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Welcome to the second installment of my “…Period” series which details my turbulent relationship with my uterus! To catch up, you can read my last article here. Today, however, I’m bursting with advice for any uterus owner out there. 

Last week, I left off on a pretty depressing note of disappointment in myself, my doctor, and quite honestly women’s medicine as a whole. I was angry at having to bear the weight of picking a hormonal birth control method to appease my menstruation and disappointed that I didn’t do a good job of it. So, how would I change this in retrospect? 

By asking my doctor her opinion. She should have offered her medical expertise on her own, yes; however, my advice to you, dear reader, is to ask your doctor which method they think will be best for you. If they had free reign to customize treatment for you and your symptoms, what would they choose? 

Women’s health is tricky, mostly because it wasn’t considered worthy of research for a long time, but your primary physician or gynecologist is used to prescribing birth controls of all types, seeing how their patients are affected, and noticing any trends. They have both the research and personal testimonials to pull from. 

So, after this disappointing experience, I actually lost my health insurance for the entire year of 2021 (yes, it was Kaiser). This meant that I had to turn to Planned Parenthood (PP) for my Nexplanon removal, first ever pelvic exam, pap smear, and new birth control prescription. 

I got the Nexplanon implant removed in August of 2021 and asked the clinician if I could throw some questions her way; I took my own advice and requested a birth control recommendation. I detailed my list of symptoms for her and she took a pause before telling me it sounds like I have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and have a strong chance of also having endometriosis. 

Luckily, both ailments have the same treatment: exercise, diet, and combination hormone contraception (CHC). She put PMDD on my chart as a diagnosis along with dysmenorrhea as a placeholder until I could *hopefully* get diagnosed with what is really going on. 

This brings me to my second piece of advice: if a medical professional tells you to lose weight before they try to find out ways to diagnose or treat symptoms, RUN. This is complete bullshit, especially because weight gain is so often a symptom of something else being wrong. Find a second, third, or however many opinions you need to get a doctor that actually cares about your health. 

I feel fortunate that exercise has only been recommended to me as pain relief rather than with the intention of weight loss. I’m not thin by any means, yet I haven’t had to deal with such pointed fatphobia. My PP medical chart does say that the clinicians discussed weightloss with me; however the truth of the conversation is that exercise can often improve menstrual issues. This, with how my periods used to be when I was exercising all the time (pretty much painless), tracks. 

And so, next on the checklist for me to receive medical help for my ridiculous uterus was to research CHC pills for endometriosis in the two weeks before my pap smear. If you are curious about birth control methods, my advice to you is to make a Reddit account! 

r/twoxchromosomes (which is not discriminatory against trans and nonbinary people) and r/birthcontrol are two of many online resources that detail real, human experiences that can compliment what the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, or other medical sites have to say about the method(s) you’re researching. 

In those two weeks of research, I found that a CHC pill probably was exactly what I needed. Multicycling would allow me to skip my period and straight up just not have to deal with it, or at least not as often. I’m not going to lie, the disappointment that I felt towards myself only crescendoed with this discovery. It sucked to realize that the one method I’d previously refused to entertain was most likely the answer to my problems. Difficult to reckon with my stubbornness being an obstacle in this situation, especially as an earth sign. 

At my pap smear (which we will discuss in a moment) the clinician that I saw prescribed me a medium-dose combination pill of Levonorgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol. The instructions she provided were to multicycle and skip the placebo weeks… indefinitely. She said I might have some breakthrough bleeding and that it could go away after a day or a week, but the important part is it would go away. 

Spoiler Alert: that turned out to not be true for my body. Look out for installment three to hear about one of the most dramatic weekends of my life.

But back to this week: my pap smear. Some advice for any of you procrastinating that fun, little thing called a speculum…

  • It really isn’t that painful. I was expecting to not really experience any pain at all with the swab due to my typically higher-than-average pain tolerance; however, I was mistaken. It did hurt, just not that bad. Your pain-tolerance for different areas of your body will also be different; I’m sure you’ll be okay.
  • No need to landscape! Truly, the most you need to do is make sure that they have access, but there’s no reason to turn yourself into a baldy if you aren’t normally. 
  • The worst part (for me) was the external exam. TBH I just didn’t like the sensation of cold, gloved hands. The speculum/swab combo later on was way more bearable because it’s, while more invasive, less personal. 
  • Yes, shower, but it’s not that serious. It’s definitely not a requirement to scrub yourself raw with a loofah to make sure you’re clean enough for the doctor. Just maybe don’t go super sweaty after a workout or something. 
  • Wear cute socks. You’ll be feeling pretty exposed so cute socks will double as something to help you feel a little covered and act as an ice-breaker for you and the professional to talk about. I’ve seen this advice all over the internet and it definitely rang true.

I left my pap smear feeling like the experience really wasn’t that bad. I have a memory, from when I was pretty young, of my mom telling me I’d have to get an exam from a gynecologist to be able to go to college. I was so upset at this prospect I decided at that moment I would not be going to college. 

This conversation stuck with me, even though I at some point realized she had lied, up until I committed to UCSC. I was constantly dreading that they might actually turn out to require it for some odd reason. But, look at me now! In college and no longer afraid of the gyno. The pap smear went well, meaning I’m truly unstoppable.

Except, I’m anything but. 

I went home after my pap smear with 6 months worth of CHC pills. I popped my first one that night and kept taking them night after night. When I had originally thought I would suck at remembering to take a pill every night, I somehow turned out to be really good at it. I think my period truly struck fear in me and now I’m afraid of my uterus smiting me with, you guessed it, a period. 

Even though I was like clockwork with my pills, I did end up with an unwanted period 11 weeks into my multicycling adventure. Kind of. It was more of breakthrough bleeding, but it is a really intense story and you’re going to LOVE it. Read about it next week as my “…Period” series continues.

Hi! I'm Alexa, one of the Campus Coordinators for HerCampus UCSC. I love most old lady things (tea, embroidering, reading, etc.) and I dream of the day that I can retire to a green academia, Victorian home surrounded by cats and a wide array of novels! I am so excited to be bringing back HerCampus to UCSC, I know that we are going to have a great time :)
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