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Rambles on Birth Control

May 14, 2009

Sex with boys is so much more complicated than sex with girls. Mostly because of the whole sperm thing. Little fuckers whose sole purpose is to get me pregnant.
Sperm is terrifying. I remember the first time I had sex with a boy I treated that aspect of it like the plague. I would literally jump out of the bed and change the sheets immediately if a mess was made. I treated semen like that game of Lava that you played as a kid – moving around it because if you touched it you’d burn. Or, in the case of semen-as-lava, somehow absorb the little fuckers through my skin and end up pregnant that way.

I spent nearly a full year on absolutely no prescription drugs. I phased myself off my daily migraine medicine and started watching my food and water intake. The migraines went away. I was kind of angry about that. Why didn’t my doctor suggest that dehydration was the cause of my migraines? Why was his first inclination to take out a prescription pad and get me on drugs? But that’s a different rant.

I had a year to get used to my body the way it naturally is. During this year I was also working on loosing weight, so I was constantly monitoring my food and drink intake (a habit I maintain, even if on an unconscious level). I know how my moods go, I know how my headaches go, I know how my body works. I know what certain foods do to me, I know exactly what kinds of foods I need to keep my body working the way it’s supposed to and not gain any weight. I know what my body does when it’s ovulating. I know exactly when my period should come, for how long it will stay, and what kind of symptoms I’ll have before and afterward. In short: I know my body.

In comes the semen factor.
I do not want to get pregnant. I’m not in a place in my life where I want children, and the decision to abort an accident would not be an easy one. One I’d be willing to make, but one that I’d rather not have to. Thus, birth control. As an active and responsible non-monogamous person, I’m always using condoms. So that’s one layer of birth control: barrier method.
The problem with this is that the pregnancy protection drops to 85% effectiveness with regular use, and that is not a high enough percentage for me. Or rather – the chance of accidental pregnancy is too high.

(One thing about pregnancy/condom scares though – they really start you thinking about the men in your life. You find yourself questioning if they’d make a good father, how the partner would react to the news, and just how you’d tell your parents that not only are you not a lesbian, but you’re pregnant and the father could feasibly be one of three partners.)

So, back in January I started Yaz. I was on Yaz for only a month – like most birth control trial-and-error, I was told to take it for three months. Considering I had a migraine and was nauseous every day for that entire month, like hell I was going to take it for three months. At one point I was so nauseous and migrainey that I vomited and then stayed home from work because moving hurt. The irony? That entire month I didn’t have PIV sex once.

Slightly scared away from hormonal birth control, I made do with condoms with Plan B on hand as a just-in-case.
Except, Plan B sucks. My sole experience with it, which resulted in a full five day period every two weeks for six weeks, is not something I ever want to experience again.
And thus, birth control again. I’m on week two of the NuvaRing. So far, it’s much, much better than Yaz. I still get headaches, and the first few days I had dizzy spells. Last week I was more irritable than usual, but this week that seems to be clearing up noticeably. The headaches I can make go away, either through caffeine or through advil (as a last resort), which is more than I can say for the full blown migraines I got on Yaz. So, so far so good.
The best thing about the ring? With perfect use, the ring + male condom combo is 99.99% effective against pregnancy. With typical use, 98.8%. That’s roughly equivalent to that of the IUD, that elusive birth control method I’ve gotten into so many fights with doctors about (which is Plan C if the NuvaRing doesn’t work out for me).
(Furthermore, if a child survives 0.01% odds, that fucker wanted to be born.)

All that being said, I’ve learned a few things about this process. First off, it is fucking bull shit that my insurance company does not cover Yaz or the NuvaRing. From what I can figure, they’ve labeled it a “Tier 3” (most expensive/hardly covered) drug. Basically, the companies of Yaz and NuvaRing didn’t jump into bed with my insurance company. But as far as I can tell, only the really old standbys, the medicines that have been around for years and have entered generic (and are not low dose) are covered. Considering how often I go to the doctor (rarely) and how many drugs I’m on (just birth control), it’d be useful if the insurance company would consider that as a healthy, young adult the one thing that I actually want them to cover they don’t. The whole system is fucked up, but that’s another matter.

The second thing I’ve learned? Doctors really like to think that they know your body and your lifestyle better than you. I actually had a doctor define the word abnormal in a tone like she was speaking to an idiot or a child. I had just met this woman, and she was trying to tell me how my body worked, a body that I’ve gotten to know rather intimately in the past twenty three years.
Furthermore, every doctor (except for the last one I saw) flat out refused to even discuss an IUD with me as soon as they learned I was non-monogamous. I understand why – having multiple sex partners puts you at “more” of a risk for STIs, and the IUD + STI = higher risk of PID.
The thing is, they wouldn’t even listen to me long enough for me to explain that yea, I have multiple sex partners. I also always, always use condoms and get tested every six months. I talk to my sex partners about their sexual testing before I have sex with them. I am more vigilant than many of my so-called “monogamous” peers. And even the CDC notes that… “Women who have an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted may have a slightly increased risk of PID near the time of insertion compared with women using other contraceptives or no contraceptive at all. However, this risk is greatly reduced if a woman is tested and, if necessary, treated for STDs before an IUD is inserted.”
In the end, it’s not my doctor’s decision. It’s mine.

I digress, slightly. I started this entry with the thoughts of comparing the complications between boy sex and girl sex and got waylaid by my observations on birth control and the medical establishment. I’m reaching some ridiculous word count at this point so I’ll end on this observation:
Being effectively infertile at this point, I am even more aware of the enormous historical and cultural implications of birth control than I ever was before. With birth control, I can have sex [with guys] without having to worry about bringing another life into this world. What would feminism be without birth control? How would it have developed differently if someone went back in time and eugenics-supporter Margaret Sanger never existed?
I am amazed at how much a culture can change because of the existence of a little pill.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 22, 2009 10:03 am

    The pill (thrust upon me by male doctors and the good ol’ Hollins clinic) was a nightmare for me. I think I could have found a pill that worked for me eventually, but I didn’t want to keep looking.

    I hope you have a better experience and find the right fit. If you don’t, you might consider diaphragms.

    I have just started using diaphragms, and I’m a big fan thus far. It was a bit of a hassle to find the right fit and figure out how to insert it, but they’re pretty cheap and non-hormonal. I was able to get a scrip at Roanoke’s women’s health clinic for only $25, and the diaphragm itself was $43 at CVS (though I had to get a smaller one for a better fit). With spermicide ($10), it cost me about $150 all told – not particularly cheap, but a fraction of the cost of an IUD (quoted to me at $400). It’s a little uncomfortable and frustrating at first, but I didn’t notice it after 15 minutes or during intercourse. I also bought a basal body thermometer ($9), and plan on tracking my cycle with that after my next period.

    Sharing your fear of pregnancy, I don’t really trust any of the non-hormonal methods I use (condoms, diaphragms, withdrawal, eventually cycle) alone, but I’m comfortable with a combination of the two, especially with the new evidence on withdrawal (

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