What I wish I knew when I started using birth control
Do you ever wish that you could go back in time to give advice to your younger self? Was there ever a moment you could have used some wisdom from the future, whether it was after you had your first break up or on your first day of college? We want to hear about it: Pitch us lists of advice you have for our new section, What I Wish I Knew When, with the subject line WIWIKW at pi[email protected]. Can’t wait to hear from you!
When I went on birth control at age 14, it was an attempt to keep me from becoming anemic due to blood loss. I had a heavy period twice a month, to the point that I couldn’t go through two classes of high school without bleeding through my jeans. (I know, it was not great.) Birth control gave me control over my body in a way that I’d never experienced, and it was great, but I wish I’d known a few things back then.
Birth control affects everyone differently
Because I started using birth control pills as a freshman in high school, shortly after I started my period, I never had cramps or horrible acne. I grew awesome boobs after about a year, after being flat-chested and string bean-shaped all my life. For the first time in my life, I knew when my period was coming for me, and I could set up reinforcements. I could even use tampons that weren’t the greatest absorbency! This was a giant sigh of relief, and it gave me peace of mind that nothing else was going to give.
But birth control was different for many of my friends. Some of them had trouble with the hormones in one brand and adjusted to another. Others got heavier periods, or decided hormonal birth control just wasn’t for them. It was all totally OK, but it’s worth remembering that works for you doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. That’s because bodies are all beautifully, wonderfully diverse.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor
This may be one of the biggest things that every woman should know. Your lady doctor is your biggest ally in making sure you are healthy and in a good place. If you don’t like the medication you’re on, tell them! After two cycles of NuvaRing, I realized it wasn’t for me, just as a personal preference. So I talked to my doctor, and I explained what I really wanted: lower flow, consistency in when to expect my monthly reminder that I wasn’t pregnant, and if it could keep my acne nonexistent, that would be cool, too.
Since then, I’ve used several pills with varying levels of hormones. Every time I had difficulty or something wasn’t working the way I wanted, I talked to my doctor about it. It really helped. I think some women can be scared about talking to their doctor about such a private thing, but there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. That’s their job! Ask questions about your body and your medication.
People go on birth control for a lot of different reasons
When I first went on birth control, the contraceptive element of it wasn’t even a concern. It was another three years before I even had a boyfriend, and another four before I had sex. That’s not unusual! Birth control can really help if you have difficulties with your period, like me. But of course, birth control does what it says on the package, and it’s also there for sexually active women to take charge of their bodies and prevent pregnancy. That’s rad, too! But don’t think that being on birth control means that you have to go out and have sex ASAP. It’s just not true. Move at your own pace.
Your body is your business
In the end, it doesn’t matter what politicians or frenemies, or anyone really thinks about you and your birth control, so long as you’re okay with it. If you’re married and want to wait for kids, you can use it. If you’re 15 and having menstrual cramps, you can use it. If you’re sexually active and single, and definitely don’t want a baby, you can use it. If you aren’t into the idea of hormonal birth control, there are many other effective contraceptive methods. It’s your choice. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
Victoria Skelton has a great love for travel, reading, and her little Volvo, Ernest.
[Image via Shutterstock]