I didn't want to take "the pill," so I tried everything else.

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

By Maddy Siriouthay, Co-founder


Birth control is tricky, and a (good) reason why it’s so tricky is because we have so many options. Luckily for you, I tried out (most of) those options. While all bodies react differently to birth control, I’m going to take you through the basics of each one, how it affected me, why some worked and why some didn’t.


SOME CONTEXT

As a first-generation, daughter of refugee-immigrants, I had to navigate my sexual and reproductive health on my own. To be honest, the term “navigate” is being pretty generous here — a more accurate description is like, I plopped myself in a row boat and started slapping my oars around in open water, hoping to reach land at some point.


When I got my first period, I went to my mom, and she said, “Oh. Already?” and handed me a pad. Years later, when I wanted to transition to tampons, I sat on the toilet for about 30 minutes and read the little booklet with the tiniest diagrams and instructions with incredible diligence.


When I had my first serious boyfriend, it was unspoken but understood that I was having sex. When I found out I got chlamydia from him, we drove to the pharmacy to pick up my antibiotics in silence.


When I went to college, my mom finally gave me her “blessing” to go on birth control: “go to your student health center and take care of it....all.” And I did. Three times!


But let’s make one thing clear: I am not demonizing my mom for not providing me the support I needed; I’m blaming the cultures we were both brought up in — her, born in Laos, then going through puberty in America, and me, inheriting that shame around my body, which was only intensified growing up in ultra-Christian suburbia — neither of us had the foundation to communicate our needs. She went at it alone, and so did I.


[ READ ABOUT MORE THE OVEE TEAM'S BIRTH CONTROL ]


MY BIRTH CONTROL JOURNEY

Despite this, I was still very privileged to experiment with birth control on a trial-and-error basis. I was on my parent’s pretty decent insurance, I had access to a student health center that covered most of the procedures I needed, and, at most, I only needed to pay a small copay.


Like I said, I had no foundation for what I wanted or needed from my birth control options. I had only two (2) requirements for my birth control: I didn’t want to take it everyday, and I didn’t want any babies.


A disclaimer: this is my experience with these different birth control methods; what didn’t work for me could work for you, and vice versa.


DEPO PROVERA (THE SHOT)



What it is:

A hormonal shot injected into your butt or arm by a licensed medical professional (like your OBGYN, or in my case, an LPN) every three months.


How it works:

Injects the hormone progestin into your body, which suppresses ovulation, meaning that there would be no egg for a sperm to fertilize. It also thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg.


Baby protection time:

It is recommended you switched birth control methods after two years.


My side effects:

It ended my period, but I did experience spotting. I didn’t experience any extreme mood, weight or skin changes. It decreased my sex drive and my ability to self-lubricate.


What worked for me:

It checked off the “don’t-need-to-take-everyday” box, which was great. It was also pretty uninvasive — the shot is administered by someone else, and I got it on my butt, so there was that extra degree removed which made it easier for me as my first method of birth control. Each appointment was easy breezy and took only a few minutes.


What didn’t work for me:

It’s not recommended to be a long-term birth control method, and for good reason. After the two year mark, prolonged use of Depo Provera can cause you to lose calcium in your bones, lose bone mass and make you more prone to osteoporosis. I took calcium supplements to counteract that, which were gross. I also experienced brownish-red spotting that was a result of me not receiving my injections at the same time of the month, according to my LPN.


Overall, it was a good first birth control method for someone who couldn’t reliably take the pill everyday. It also ended my period, which I was never ~crazy~ about. However, I didn’t want to have weak bones, so I stopped taking the Depo Provera shot after two years, and moved on to the next.


[ READ MORE: THE FDA APPROVED TWO NEW CONTRACEPTION METHODS ]


NEXPLANON (THE IMPLANT)


What it is:

A small, flexible rod implanted beneath the skin on your inner-upper arm that lasts for three years.


The procedure:

A licensed medical professional numbs the area of insertion and inserts the rod while you lay on your back with your arm raised. Your arm is tightly bandaged, and you have to keep the area of insertion covered for 3 - 5 days. My arm was bruised for about a week after.


How it works:

It releases a progestinal hormone that prevents the release of an egg and thickens cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from reaching an egg.


Baby protection time:

Needs to be changed every three years, but can be replaced and used long term.


My side effects:

Still no period, still no lubrication. Bummer. But, also, no major mood, weight or acne changes again.


What worked for me:

I didn’t have to worry about scheduling a quarterly appointment, and I didn’t spot. Also, you can feel the implant underneath your skin, which I thought was pretty cool. It was also fun making people touch it and watch them get freaked out.


What didn’t work for me:

I STILL COULDN’T GET (naturally) MF LUBRICATED.


A step up from Depo Provera in the won’t-make-your-bones-frailer category, but generally still the same experience for me overall. At this point, 3.5 years had passed since I got my first Depo Provera shot, which meant it was 3.5 years since I was sufficiently satisfied with my sex life. I decided that the hormones had to go.


PARAGARD (THE COPPER IUD)


What it is:

A non-hormonal, intrauterine device (IUD) that lasts 10-12 years.


The procedure:

Like a normal gynecological appointment, you’ll be on the examination bed with your legs in the stirrups. In order to insert the IUD, they need to open up your uterus and place it in your uterus. This is painful. They are basically contractions. Take an extra-strength Excedrin beforehand, and ask your OBGYN about Misoprostol, a pill you take the day before procedure to soften your cervix and make IUD insertion easier (and less painful!)


How it works:

It is non-hormonal, and relies copper to prevent pregnancy. Basically: sperm don’t like copper, and they swim away from your eggs because of this. No sperm, no fertilization, no problem.


Baby protection time:

Up to 12 years, and can be replaced and used long term.


My side effects:

My period came back almost immediately (within a day of insertion) and with a vengeance. I bled on and off for about a month, heavily. I occasionally get cramps, even when I’m not on my period, because, well, there is a foreign object in my uterus. So...cramping every now and again makes sense.


What worked for me:

MY SEX LIFE IMPROVED! My drive went up, I could lubricate naturally, and my body felt like own again — hormones or not.


What didn’t work for me:

Some would consider getting their period again a downside, but honestly? I missed it, and I’m happy to have it again. I will say this: before birth control, my period was pretty tame, but post-Paragard, it’s pretty intense — menorrhagia, debilitating cramps, buying products again — but now I can test those out and report back to y’all! So truthfully, not too bad at all, in my opinion. 😉


The journey to find what worked for me was a long and winding one, but I finally found my way. I hope my journey can inform yours, but remember that every body is unique and will react to different birth control that way, which is why it’s important to talk to your OBGYN about all your options, too. I love my Paragard, and I intend on keeping it in for the maximum 12 years and then getting another one for another 12 (and then another, and then another…).



Want to read more birth control experiences?

Read One woman’s tumultuous tale of getting (and getting rid of) her IUD



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