‘Love Letters‘ is a Petal + Sass blog feature that regularly asks a group of diverse women in their 20’s and 30’s about their experiences with health, sex, emotional wellness, body image, college, careers – and what they wish they had known themselves as teenagers. Visit the ‘Love Letters’ To My Former Self page to learn more about the contributors.
Question Posed: What types of birth control have worked best for you and why? Conversely, what forms of birth control didn’t work well for you?
Miss Rosebud: I hated the pill. I don’t like messing with my hormones, and felt better once I got off of it. I was always a ‘condoms and lube’ girl. Now that I’m married, I use the pull out method (I know, I know. Shame on me.)
Miss Hydrangea: I used ortho-novum 777 at first because that’s what my doctor gave. In college I used the depo shot. My periods had always been irregular and were even more so on the shot. It wasn’t until after college that I was I diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) despite having had cysts in high school. I then began taking ortho tri-cyclen. Overall, I liked the depot shot because it took away the daily stress of having to take a pill at the same time, but my body’s response (3 months with bleeding, 6 months with spotting, then nothing) was a little stressful and taxing. In all honesty that could have just been the PCOS!
Miss Bluebells: I was always a big fan of Yasmine birth control pills, probably because the name invoked the image of a sexy gypsy woman riding on a magic carpet (which I most certainly was not.) I was hugely displeased whenever I received the generic name-band of the same thing, with a grey faux-suede case instead of the sultry lavender pouch. Taking the pill was easy enough for me to remember when I had a solid routine going, but not so great if I did anything out of the ordinary (sleep overs, travel, late nights out with friends.) Frightened I’d get pregnant after a few days of chugging 3 pills in a row just to “catch up,” I was advised to switch to the NuvaRing. Inserting the plastic ring and removing it was easy enough- sometimes it would poke out a little but nothing traumatic and I eventually got better at wedging it up juuust right. “Feeling it” during sex was a non-issue; my boyfriend was lucky to be feeling anything that close to my fallopian tubes. Also, I almost always got my birth control for free- I asked my practitioner for free samples at every visit.
Miss Magnolia: When I was younger, I liked taking birth control pills because they seemed so “womanly” and signified that I was having very important sex (I definitely wasn’t). But I often forgot to take them regularly, which would cause break through bleeding (you can just ask my underwear at the time, annoy-ING!) Eventually I switched to using the NuvaRing, and if you don’t mind putting your finger up your ‘vageen‘ (I don’t mind at all), it worked well for me and also regulated my period. Trying to remember the three week leave-in time and then taking it out for one week to shed my uterine lining was hard for me, though. I decided to gear up for an IUD instead.
As a healthcare practitioner, I had seen IUD’s placed in the uterus a million times and it seemed so care free….AND IT WAS! I had tons of sex with no training wheels! Hands-free! No remembering anything (Disclaimer: you still need to use condoms if you have multiple partners outside of a monogamous relationship, even with the IUD. Does not prevent STD’s.)! Getting the IUD hurt like a bitch going in, but pain shouldn’t scare you from having fun, consensual sex. I felt 100% empowered getting my IUD. Some misconceptions are that the guy might feel the string of the IUD, or may feel the plastic NuvaRing up by your cervix. LIES. The string is floss-like (and he’s not that big), and the NuvaRing can just be adjusted, no problem. My advice: try them all and see what works best for you. Don’t be scared to ask your healthcare provider all of the fun, gross, scary questions you have, suit up, and have all the safe sex you want.
Miss Peony: I always got very painful periods, so I was never the kind of feminist that thought having your period was a kind of ‘red badge of honor.’ Even the Queen, by Connie Willis, kind of sums up my feelings; I was eager to rid myself of it. I went on the daily pill ortho tri-cyclin at 16 until I was 20. Then I then tried Seasonale, which promised three periods a year. However, the hormones ended up not being right for me and I experienced a lot of spotting. After switching back to Ortho for a few years, my doctor told me I would be a good fit for an IUD called Mirena. The doctor inserts it, and it’s good for five years. I’ve had it for three, and I love it! I don’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and I haven’t gotten my period in three years. Yay!
Miss Lilac: I’ve only ever been on two types of birth control. One was the Patch. It worked well for me, but zapped my sex drive after an extended period on it. I also wasn’t that into grooming at that point (TMI?) and it left a really weird, well, patch. All of this is sort of moot because it’s been removed from the market due to the fact that it caused some deadly blood clots. I was also on the pill. I really liked Yasmin, but I think they got some pushback. For a number of reasons (ahem, mostly dry spells) I have been off of birth control for the majority of the last 10 years. I also find that if I am off the pill I am more thoughtful about my sex decisions when I’m not dating someone exclusively; however, there have definitely been a few not so great moments. Mostly, if you’re off it, I would provide two pieces of advice: 1.carry around condoms and 2. if a dude says he doesn’t perform well without them, well, eff that. But not literally. Not at all.
Miss CallaLily: My Birth control herstory is one part IDGAF and one part extreme coupon-ing. Because of a pre-pubescent prescription to Accutane, I have basically never not been on birth control since I began my period. First, I was put on a regular ortho tri-cyclin daily pill (I didn’t ask questions). After that I was switched to a low dosage daily pill because I had a really hard time emotionally in middle school/high school, and my doctors thought a low-dosage pill would help things (spoiler alert: middle/high school still sucked huge and I was depressed for most of it). In college, I swapped to Yasmin because I could get it at the school health center for basically nothing. I now have a coworker named Yasmin who always reminds me of The Pill.
All along the way I was TERRIBLE at taking a daily pill. Terrible. So when the NuvaRing came out, I was like “Yes, YOU!”. I was regularly able to get free samples through my health practitioner at the time, but once that gravy-train dried up, the cost was just not worth it.
Two years ago I got an IUD (a one time fee of $5 – hell yes!) I chose the one with some hormones that essentially stops your period (Mirena), rather than the no-hormone one that might make your period worse, because HELLO!! (side note: there would be no way for my period to get worse without requiring blood transfusions as I have a 10-to-12-day-heavy-flow period that arrives at random. I laugh at regular tampons. I literally own zero period-stain-free panties). I had a great doctor to do the implant, which was painful but not deadly. I now get my period once in a blue moon and it’s gone in the lifespan of about four (regular!!!) tampons. My current monogamous partner and I got tested and are virus-free, so we get to enjoy barrier free love-making.