Women explain why birth control is vital to their health, for reasons other than "libido"
President-elect Donald Trump is considering Mike Huckabee for a position in the Trump Administration, potentially Secretary of State. Huckabee has been a strong advocate against women’s access to birth control.
To weigh in on this discussion, HelloGiggles spoke to several women — women who see their gender as empowering, not victimizing — about their need for birth control to alleviate health issues, including PCOS, migraines, irregular hormones, nausea, and more. Let it be noted that as of 2012, 10.6 million women were on birth control. In this new political climate, these millions of women are at risk of losing access to a medication that has allowed them to live a certain quality of life.
“I need access to birth control — specifically to the ParaGard IUD — because my life literally depends on it. You can’t tell by looking at me, but I have a crazy medical history. Hormonal birth control puts me at very high risk for having a stroke — and so does an unintended pregnancy, because of all the excess estrogen my body would produce during those nine months. Not only that, I am currently taking a medication that would severely endanger a fetus. Every single one of my doctors — not just my Gynecologist — advocated for the copper IUD. And I couldn’t be happier with my decision to get one.
I feel safe. I am in control of my health and my life because I had access to the ParaGard. What will happen to women if their health is endangered and they lose access to low-cost IUDs? My need for birth control may be complex, but that shouldn’t even matter. I should have access to birth control simply because I’m a human being and deserve sexual and reproductive freedom.”
“I was put on the pill when I was 14 years old — before I knew what “libido” was, or how reproductive systems worked, or how if you put a penis in a vagina that was called “intercourse.” I got my first period when I was 12, so for those two years before going on the pill I suffered from severe menstrual cramps that kept me out of school for two to three days each month. The pain was so debilitating that I was usually rendered immobile and wouldn’t be able to eat solid food for 48 to 72 hours. I would break out in cold sweats. My bowels would turn to liquid. All I could do was close my eyes and wait for it to pass. Every month. I was put on the pill so my education wouldn’t suffer. I was put on the pill so I didn’t have to feel the throbbing pain that men are so lucky to never have to feel. I was put on the pill so I could be a kid again.
I’ve been on the pill for eight years now and I promise you, I am controlling my libido and my reproductive system perfectly well with my mind alone. If I could not stay on the pill, my libido and my reproductive system would not be the only things to suffer — my entire body would. Every single month.”
Alyssa, New York
“The first time I went on birth control, I was 16 years old, and I had never had a regular period. I wasn’t having sex yet, but being a thin, athletic girl with the metabolism of a two-year-old who just learned how to run, I only got my period every three to four months. My mom and doctor thought it would be a good idea, just in case I did start having sex, to get some regularity in my life when it came to my period, and I was on board, so I was given the pill. It started working and I was a regular ol’ gal on the pill. I remember being proud of that.
I also remember when it failed me. I was still on it in college, and after four years, I started to notice some differences in the way it was effecting my emotions and my weight. I was depressed, I gained weight, and I was just crying all the time. I switched to a different “strain” of the pill, hoping the hormones wouldn’t effect me the same way. It was a little better.
And now, I will never forget how I was really, truly failed by the education system on the topic of women’s health, and here’s where my anger and frustration about education for women’s health and reproductive health really gets me heated. In my four years of being on the pill, not one doctor or health professional or high school health teacher told me that taking antibiotics cancels out some strains of the birth control pill. I didn’t start out taking the pill because I didn’t want to get pregnant, but it had swiftly turned into that when I got to college, and lack of education failed me. I did get pregnant, I did have an abortion, and I did switch to a different form of birth control, this time out of fear.
A woman’s reproductive system is only as controlled as her knowledge about it. Without proper reproductive education, we fail women and put them in fear of their own bodies. Just because you fear the female anatomy and don’t care to know anything about it, doesn’t mean women deserve to be left in the dark, too.”
“Ever since I got my period, I had debilitating symptoms. I mean that in the truest definition of the word. I would get extremely painful cramps and lower back pain. I would spend so much time running to the bathroom. I would also get extremely hot and then extremely clammy with cold sweat. The worst part: I would throw up a lot. Almost every month.
