BY AMORNRAT SIDHU
When my mother labelled what was my first period and said that it would last ‘7 days’, it haunted me more than the The Ring (2002). Once I calmed down and went to confirm that it was a one-off thing, she told me that I was going to have it every month–for the rest of my life. I cried and thought, “Why me?!”
Fast-forward five to ten years. I prayed for my period every month. Once I got it, I felt relief. But in those moments that I didn’t get it, I cried and thought, “Why me?!”Funny, how life is like that.
My sisters, can you relate?
This brings us to the methods which enable us to participate in very pleasurable activities, without the terror: birth control.
Birth Control Pills
They contain man-made hormones that mimic the natural hormones in your body. They prevent pregnancy by:
- Thickening cervical mucus to heighten sperm immobilization
- Thinning the uterine wall to decrease chances of an egg latching on
- Suppressing ovulation so that an egg is not released for fertilization
- Non-invasive method
- Easy application
- Used to treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- No protection against STDs
- Have to take the pill everyday
- A plethora of possible side-effects, including headaches, weight gain, mood swings, and lowered libido
- Advised to wait a month before trying to get pregnant
- Contains both progestin and oestrogen
- Prevents pregnancy through numbers 1-3 (above)
- Oestrogen amounts vary according to brand
- Mostly ‘monophasic’ pills (every pill has the same amount of hormones)
- Lighter periods with less cramping
- Helps control acne
- Linked to reduced risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
- Cannot work with some medications or medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure)
- Safe to use after delivery, but reduces quality and quantity of breast milk
Prevents pregnancy through numbers 2-3 (above)
- Contains only progestin
- Safe to use for smokers and those at risk of heart attack or stroke
- Can use while breastfeeding
- Good for women who are sensitive to estrogen
My experience with the pill wasn’t great.
I was always lashing out or had very extreme reactions to any situation. I remember calling up my friend, and just crying. I knew there was nothing wrong, but I didn’t feel that way.
It was a low-dose pill already, so my husband and I decided that I should stop taking them. Now that years have passed, any thoughts about re-visiting the pill are quickly shelved by my husband, who experienced the bulk of my mood swings!
-Katrina Kheer, Teacher, 24 years old
My experience with the pill was great.
The first brand I tried didn’t suit me, so I went to the doctor and was put on another brand. That suited me perfectly and I experienced no side-effects. I went on it for several years, and when my partner and I decided to start a family, I stopped. I got pregnant almost immediately.
-Becca Barfi, Homemaker, 34 years old
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
A plastic device that is inserted into your uterus. There are two types of IUDs: hormone-releasing plastic ones, and non-hormonal copper ones. Copper repels sperm, so the egg will have no visitors even if released. Hormonal IUDs release progestin (the same hormone the mini-pills contain) which thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the danger zone, and thins the uterine lining.
-Lasts 3-5 years depending on brand and type
-Can get pregnant immediately after removal
-One-off purchase and application compared to other methods
-Very low levels of hormones and localized effect of progesterone
-May experience heavier bleeding and painful cramping (at the start)
-May take the body 3-6 months to get used to the foreign device in your body during which one might experience irregular periods and spotting
-No protection against STDs
-Pain during insertion and removal
I am so happy with the IUD.
I would say the insertion was uncomfortable, not painful. Other than that, I have had no side-effects—not even the heavier menstrual flow many people experience.
-Rajma Chawal, Teacher, 25 years old
I wish I never tried the IUD.
I used birth control pills for a year and a half, and I wanted to switch to a copper IUD. Insertion was so painful, I cried. I also had my period for another week—something my doctor did not warn me about, and only mentioned once I called her the day before I had to travel. Then, when that ended, I got my period again after several days. My doctor then said I should go on the pill to regulate my cycle. I was livid! I only got the IUD so that I didn’t have to mess with my hormones! I basically had my period non-stop for a month, and was travelling so I couldn’t do anything about it! I removed it as soon as I got home—thank God!
-Juhi Jalebi, Financial Advisor, 29 years old
A latex pouch that keeps sperm away from entering the female body and reaching the egg.
- Can protect against STDs
- Easy ‘use and dispose’ method
- Can be purchased without a prescription from your doctor
- Does not affect the chemistry of your body
- Not appropriate for those with sensitive skin or latex allergies
- Can not be used with oil-based lubricants
- Least effective against combatting pregnancies compared to IUD and birth control pill use
- Lowered sensitivity during intercourse
Condoms work for me!
My husband and I turned to condoms as a last resort. The idea of ‘lowered sensitivity’ and just not being with each other fully really turned us off. However, when I experienced side-effects to other methods of contraception, I surrendered! Also, no lowered sensitivity for us!
-Ras Malai, 35 years old, Writer
Condoms aren’t for me!
Let’s just say that when you are used to running in shorts, you can’t switch to running in a pair of jeans!
-Romeo Rasgulla, 34 years old, Property Developer
Things you should know
- Many women want to use condoms because it is the least invasive and aggressive method in terms of body chemistry and side-effects, but their male partners refuse. Educate your man.
- Remember that if he refuses to buy your pads/tampons, then he may refuse to buy the condoms, too.
- It is really helpful to have someone drive/help you home in case you are in a lot of pain after the insertion/removal.
- Doctors ask you to lie down for an hour or so after the insertion to help manage the pain, for it is quite an invasive technique. Spare some time for that.
Birth Control Pills
- Set aside a few months of time for experimentation to find what works for you.
- The side-effects of taking the birth control pills worsen when your partner blames it on your ‘hormones’ or ‘getting your period’. Whether this is in fact true is not the point.
- You canmanipulate your cycle to accommodate an important event; consult your doctor for advice!
- Act dumb. No matter how much research you’ve done,let the doctor explain everything to you again.
- Always get a second opinion.
- Take your time in finding what works for you, and your partner.
- Take your partner to every doctor’s appointment. You and your partner should both be educated about the different options available and their side-effects. Birth control is your joint responsibility!