We here at Living are all about showing readers all their options - when it comes to love, work, family, and everything in between. Today, we've asked two of our readers to explain what sort of contraception they use and why. There are more choices for women besides condoms or the Pill, and we thought you'd like to know more about them. What sort of contraception do you use, if any? Why? What do you like about it, and what are its drawbacks? Tell us in the comments below.
by Erica Lynn Warren
Two years ago I got a copper IUD (intra-uterine device), and it was a great decision. I had been on different versions of the Pill and patch for a few years prior to this, and was entirely unhappy with the daily doses, the physical and emotional side effects, the potential for user error, and the high monthly cost. I also came out of a depressive episode around the same time I stopped using hormonal birth control and, while I wouldn't want to suggest a one-to-one correlation between the Pill and depression, at the time I wasn't interested in experimenting with my body chemistry. Additionally, I know that I do not want to have children and prospect of taking a pill every day for the next thirty years was in no way appealing.
At first the doctor tried to talk me out of getting an IUD. They are generally only prescribed for women who have already had children, she explained, because then there is guaranteed to be room in the uterus. They are also often reserved for women in "stable, long-term relationships," which seemed to be code for "married." The ostensible reason for this is to prevent STIs, which, with an IUD, can contribute to a slightly higher incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease (though this tended to be the case with older models with braided strings hanging into the vagina, and is much less of a concern today). Also, while there aren't the same negative side effects of hormonal contraceptives, an IUD can cause heavier than normal periods and strong to severe cramping, both of which are factors many women take the Pill to prevent.
I had done my research, however, and for me the benefits outweighed the costs--specifically, the financial costs. I didn't have health insurance at the time, and the $300 I paid (including doctors visits) for the IUD and its insertion are the only costs for the next ten years (beyond yearly exams, which I would have had regardless). In addition to that, for those next ten years I don't have to actively do anything to be sure that I don't get pregnant: no pills to take, to shots to get, no prescriptions to fill, no dates to remember. No human error to account for. Also, the IUD is one of the most effective forms of birth control available; more effective even than getting your tubes tied.
My IUD hasn't been without its drawbacks: I have some really gnarly cramps (mostly in the first six months, must less now) and my periods are heavier. Also, since going off the Pill, I no longer have that down-to-the-hour reliability of knowing when my period will start. Still, these are inconveniences that I am more than happy to deal with to get the assurance that, with no further action on my part, I will not get pregnant in the next ten years.
The Nuva Ring
By A HuffPo Living Reader
A good friend (and aspiring gynecologist) recommended the Nuva Ring to me. She had switched from Yasmin (birth control pills) to the Ring (aptly named, as it is a ring inserted into the vagina) because of the weight gain she experienced on the Pill. A doctor once told me this Golden Rule of Birth Control: everyone who wants to gain (boob) weight won't, and everyone who can't bear the thought of a heavier chest will be purchasing new DD bras before the end of their first cycle. My friend and I are both members of the latter group, and I was told the Nuva Ring had lessened the usual chest effects.
I had considered the Ring before--in fact, the specialists at my college's Women's clinic were strong advocates and counseled me several times about it--but it took me a while to agree to its more, um, manual aspects. I'm very down with being a woman, but I'm not down with reaching around more than I have to---which is why I've never tried a sponge or a diaphragm. In the end, however, the hassle of the weight gain combined with the impossibility of taking my birth control pills at the SAME time EVERY day forced me to reconsider.
And I'm glad I did. I worry about my birth control once a month, instead of once a day. It's much harder for me to screw up the dosage. And, of course, I am continually reassured that matters are taken care of---by me. Finally, and while this may be a factor of maturity rather than practice, I'm a lot more comfortable with the "reaching around," as it were. It probably shouldn't require birth control for me to comfortable with my special parts, but if it helps, then all the better.