Thoughts From The Waiting Room: On Birth Control

Content Warning for talk of mensuration, anxiety and depression.

I was supposed to have an appointment today to check on my new IUD. I say supposed to because it was rescheduled (again) and at this point, I’m pretty sure the damn thing is still sitting where it should and so I declined to reschedule. The frustration of the whole situation got me thinking about my journey with using birth control and the general frustration of being a person who can become pregnant and I thought I’d get some of my thoughts out here.

My journey with birth control began probably around 5-6 years ago, I can’t remember when exactly, but I know it was after the first year of marriage with my ex-husband. I was conflicted about the decision having grown up Catholic and believing that birth control was wrong, but I was in a really difficult place with my mental health, and my ex and I knew we weren’t financially ready to have a baby. So I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood and got on birth control pills. I was on these for several years before I decided to go off for my physical and mental health.

I consider myself very lucky with my experience with birth control, I haven’t had many side effects and the ones I have had haven’t been terrible. Over the years I’ve been on the pill, the Depo shot, and currently have an IUD. So many people have told me about debilitating pain, unending periods, lack of a sex drive, weight gain, depression and anxiety (which are called mood changes of course), and much more.

My side effects have been depression (but I already had that so more wasn’t that bad), anxiety (which again I already had so the change wasn’t that noticeable) lowering of my sex drive which totally didn’t bother me (actually it did but I didn’t want to admit it) and weight gain (which was also caused by lifestyle issues and the aforementioned depression). Currently, my periods have become longer and heavier as a result of using the copper IUD, but the pain hasn’t been too bad and I’m crossing my fingers that it stays that way.

Finding a safe birth control option is a hassle, to say the very least. There’s a sort of narrative that makes it sound like there are so many options and because of that it’s really just a matter of picking one and living a happy pregnancy-free life. But below that narrative is the truth that it’s really a matter of picking what side effects are the easiest to live with, and a certain amount of hormonally induced depression that may come with it. (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2552796)

The copper IUD, which like I said earlier is my current form of birth control, comes with its own list of side effects. According to the Planned Parenthood website:

  • spotting between periods
  • irregular periods
  • heavier or longer periods
  • more or worse cramping during your periods
  • pain when your IUD is put in, and cramping or back aches for a few days after 

This list is pretty small comparatively, which is why I chose it. Yet while I was researching the copper IUD I saw tons of people complaining about life-changing bad effects, which was quite honestly frightening. But what is my alternative? The Fertility Awareness Method, and things like condoms, are of course options, and ones that I’ve been hearing people turn to more frequently. But neither of these work for me. Condoms are usually unpleasant and anxiety-inducing, and FAM being even more anxiety-inducing. I want to get my tubes tied, but there’s still a 15-10% chance that someday I’ll want a second kid so alas, I can not get the ol’ tubes taken care of.

I am tempted to keep on with my complaints but I suppose I should come to a conclusion soon. Still, as I sit here and try to wrap my head around some sort of an ending point I find that I don’t really have a good ending. Birth control is a complicated subject, it’s deeply personal and it’s bogged down by religious doctrine. Each person’s body is different, as is how they will react to the forms of birth control they decide to use. Some wish to eventually use their wombs and some do not. I wish that birth control was an easier topic. I wish that more studies were done on the side effects. I wish that this choice was easier.

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