When starting out with birth control, many of my friends and I really thought there was only one option, the pill. While for many people this still works tremendously well, as our bodies grow and evolve, part of what changes is our needs and wants in caring for our bodies and, as such, our sexual and reproductive lives.
I had tried a few different pills before, both of which did not work out for me, as well as an IUD, which I got removed out of discomfort with the feeling of a foreign object in my body. Again, this does not mean that these are not safe or effective birth control methods, it only means that they did not suit me and my lifestyle at this point. After several visits and conversations with my gynecologist, we decided that two birth control methods that might suit me were the patch and the shot. I was a bit hesitant, because I don’t know anyone who uses these methods, but I decided to give the patch a go first because it is replaceable on a weekly basis, rather than the shot, whose effects last for 12/13 weeks. I figured if I didn’t like the patch, all I had to do was stick it out for a week and never worry about it again.
Well, that’s exactly what happened, but not for the reason I expected. When my doctor sent off my prescription for the patch, she told me not to be startled by the color, because it only came in one shade. She said it was a beige tone that would likely not be seen through clothing, which sounds great, because the patch is meant to be worn on your upper arm, back, or portions of your torso. When I got my package and opened up my first patch, however, I did not realize that “beige” meant an incredibly light, eggshell color.
Now to contextualize, I’m Latina, and I have a warmer, light caramel complexion that is in no way “beige” or “eggshell.” Many Latinas are lighter than me, just like others are much darker, which is why I can’t speak on behalf of them or women of any other races either. I can only speak for myself, but personally, I could not bear wearing something with such a stark contrast to my skin color. Although I put the patch on anyway to give it the benefit of the doubt, every time I looked down at it on my upper arm, all I saw was the contrast it held against my skin color. I had always associated birth control as a vehicle for choice, but I had never stopped to consider that certain methods of it in and of themselves could be exclusionary. Women darker than “very pale,” which, by the way, is most women, do not have a birth control patch made for them, which means their choice is more limited because of their skin color. Women of color already face constant scrutiny for so much of their identity, including their sexual health, which is not always covered or supported by employers or schools, so why limit them even more in this regard?
Now don’t get me wrong, as a concept, I do love the idea of the patch. It’s as simple to apply as a Band-Aid, and you really don’t have to worry about it for the entire week, unless it falls off (but there are detailed instructions on what to do if this happens). My clothing threads did get a tad stuck to the outer edge of the patch, creating a light dark line around it, but I personally wasn’t all that bothered by it. At the end of the week you can just peel the patch off, clean the location where it was previously placed, and choose a new spot for the next week of use. I find this a great method, because you don’t have to worry about daily intake, but you also have total control over where it goes on your body, and you can remove it at any time. This is exactly why I got so frustrated, because this was yet another birth control option that did not work for me, but for a reason I did not anticipate.
I’ll be trying the shot out next, and hopefully it will be a more positive experience. My hope for all women is to find a birth control method that makes them feel empowered, secure, and even more confident about their sexual and/or reproductive health. This is an opportunity all women of all backgrounds and body types deserve, which is why I encourage everyone to visit Planned Parenthood’s website and learn about the plethora of options available to them. Find a method that works for you, and rock it with security and confidence.
[Feature Image by Unsplash]