Ladies, let's take control of our contraception and stop it ruining our lives
When I was 14 years old I snuck into my parents bedroom to ‘borrow’ my mum’s necklace. I prised open her jewellery box like Aladdin in the cave of wonders but there was no golden glow, no rubies, no genie. Just a pile of femidoms.
I opened one up and shuddered. They looked like condoms for horses. I knew mum had recently had a hysterectomy, so as a GCSE-level biologist I came to the conclusion that my mother’s lower abdomen was now a cavernous void and that the femidom was to be used in lieu of a vagina. I clearly didn’t know how hysterectomies worked.
But the truth is I still don’t know how to use a femidom and I’m not alone. A recent study conducted by Superdrug showed that 25 per cent of women weren’t aware of it, and only six per cent would try using one.
Did you know there are 15 different types of contraceptives available? I didn’t, despite the fact I’ve suffered for years bouncing between condoms and different brands of the pill only to settle on a copper coil that didn’t settle for me.
I wasn’t aware there were so many options out there and don’t truthfully feel like I have had a choice between them. Like many women, I went to the doctor as a teen with terrible period pain and they prescribed the pill and I didn’t question it. Despite this method having a catastrophic effect on my emotions and mental wellbeing, I persisted because I didn’t know there was another option.
Besides, everyone else was on it and they didn’t seem to have any problems. Or did they?
Fifty nine per cent of women aren’t completely happy with their contraception. 14 per cent said that, despite feeling unhappy, they felt like it was their only option, but it isn’t.
We need to arm ourselves with information about alternatives that may work better for us. GPs will help to guide on what might work best but can often make assumptions based on your age or relationship status about what you might want.
I know so many women who go to their GP with a preconceived idea based on what their friends use or what their mum used 30 years ago. This can act as helpful guidance, but surely it’s best to know all the available options first.
Taking control of our own bodies starts with doing our own research. Forewarned is forearmed, and the more we educate ourselves the better chance we have of picking something that works for us. With cuts to healthcare services, GP appointments are time-limited. So the more we know before we step into the room, the better.
The user should be the chooser but must be an INFORMED chooser. No one knows what’s best for a woman’s body and lifestyle than the woman herself. So ladies, it is time to get informed.
Thirty per cent of women spend less than 30 mins researching their contraceptive options while 85 per cent spend more than 30 mins choosing a holiday. I think of the pill as the Magaluf of contraceptives: everyone went there as a teenager but maybe it’s time to see what else the world has to offer.
The cap is Benidorm. Your mum might’ve had a great experience of it in the 80s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for you.
With more options comes more confusion. Pill names Yasmin and Cilest sound like a pop duo and the hormonal ring could be a bridge club for pagan witches. Having so many options can be overwhelming, so initiatives like this new website called The Lowdown – basically a Tripadvisor for contraceptives – are so important.
On The Lowdown women can submit reviews describing their experience with a type or brand of contraception and any side effects they had. The website then crunch this data and produce graphs and stats to show what the most common side effects are and how it impacted women’s weight, sex drive periods AND mental health.
The founder, Alice Pelton, wants to help shortcut the trial and error approach many women have to finding the right contraception for them, so please check it out if your considering a change in your method.
Now I know there are women out there who are absolutely content with their contraceptive choice, and that’s marvellous but for those who aren’t we need to ask ourselves why we are willing to put up with uncomfortable and sometimes life-altering side effects for the sake of sex.
Talk to your friends, Facebook groups, Mumsnet forums and you’ll realise you’re not suffering alone but we shouldn’t be suffering in silence. If you are experiencing negative side effects from your contraception, be an advocate for yourself and speak to your doctor. Then log your experience on The Lowdown to share with other women.
Many contraceptives aren’t quick-fixes. They have the potential to affect you long-term so time should be taken to make an informed decision.
Why should we settle for mood swings, abdominal pain, bleeding, depression, loss of sex drive, weight gain and nausea? Contraception shouldn’t feel like a compromise.
Fellas, ask your lady if she’s ever had an orgasm that was worth all this bullsh*t. If she says yes, she loves you but she’s lying.
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