“I’m not going to pay for your birth control just so you can have sex.”
My dad said that to me when I was 22 years old and on birth control for the first time. I still remember the setting in perfect detail. He yelled it at me while on a family vacation with my mom, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins. And yes, they were all standing by.
In Limbaugh’s terms, my parents were my ‘pimps,’ as I was a financially limited college student under their health insurance.
It’s hard to think of a time previously where I had been that embarrassed or ashamed. The reality of the situation, in fact, was that I wasn’t using it ‘just so I can have sex.’ I actually spent the past year struggling to find some sort of magical potion to fight my diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), as well as depression. Birth control was an option that would – hopefully – curb the emotional and physical pain I went through each month.
It was hard enough admitting to myself that yes, I was depressed, and yes, I needed help in the form of chemicals that regulated my body. What’s worse was the shame I felt just admitting to people that I was not only on Prozac, but birth control too. To say, ‘I’m on birth control,’ brings judgment and speculation upon women who should be respected for making responsible choices. To admit that she is on birth control, a woman quickly risks being judged by her sex life instead of her character or intelligence.
But why? Contraceptives have been widely available to women since the 1960s and there’s still stigma. We’re still fighting for the right to use it and not be shamed. We’re also fighting for the ability to have it available at a decent cost in order to cover our medical ailments.
In addition to this, there are some of us are fighting with our contraceptives. That’s what happened to me during the two years I took birth control off-and-on. My experience with the Pill was a three-year battle. The freedom and liberation it represented to many actually ended up being imprisonment for me.
The first brand I tried was Seasonique, which limited me to four menstrual cycles a year. Great in theory, but in order for this to happen, my little body needed to be pumped with more hormones than it could handle. I suffered many side effects, with the worst being debilitating migraines up to three or four times per week.
After saying “Maybe my body will get used to it” for half a year, I had finally had enough and asked to be switched to another brand. What my doctor prescribed me was a brand so opposite of the spectrum that I saw little to no changes in my monthly struggles. As ‘that time of the month’ came and went, I’d constantly be asking myself, “What’s the point?” So I switched to a middle-of-the-road dosage to see if that would change anything. Thankfully, it did – for a while. But the problem I had with this brand was that I had missed periods due to varying degrees of personal and professional stress I was going through at the time. Missed periods = scary shit. Having this happen also didn’t help with the heaps of stress I was already facing.
My solution? I went off birth control indefinitely.
This was approximately two years ago when I made that decision. Not only was birth control holding me captive in my own body, but I was spending upwards to $40 per month on it – money I couldn’t fit into my monthly budget, even with the assistance of Planned Parenthood (I did not have medical insurance at the time). To me, going off birth control was just trading one struggle for another. I still go through insane periods of depression and anxiety days leading up to my menstrual cycle, but I consider that a lesser evil compared to tri-weekly migraines and pregnancy scares.
And that’s the side of birth control I wish people would see when they wage war against contraceptives and Planned Parenthood. I wish the words ‘birth control’ didn’t immediately lead to thoughts of ‘sex, sex, sex.’ The judgment that is placed on women who use the Pill is, in my opinion, disgusting and outdated. Women use contraceptives for multiple reasons, with some of them actually being for sex. And if that’s the case, why should they be shamed for being responsible? Is it really better for them to have an ‘oopsie baby’ and not have the parents be prepared mentally and financially to raise it the way it deserves?
We try to make the topic of contraception a black-and-white issue when there’s really so much grey. The education is out there, but we’re fighting against a group of people who refuse to take the time to learn about the various uses of the Pill and listen to stories like mine and the millions of other women who are using birth control for dozens of reasons other so they can ‘just have sex.’
–By Lindsay Patton-Carson
Editor’s note: Lindsay’s account is just one in our series, “Yes, I use birth control.” Stay tuned for more.