As a senior in college and twenty-one years old, I have been on birth control for four years. I started with the pill at age seventeen, and have since tried two different pills, the Nuvaring, and am currently a proud user of an Intrauterine Device (IUD). Sometimes I feel like a sort of birth control lab rat fielding questions from my friends like “What’s an IUD?” “Wait, can he feel the Nuvaring during…you know?” “Why not just stay on the pill?” and many, many more. So, after having countless conversations about all of these birth control methods, I’ve decided to write about my own experiences with these methods. Nothing written here is vetted by a gynecologist, it’s just basically what I’ve been asked, been told, and experienced.
Birth Control Pills
Lybrel: This was the first pill I was put on. The only reason I was going on birth control was because I was sexually active (no acne issues, extreme cramping, etc.). Lybrel does not involve any placebo pills, as most other birth controls do. As a result, yes, I never got my period (after the initial random spotting that is expected when you start this type of birth control). Most everyone who finds this out asks me the same question: “Is this even safe?” My gynecologist said it is, so I believe him. That’s as much information as I have on the issue so additional questions are pointless. I didn’t experience any side effects but eventually decided to switch pills because I was sexually active and didn’t like the fact that without my period, I had no monthly assurance that I wasn’t pregnant. If I hadn’t been having sex, I would have happily stuck with this pill.
Yaz: There isn’t much to say about this pill, as it is apparently one of the most common pills to be on. There are many commercials telling women that it is only meant for the treatment of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a more severe version of PMS), which I did not suffer from, so for me it was purely meant to prevent pregnancy. This pill was just fine, but I began to be completely incapable of remembering to take the pill every day at the same time. Maybe it was because I didn’t keep the pack on me wherever I went, as a lot of my friends do. Or maybe it was because now that I was in college, my schedule was much less predictable than it had been in high school. But regardless, I got into a horrible habit of forgetting to take it for multiple days at a time, and then taking four at once to catch up. I figured this was unhealthy, so at my next gynecologist appointment, I asked about another form of birth control, and ended up switching over to Nuvaring.
To begin with, I LOVED Nuvaring. Nuvaring is a little ring made of plastic or silicone, or some other flexible material; I’m not exactly sure. Anyway, it’s about two inches in diameter and an eighth of an inch thick. In case you haven’t seen the commercials or heard about it, you put it into your vagina, leave it there for three weeks to slowly release hormones, then take it out and have a period for the fourth week. Repeat.
As I said, I had a great experience with Nuvaring. First, I really liked that I didn’t have to think about it for three weeks, then removed it, remembered to put it back in a week later and then didn’t have to think about it for the next three weeks, again. Second, as long as I remembered to put it in and take it out, it was as effective as that 99% all birth control companies tout around. In case you don’t know, for the pill, that 99% effectiveness advertised is only true if you are taking it at the same time every day. If you can do this, I commend you. I have friends who never forget, and I find that as impressive as being able to draw a perfect circle or make beautiful, even curls in your hair with a curling iron. I, am not that kind of girl. So, I like knowing that I am 99% sure I will not get pregnant (this is the effectiveness without a condom, and without withdrawal), without having to do much of anything about it.
Now to the question that everyone asks: “Can the guy feel it when you’re having sex?” The answer is yes, sometimes. It’s pretty rare for a guy to feel it during the actual act of intercourse, but when it comes to moments of finger-usage, the guy can certainly feel it. In my experience, no one has ever said they feel weird about it. It does usually require you to explain it to a guy, a conversation that tends to occur in the middle of the action (when else would it come up?). However, I’ve found that a “It’s a kind of birth control, don’t worry, but if you want me to take it out I can” suffices. On that note, I should mention that you can take it out for up to four hours without consequence. So, if you are super self-conscious, take it out before you start on your good times, and put it back in right after. Most guys actually like the idea of the Nuvaring, at least that’s what my then-boyfriend said. The tangible proof of actually seeing the birth control is reassuring to a nervous boy.
