Why don’t we talk about contraception?

It occurred to me the other day whilst reading a random blog post how little we talk about contraception.

I mean, we talk about a lot of things. To our mum, to our friends, to our colleagues. Yet, something as important in our teenage and adult lives as birth control somehow sits in the “embarrassing/personal” category. The main reason I decided to write a post on it was because this particular blog post gave a very negative view of her particular contraception, with many superlatives to explain the absolute horror she went through with it. I feel for her, I really do.

If suffering can be avoided, it should be.

However, to project such a rant online to her many many followers over something so intricate and individual to each person, to me seemed irresponsible. Maybe as bloggers we are entitled to write anything and everything we want to. I, however, don’t believe this to be entirely correct.

The number of comments she had had underneath her graphically described post was incredible. Teenagers and adults alike, claiming their shock at her experience and vowing not to even bother looking into it, should they ever have the same experience as her. Lots were curious in terms of the gaps she left out with some key information so I then tried to answer or send informative links to respond to some of their questions that the writer had neglected, having had experience with said contraception and, luckily for me, the opposite experience.

This then got me thinking – why don’t we talk about contraception?

At school they run through descriptions of ovaries and testicles, handing out condoms and tampax and explaining the facts of life. Yes, they cover the basics of contraception, but I really don’t think they go into it enough. Condoms are by far the best option if you’re not in a long term steady relationship as they protect you from unwanted nasties such as STIs and what not. But what if you are in a long term relationship? If I’m honest, they’re a bit of a faff.

When Adam and I first got together, I’d only ever used condoms for contraception. Even in my previous long term relationships, it was rubber all the way. Yet regardless, they’re still not 100% effective.

We actually sat down together, did some proper googling and researched what might be best, because contraception should NOT just be the girls problem. You want to go there with her, you better think about it too buddy. Yes, even down to the gory details.

So which contraception is best?

The simple answer is, Whichever suits you best. The reason there are still so many is because different types work for different people. So really look into your options.

I was quite restricted because my mum had breast cancer severely when she was in her 30s and 40s which was oestrogen based, meaning if I could, I should avoid any additional oestrogen contraceptives as it’s likely I share similar genes that react badly to it. Unfortunately for me, this does limit you to a few options. There were:

  • condoms (which we decided we’d rather not have to bother with)
  • the diaphram or cervical cap (has to be used with spermicide and inserted at least 6 hours prior to sex)
  • progesterone only pill (which I’d find tricky to remember to take at exactly the same time every day – I do not trust myself!)
  • Contraceptive implant (having a slice in my arm freaks me out a bit, I’m not that brave!)
  • Contraceptive injections (same reason as above, and lasts 8-12 weeks)
  • IUD (also known as the coil, a copper based device that sits inside your uterus)
  • IUS (similar to the above, but progesterone based)

My personal choice for contraception

In the end, after discussing with both Adam and my doctor, I went for the Mirena IUS coil. Mainly because it releases a very small amount of progesterone into your uterus directly, rather than a pill which has to have a higher dosage. It lasts 5 years but can be taken out whenever you need to, makes your periods shorter and lighter (in some people it actually stops them completely) and  is simply inserted by a nurse.

Initially, I was told that it would be difficult to get one as I’d not had a baby. I fought a little, but managed to persuade the doctor that it was what I wanted. The icky bit was that you have to have it put in whilst you’re on your period. I’d never been examined down there, let alone sat with my feet up in stirrups, a great big light shining onto your bare bum so that the nurse could see what she was doing. Adam actually came with me and help my hand. Despite my nerves from reading aforementioned similar horror stories online (NEVER read stories online!) about a “burning rod of iron”, it was actually fine.

I took paracetamol and ibuprofen before I went, the exam was a bit weird (as only having a speculum there is), but not uncomfortable, and the actual insertion was a little painful, but no worse than period pain. It was over before I knew it!

I would however, highly recommend following their advice and actually feeling the little strings that sit out of your cervix. The first time I plucked up the courage to check them, I freaked out that they were too long/too short/in the wrong place and actually went back to the doctor to check! They were fine, perfectly normal, and since then I’ve had no issues whatsoever. I love the coil, I don’t have to think about it, it has made my long heavy periods shorter and lighter. I also feel safe in the knowledge that I’m very very unlikely to get pregnant before I’m ready to.

Making choices

Whilst I know full well this is just my case for this particular contraception, and no two bodies are the same, I would personally recommend that it has been great for me. However, what I would also like to add is that it should be a decision you make for yourself. Do not let a doctor tell you what you should think, do plenty of research and then you can consider their advice feeling fully informed. Do not suffer if you don’t have to. If you try one thing and after a few months it doesn’t work, get it changed. Talk to your mum, your aunty, your colleagues and you friends about their experiences, but don’t necessarily take them for gospel. Your body may well be different. Discuss it with your other half. Do not be embarrassed, it’s something that half the population will be likely to have to consider at some point in their lives. Contraception can be so useful for so many issues we face as women, not only for giving us the choice of when to have children, finding the right one can hugely benefit your every day life.