During one bus ride home, I had to get off the bus because I felt so sick and proceeded to throw up outside a fast food restaurant. I’m pretty sure all the people on the bus and the streets basically thought I was dying. So that was fun. I avoided getting on birth control for years because of the stigma attached to it. But my period made it difficult to function. I’m so glad I have the choice to take something that helps me just live my life. You know, like a regular person.”
Liz, North Carolina
“For me personally, going on birth control was part of being a responsible college student who might end up having sex. I didn’t want to not use female contraceptive and am all about, you know, not having a baby. There were also some other useful benefits, like just being able to regulate my period. At the time, I lived with seven other women in a suite, and basically my cycle and that of one other girl, who also wasn’t on BC, were at the mercy of the different cycles of everyone who took BC (turns out we really do sync up). So starting BC was also to help that, and to help my chronic migraines.
In terms of “why the choice to have BC is important to women,” I could go on about the medical pros and cons, but I think more importantly this is just a women’s body issue. You would not disallow a man from having a medication that made their life better/easier/more manageable. Women need access to free and affordable BC because it’s an important part of preventative medicine for us.”
“I was a late bloomer. I got my first period when I was 17, while camping at an amusement park. While in college, most girls I knew were on something called ‘the pill.’ I knew a few friends in high school who were on it, but had never really thought of taking it myself. Then all of a sudden, I’d say around the age of 22, it all changed. My periods became a hot fucking mess. I’m talkin’ super heavy flow, lasting the full seven days, severe headaches, painful cramps, exhaustion, and being super emotional. It was awful. I think I tried the pill for a month or two, but just couldn’t stick to the regularity of the schedule and I also really wasn’t a fan of this method in general.
This had gone on for a few years and finally in the Spring of 2015 (after having to call in sick to work because I was in so much pain) I decided that something had to be done.
I talked to a doctor and thought it over, applied for a grant to cover (some of) the charges and made my appointment. Due to my income being at the poverty level while serving for a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, my total due was bout $175. We explored a few different types of IUD’s and ended up deciding ParaGard was the best fit for me. I was nervous and confused and scared and annoyed. I really disliked the idea of having a foreign object inside my body, but I suppose I liked that idea more than the continuing period pains or an unwanted pregnancy. Was I trying to conceive? Fuck no. Was I experiencing intense pain from my periods? Fuck yes. IUD=problem solved/avoided.
Since then, a year and a half later, I haven’t really had any problems with it. It’s great to not having to waste time or money in the overwhelming tampon aisle and it gives me a greater peace of mind knowing that I have one of best forms of birth control on my side. And, if I were to completely change my entire life direction and decide I did want to have kids before my five years is up, I’d just get the dang thing taken out.
All in all, an IUD isn’t the best form of BC for everyone. There are pros and cons to everything and when making any sort of big decision, especially when it comes to your body, do your own research. Ultimately the decision is yours. I still don’t love the idea that there’s a foreign object inside me, but I do love the fact that I made this choice on my own and was in control of my own body. I think it is crucial for young women out there to know what their options are and to be well-educated on those options as a whole. Once you’ve gathered all the information you can; listen to your head, follow your heart and go with your gut.”
Mary Kate, Pennsylvania
“I first started using birth control when I was a sophomore in high school (I was 15 or 16 years old). I never had regular periods, so my nurse practitioner at the time tested my blood and discovered high testosterone levels. She prescribed birth control pills, which helped regulate my period and my hormones. When I started seeing an OBGYN at 18, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
PCOS causes hormonal imbalances, which my birth control helps correct. Without birth control, my body might produce too many androgens (which cause me to stop ovulating, develop acne, and other symptoms) or develop insulin resistance (which could lead to diabetes). And, my birth control actually helps prevent depression and anxiety that can be caused by my hormonal imbalances. Birth control has been vital to improving my quality of life on a day-to-day basis, and to restrict access to it would negatively impact not only the sex lives of women, but also the every day health of women like me who depend on it.“