Another question I have been asked is, “Does it ever come out?” Well, randomly in every day life, no it never comes out. At least it never came out of me. But, if you’re asking if it comes out during sex, it sometimes does, but not always. If it doesn’t come out, that’s awesome! If it does, make a little joke and keep going. Unless you’ve explained the “It’s okay for it to be out for four hours or less” concept, the guy will likely be concerned if you toss it aside and tell him to keep going (baby trapping fears). Instead, throw it back in there and get back in the game, champ! Hilariously enough, a phenomenon that I always found funny, and my then-boyfriend thought was just as great as Christmas morning, was what we referred to as “ring toss.” Hopefully you can figure out what this refers to, but if not, Google the game and put your thinking cap on.
Anyway, at my yearly gynecologist appointment, I found out that the hormones in Nuvaring and another medication I was on lowered each other’s effectiveness. I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely no tolerance for lower birth control effectiveness. As I said, I am 21 and a senior. And there’s no “Early-20s Mom” show on MTV for me to make my millions, so there’s absolutely no incentive to allow for a pregnancy risk. Therefore, I decided to switch it up one more time and get an IUD.
This is a complicated concept to explain, and embarrassingly enough I don’t know enough about it. Basically, there are two types. Firstly, there is Paraguard. This is a copper little guy that has no hormones, and instead just works by being a physical T-shaped object in the uterus (more on this in a minute). Then there is Mirena, which is the type I opted for and what was recommended to me by my gyno. This is also a physical object, but it releases hormones at the same time. Both of these objects are inserted into the uterus by your gynecologist in a simple outpatient procedure.
Now my experience, I have since learned, is not the most common one but is definitely not a rarity, so do take it seriously. Getting the IUD in was one of the most horrendous experiences of my life. Everyone had told me that getting an IUD in was an “unpleasant experience,” but I found this the most bald-faced lie I have ever encountered. I was prescribed a uterus relaxer, which I fully admit to not taking the exact way I was supposed to. (My procedure was at 9:30am and I was supposed to take the pill four hours beforehand, and waking up at 5:30am was difficult after a few bottles of wine with friends. Don’t judge!) Anyway, long story short, when my doctor put this thing inside of me, my uterus reacted as if I was suddenly pregnant and immediately in labor. Thus, for the rest of the day, I legitimately had contractions. Full blown, baby-is-a-comin’ contractions. It was exactly as painful as it looks in the movies but more so, because I didn’t even have the excitement of knowing something cool was coming out of the experience. They became concerned that it had migrated and punctured my uterus (something that can happen?!) and so I had to get an ultrasound that same day. Luckily this wasn’t the case for me, I was just having the bad reaction that is known to happen occasionally. Overall, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The next day, after a lot of sleep, I felt so much better. I was 100% back to myself by the second day. Full disclosure: I did get my period for the next two weeks straight, which SUCKED. But, after that, I haven’t really had my period (except for some spotting) since. I haven’t yet decided what I will do about no longer getting my monthly no-baby/keep-up-the-good-times period.
Mirena lasts for five whole years, while Paraguard lasts for ten. At 21, I am fully okay with the five-year limit because I am kind of hoping that by the time I am 26, I will be looking to start a family (a personal choice!). However, if I wanted to begin sooner, the gyno can simply remove the IUD and you’re good to start baby-making within a month! If I’m still not ready at 26, I can get another IUD put in, and wait for another five years or so. To me, this seems like a pretty good deal.
Overall, I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences with birth control, but at least I have learned what works for me. Choosing your method is a very personal choice, but it’s important to remember that if you’re not happy there are other awesome options out there! Do as I did and keep bouncing around until you find one that works for you. It’s a combination of factors that goes into a good method so stay informed, ask a thousand questions, and then have fun (responsibly). Because as far as I know, Teen Mom doesn’t pay nearly as much as you’d think.