. Our bodies are pretty magical and they are talking to us all the time. For me, it was important to connect to that and to remove the obstacle of synthetic hormones in order to do so. This might not be what you need, but I believe it’s important for women to be candid and clear with each other and to help each other out. I only wish I had understood all my options sooner (and that I hadn’t read some of those insane message board posts).
Here is what I know: each body is different and has different needs. This, above all else, must be respected.
We’re so happy to talk to you guys about these sticky issues. Please feel free to comment or email us with questions and thoughts!