My Birth Control Woes

by Lisa Baumgartner, Alex Reid, October 21, 2008

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I went on the pill at age 15. No one had bothered to school me on the different forms of birth control so the first prescription my gynecologist gave me is the one I’ve remained faithful to for six years. Not until recently have I even thought about switching birth controls; for me switching just wasn’t an option somehow. I figured that this was life, and these were the consequences women all around the world had to face because we’re women, we have complex bodies with even more complex genetic makeup.

The X chromosome compared to the Y chromosome contains 2,225 more genes. Y chromosomes contain at maximum 75 genes and X has a maximum of 2,300 and we’re the ones placed lower in society? Back to my generalized point, we’re women, we menstruate, we must suffer the consequences.

I’ve had pretty awful skin for the majority of my adolescence and early adult life and until reading up on some articles and personal blogs on my particular brand of birth control, which, by the way, is Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, I realized that my poor skin clarity and excessive mood changes during that time of the month aren’t my biological imprint. In fact both of these things are affected significantly by my birth control. My gynecologist put me on Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo because it’s supposed to be one of the best skin clearing birth controls on the market. However, everyone’s body reacts differently to the hormones in these pills so for some people it could be their skin perfect miracle, but for me it’s had the opposite effect. Reading birth control diatribes on how women have experimented with different types and forms of birth control has made me think I can do it too. It’s not that I couldn’t afford to switch birth controls; I have very good health insurance, for now at least. But switching from one birth control to another is just asking for more breakouts. It takes about two to three months for you body to fully bounce back to normal after going off birth control and then another two to three months to get re-acquainted with the new birth control hormones. This to me means severe acne for two to three months and a long stint of hibernation in the confines of my apartment bedroom where no one in the outside world can see me. That might sound a bit dramatic but trust me if you’ve ever had acne, whether it be a single white head or severe acne like cystic acne, you know how embarrassing it can be. After considering all these things I still haven’t made up my mind about switching. I mean what should I even switch too? There is no guarantee that the next birth control I go on will clear up my skin and regulate my mood; in fact the next pill I try could be even worse than the first, then what? And in addition, there are endless options of birth control. The pill, the ring, the shot, and the patch- how does one choose?

The pill is annoying because if you miss it you have to double up on pills the next day which often leads to nausea and vomiting, not good. The patch is an unsightly skin colored thing that resembles a nicotine patch, I’m not one to care what others think about me but id prefer it if they didn’t think I was a recovering 21-year old chain smoker. Plus, the patch can irritate the skin surrounding it causing a hive like rash, neither comfortable nor attractive, no patch for me. The DepoVera shot? No way, I hate shots all together. Why would anyone choose to have a shot every three months that means they have to see their gynecologist every three months, not an ideal situation. Last but certainly not least is the NuvaRing. It’s a flexible, plastic ring that sits on your cervix and somehow wards off predatory “sperm-men”. I'd love to see the first memo regarding the ring. Did somebody say "hey, a plastic ring! I bet women would TOTALLY put a plastic ring in their vaginas?" However, odd the ring may sound it’s all the rage in the birth control world right now. I have several friends who’ve recently went off their traditional birth control pills and switched to the NuvaRing. The things have to be refrigerated it’s like EWW get you’re NuvaRing off my egg container, thank you.

After doing more research on the various forms of birth control I think I’ve made up my mind to stick with the pills, their painless, require no refrigeration and fewer visits to the gynecologist are always a good thing. It’ll take some more research to find the right pill for me and even then it’ll be like walking blindly into a black abyss because I have no idea how my body will react to the new hormones. I guess I’ll just have to take my chances.

Another thing that’s been plaguing me while writing this article, is why in the hell do I have be the one to stick ANYTHING anywhere? It's a poor beaten dead horse, I know. But it irritates me that the responsibility for birth control lands pretty much in my FEMALE lap. Don't get me wrong, the boyfriend has admitted to wanting a birth control pill for men, but whether he’d actually take it is another story. He can’t even remember to take his sinus medication so what makes him think he’ll be more responsible with his new male friendly birth control? In the meantime, why do I have to put something in my body that puts me at risk for stroke, heart attack, blood clots and god knows what else? Why is the only birth control option for men a condom? It isn’t right. It just isn’t right.

In my opinion when we talk about women's reproductive rights this is an issue we must address. You can't lay the entire responsibility for PREVENTING pregnancy in my lap and then tell me that if I screw up and don't prevent a pregnancy I have no more say in the matter. I'm pro-choice, for a lot of reasons. The search for new birth control just reminded me of one of the reasons. To find out about your birth control options contact your health services center or if a student in Cortland, New York contact The Jacobus Center at (607) 753-5027. Preventing pregnancy and aggravating the normal, healthy and functioning biological system should not solely be a female issue or responsibility. If a birth control was designed so not to alter the biological chemistry of the human body, then this conversation would be over. Until then…the PMS-stricken, cranky and irritable women of the world will remain a total mystery to men and most likely even our own selves.

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