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On better birth control options

The birth control pill is falling out of favor. This is happening for several reasons. Firstly, the pill is high maintenance, demanding that patients remember to take the pill at the exact same time every single day. Also, recent viral Internet articles have revealed the anti-feminist history of the pill, explaining that physicians hid the fact that severe depression was a common side effect in order to encourage women to take the pill. Furthermore, people today are much more familiar with alternative birth control options. Previously, most young people did not know that there were viable options besides the pill. I didn’t even know that other accessible forms of birth control existed until I reached college. But recently, I have noticed that barely any of my friends who use birth control take the pill, instead opting for methods like the shot, the ring or the IUD.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the non-pill forms of birth control a try by having an IUD inserted. The IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small t-shaped piece of metal that is placed in the uterus. Depending on which IUD you get, they can last from five to 12 years. Some IUDs are hormonal, preventing pregnancies by releasing the hormone progestin into the body. The IUD that I received is a non-hormonal IUD, which prevents pregnancy via the spermicidal properties of copper.

I decided to get an IUD inserted after talking to a close friend about the side effects of my birth control pills. The pills caused me to gain about 20 pounds, and made me perpetually moody and exhausted. I had switched birth control prescriptions three times in the last year in an attempt to resolve these side effects, but they never let up. My friend told me that she recently had an IUD inserted and recommended that I do the same.

Despite the fact that IUDs do not usually have long term side effects, the process of having one inserted is excruciating. My friend prepared me mentally for the process, explaining that the insertion was painful, and that she experienced severe cramps and bleeding for about a week after. Because of the warning she gave me, I was not caught off guard by the painful experience.

For those of you who have not had an IUD inserted, here’s what it’s like: A physician pushes several metal objects (the IUD and a uterine sound) through your cervix and into your uterus, essentially making you give reverse-birth to the IUD. If the IUD or uterine sound cannot fit through your cervix, the physician can use a device that literally pushes your cervix open. The presence of a foreign object in your uterus causes severe abdominal cramping and bleeding that usually lasts a week or two but also can last months.

For me, the IUD was a godsend. The pain stopped completely after two and a half weeks, and the side effects from the pill have disappeared. A couple weeks of pain is miniscule compared to the next painless 10 years of birth control.

However, not everyone has the resources necessary to receive an IUD. I only knew that the IUD was an option because of information from my friends and from the Student Sexuality Information Service. If I did not have access to comprehensive information about birth control, I probably would have been stuck with the pill and its side effects. If my friends did not have the openness or experience to tell me about the severe pain associated with IUD insertion, I would have been completely mentally unprepared for the insertion, and it might have been a traumatic experience.

Furthermore, my insurance covered most of the cost of the IUD insertion. Sadly, many people cannot use IUDs, or any birth control at all, because they are uninsured. The lack of birth control options for uninsured people often leads them to shell out huge sums of money for an expensive abortion or give birth to unplanned children.

This inequity in birth control access must be combatted in two ways. The first is better education about birth control. Sex education classes are the perfect opportunity to teach people about the variety of birth control options. Additionally, a greater deal of societal openness about sexuality would improve birth control awareness and education. Encouraging people to speak openly about their experience with birth control would ensure widespread awareness, even without comprehensive sex ed.

Additionally, we need to advocate for more reproductive health resources for uninsured people. This could be achieved by allocating much more funding to Planned Parenthood, in order to allow them to open more locations and offer more services at a lower cost. Unfortunately, legislation currently seems to be going in the opposite direction, with several key lawmakers, like Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, intent on defunding Planned Parenthood entirely. It is important that birth control users and their supporters push back against this, ensuring that birth control accessibility be improved rather than rolled back.

My IUD helps me live a full and painless life. For many people, non-pill birth control options are their only means of living happily and healthily, without side effects or the constant fear of an unplanned pregnancy. It’s important that those who can afford to have their pick of birth control options advocate for those who don’t through encouraging others not to shame sexuality and birth control and demanding that lawmakers fight for our right to reproductive healthcare.

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