The Truth About Contraceptives: A Rant


Here at Her Campus Durham we’re talking about female health. So that means we’re whining about our periods, discussing all things boob-related, and bonding over our vagina issues. One of these issues comes under the ‘contraception’ umbrella. Contraception is admittedly needed but is equally the biggest pain in the bum (see ‘The Injection’ further down) if you have a vagina and are sexually active. Of course, if you don’t have a vagina there’s not much for you to worry about. Apart from maybe carrying a spare condom around. You can rely entirely on the woman you’re sleeping with to make sure she is doing everything she can to make sure she doesn’t fall pregnant. Whilst you just sort of…turn up.

Contraception is entirely the responsibility of the woman and as long as this is the case, there are going to be things that we as women have to deal with. So, let’s talk about the truths surrounding contraception – you know, the things we talk about all too much, but nobody seems to listen.

From non-hormonal contraceptives like condoms, to hormonal ones such as the implant, there are so many to choose from that some may say we’re spoilt for choice. We do indeed have choice, but spoilt? Perhaps not. I remember being told about the array of choices for me as a woman at my most recent trip to see the nurse. Here are just a few that I remember:

  • The combined pill, which you take every day for three weeks, then have a week off, which is usually when you have your period (e.g. Rigevidon)
  • The progestogen-only pill, which you take every day without a break (e.g. Cerazette)
  • Condoms
  • The Implant, which lasts for a whopping three years  
  • An IUD (the coil), which lasts for FIVE TO TEN YEARS (I know)
  • The injection, which lasts for about 8-16 weeks. You usually get this in the bum (yes, the bum)

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great that there seems to be something for everyone, as everyone’s bodies are so vastly different. However, I feel that there hasn’t been enough investigation into contraceptives – specifically ways to prevent some of the dire side-effects. Of course, every contraceptive will affect each woman differently, and some women may not even get side-effects at all. But it’s something that we always have to be aware of when choosing a method of contraception. If I try the coil will my period leak into next week? Will being on the pill make my stomach feel like I’ve just had Christmas all over again? How on earth do I get rid of this acne on my face that wasn’t here before?

I recently read an article in Cosmopolitan written by a woman who had the worst experience on the coil, regarding the side-effects. Her periods were crazy heavy for a full seven days, and she had unbearable cramps. This not only meant she was constantly on edge in case she was leaking, but her sex life became complicated, as she felt uncomfortable and dirty most of the time. You’d think that something would be done about such side-effects if the men are on the receiving end, right? Apparently not.

I think we’re all told that if a form of contraception doesn’t work for us then we can try another. And at first you think nothing of it. Until you realise you desperately need a change, as you keep forgetting to take your pill at the same time every day, or you realise your periods are just not on your side. So, I guess it’s a case of trial and error, which is bloody (pardon the pun) annoying to say the least.

I recently changed my pill and was reasonably happy with doing so until the nurse told me that possible side-effects included weight gain, breakouts in spots and irregular periods. Through gritted teeth I told her that this was ‘okay’ and that I’m sure I’d ‘get used to it’. I feel that these side-effects are normal for someone changing their pill, but I can’t help thinking about how much isn’t being done to change the way contraceptives effect women. As well as the usual, other side-effects include: a higher risk of depression, breast tenderness (which is worse for bigger boobed ladies), intermenstrual spotting (as if we don’t bleed enough already) and decreased libido. We’ve had Doritos announcing the creation of Lady-Friendly crisps but have heard absolutely nothing about increasing research in how to better the experiences of women on contraception.

Interesting use of priorities.

What do we want? Simply to be taken seriously. And maybe for men to have their turn, and, you know, take responsibility for their own sperm.

When do we want it? As soon as possible would be great. We’re getting tired of feeling bloated, bleeding inconsistently, and trying many, many versions of the pill.

The truth is, quite frankly, as much as we love crisps we’re quite happy with the ones we’re currently eating. What we’re not happy about is the fact that someone thought it’d be a grand idea to forget about our actual needs as women.

Essentially, we deserve better.