Thanks, Birth Control!
Yesterday was the 54th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Griswold v Connecticut that allowed access to contraception under the right to marital privacy. (Granted, then, this really meant they felt birth control was only okay for married, heterosexual people.) We are still fighting today to ensure each individual can consistently and affordably obtain the method of birth control that is right for them.
I started on birth control pretty soon after I first started having periods at age 15 (long before I needed it for contraceptive purposes). I was a bit of a late bloomer in that regard, and my body decided to make up for lost time by making periods the worst thing that had ever happened to me. My periods were incredibly heavy, and I was lucky that my mother supported me in getting to the doctor to start birth control pills to try to get them under control. After I started them, though, my periods continued to be quite heavy. I always had to use super tampons and change them within two hours. I bled onto underwear, jeans, and sheets every period despite this. The bleeding lasted 6 days and only let up slightly on the last day. It meant I had to plan my activities around the ability to have tampons on hand and access to a bathroom consistently during that time of the month. I figured that since I was already on birth control pills, this was the best it was going to get. I dealt with this for EIGHT YEARS. When I went to the doctor for my yearly exam, they never asked me anything about my bleeding. They just did the routine check-up and filled my prescription as asked. I wasn't told about the possibility of changing the dose of the birth control or using a different method. It wasn't until I learned about hormonal IUDs IN A MEDICAL SCHOOL LECTURE that I knew things could be better. I immediately called my mom and my parents' insurance company when I got home that day to figure out if I could possibly try an IUD. Ultimately I went to Planned Parenthood, and a state program allowed me to have an IUD inserted for free. MY LIFE CHANGED. After the initial adjustment that is common with hormonal IUDs, I no longer had periods. NO PERIODS. Going from hemorrhaging for nearly a week every month to not bleeding at all was a total game-changer. I was so much more free. My confidence was improved. My energy level and motivation was better. I didn't have to worry about forgetting my pill pack if I visited my parents or friends for a weekend. My new method of birth control had a statistically better efficacy for pregnancy prevention than my previous one. And even though I made my birth control method switch at a time of other changes in my life and cannot confirm cause and effect, I do believe the pills had been contributing to depressive symptoms and using another method was good for my mental health. I've now had two IUDs, and I truly cannot imagine how life might be different right now if I had continued on pills.
My point in this is not to say that IUDs are the best. Pills are a great method for a lot of people, and IUDs do not work out for everyone. My point is that barriers to the full range of contraceptive methods are detrimental. People suffer needlessly due to lack of information and access. We need to do more to increase knowledge and availability of every birth control method so that each person can find and consistently use their personal best method (without having to go to medical school themselves and then luck into affordable access).