At a party recently, I was walking past two friends deep in discussion, when I heard:
“It’s about that time of night, isn’t it?"
“Yeah, I think it's late enough. How’s your contraceptive going?”
I smoothly did a wee pirouette and perched myself on a nearby chair to actively eavesdrop into the discussion (all contributors have been magicked into animals to protect their identities):
Anonymoose: Yeah mine’s pretty fine thanks, I’m just on the normal pill but it’s getting better than it used to be. I was moody for a month when I first went on them but it’s eased up a lot now.
Anonychicken: I had that too when I was on the mini-pill. It messed up my moods crazy big time, and I didn’t think there were other options so I just waited it out. It also only left you a three hour window, which is such a pain. Once, I realised halfway through an exam that I had forgotten – not ideal! So I went on a 12 hour one which cost more: $50 a month.
Anonydeer: Did you have to get off it eventually?
Anonychicken: Yeah – my moods had already broken up my relationship so I just took a break from all pills, but my next Family Planning visit introduced me to a fully non-hormonal copper IUD which I’m on now. It did hurt a little when it was put in, but was worth half an hour of stomach pain for 5 years of no pills and all thrills :)
Although it was horrible that other people had also had imperfect experiences, it was nice to hear I wasn’t alone. So for the next week, I made it my goal to talk to people openly and honestly about it:
Anonostrich: My contraceptive story is medically ideal, and extremely dull. I went on the pill, suffered no ill effects, and uneventfully continued as such for almost two years. Honestly, I just got to a point of frustration with the pill itself and the tedium of having to take it daily, in spite of how it was safely keeping my baby oven vacant, and not affecting my weight, mood, or periods. Hormonal birth control seemed to agree with me, and I wasn’t overly fond of the idea of an IUD, so I decided to try the Jadelle implant, which has been working for me pretty great. It was a pretty weird concept to wrap my head around- two little plastic sticks in my arm, realeasing hormones for five years? O-kay. I heard that it could cause irregular bleeding, but decided to go ahead with it, The insertion was pretty straight forward, and after a minor wince at the anesthetic, I just spent the remaining five minutes chatting with my nurse about Game of Thrones. As it turns out, I'm one of the twenty percent of people who don't get their period while on the Implant, which has been freakin' sweet.
Anonybat and I went to an all girls school, and condoms and sex didn’t arrive in health class until year ten. And condoms were pretty much the only form of contraception we were given any real information on, and even that was cursory, and only like three girls in my class got to actually attempt the application exercise. I mean, for fuck’s sake, you think that making sure a bunch of impressionable teenage girls had all the info would be top priority. I remember the pill being mentioned in passing, but there was no mention of the implant, IUDs, or anything else. Safe sex apparently began and ended with condoms on penises, moving right along girls, heres some pictures of genital warts. I cannot have been the only queer kid in my class wondering, “but how do I have 'safe' sex with a girl?” I think I even briefly thought that you could only contract disease from male genitalia, and that sex without a penis involved was inherently “safe”.
Anonybat: Like most young women, when I first thought about contraception, my immediate (and only) idea was the pill. I went to my doctor, who handed me a family planning sheet filled with a bewildering range of options, plus a prescription for combined oral contraceptives. However, after a month I realised that the pill wasn’t for me. I was terribly moody – panicking when on my own and crying for long periods of time. A different type made me vomit. I definitely needed a different solution.
I had the preliminary tests for an IUD, but changed my mind before insertion. Although they’re amazing in so many ways, copper IUDs can worsen period cramps and I already got extremely bad period pain. Also I’m a wimp, and the procedure sounded scary. Once hormonal birth control and IUDs were ruled out, what had seemed like a vast array of options to my nineteen-year-old self was rapidly diminishing. Although I always use condoms, I didn’t feel comfortable with them as my sole protection.
Enter the diaphragm. I was initially sceptical (weren’t they from, like, the 1930s?), but have come to really appreciate my diaphragm. There are definite downsides: you have to remember to put it in before sex and then take it out again later, you need to buy spermicide from an online pharmacy, they increase your UTI risk, and they have to be fitted (family planning can do this). But for me, the positives are enormous. The diaphragm is non-hormonal, so I know it won’t mess with my moods, is a contraceptive I control myself, and is extra protection so I don’t have to rely solely on condoms.
We’ve all had different experiences, and yours, dear reader, will be different again. But be proactive, see a doctor (family planning or other anonymous services are great), and make sure you know all your options.▼
Editor's note: An appointment at Family Planning is totally free if you're under 22! Bless their hearts <3