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Birth Control – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I was one of those girls that couldn’t’t wait to get her period. All my friends had it, talked about it, bonded over it and complained about it – while I sat around waiting and wanting to be a real woman.

Oh, how I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self, “girl, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Like most girls and women, I got all the basic symptoms of my period: cramps, back-pain, mood swings and so on. But as I entered high school, I quickly realized just how bad these symptoms can get. I would have cramps that made me immobile, I would have nausea that made me sick for hours – along with debilitating back-pain, fevers, and cold-sweats among other things, that left me thinking of my period as a monthly apocalypse.

After nearly four months (or four cycles) of these horrific symptoms, my mother and I decided that I could benefit from a birth control pill. I went on a basic “combination pill” – a mixture of estrogen and progesterone – and it truly changed everything.

I no longer had to call out of school when my period came. I could eat a diet that wasn’t strictly saltine crackers and ramen. I could play sports, complete homework, or simply sit on the couch and watch TV without being in pain. With the help of my pill I stopped fearing my periods, and embraced them as the “natural part of life” they were always meant to be.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In 2015, the brand of birth control I was on was discontinued and thus began the search for a new one – and spoiler alert –  I still haven’t found one.

I definitely won the birth control lottery the first time around, I really didn’t experience one bad side effect. Some of these can include (but are not limited to):

  • Weight Gain

  • Spotting

  • Headaches or Migraines

  • Mood Changes

  • Breast Tenderness or Growth

  • Heightened Depression or Anxiety

Other than some breast growth – which I didn’t mind as a flat-chested teenager – I had never experienced any of these side effects – or the dozens of others that aren’t listed. And I quickly learned that while birth control can help you, it can also be a massive pain in the ass.

Birth control isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. For most it isn’t a simple “one and done” experience where you visit a doctor and solve all your problems over night (I simply got lucky the first time around). I’ve visited countless gynecologists and hormone specialists – going through rounds of lab work and ultrasounds – all in an attempt to determine what is right for me. After nearly four years of ups and downs, and nearly six different birth controls, I can leave you with three pieces of advice:

  1. Know your reasons. Birth control is so much more than a contraceptive today. It can be used for so many things, and if you think you need it – or simply just want it – it could be the thing for you.

  2. Do your own research. Obviously visit a doctor, they are the professionals – but the internet is a wonderful place and I’ve learned so much more about birth control and what it can do to a body from the world-wide-web than any doctor has told me in an appointment.

Be patient and don’t settle. As I said before, finding what is right for you is a process for most, and typically isn’t easy. Every body is different. What worked for your best friend may not work for you – and that’s okay! We are all unique and structured differently, and when you find what your body needs, you will know.

Liv Hartmann

Monmouth '20

Liv Hartmann is a Junior Communications Major at Monmouth University. She is originally from Syracuse, NY but within the past six years has completed two cross-continental moves, with her most recent destination being New Jersey. In addition to writing for HerCampus, she is extremely passionate about travel, volunteerism and female empowerment. Along with her involvement in HerCampus, she is deeply involved in her sorority, as well as other on-campus groups and organizations.
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