Last week, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their experiences with birth control and what they wish they'd known beforehand. Here are some of the responses:
And a special thank you to Dr. Minkin for ensuring that all of the information presented is accurate.
NOTE: Birth control and other forms of contraceptives can often be a life-saving medical necessity. This post is in no way meant to discourage people from seeking out contraceptives, but rather intended to start a conversation. The following responses are people speaking about their own experiences. Always consult a doctor before making a decision.
1. It might be important to have your estrogen levels tested first.
2. The pill could be helpful in other ways outside of acting as a contraceptive.
"...such as helping people manage the pain associated with migraines or endometriosis."
3. Some birth control pills may need to be taken at the exact same time every day, so it's important to check with your doctor.
4. Give your body time to recover after an IUD insertion.
"If you can, take the whole day off for an IUD insertion. The initial pain wasn't that bad for me, but the shakes, chills, and nausea lasted hours."
5. The pill can be a lifesaver for people managing pain from conditions like endometriosis.
"I would be dead without birth control. Even after surgery, my endometriosis symptoms are severe when I’m on my period. I hate how people demonize birth control just because it didn’t work for them personally."
6. Sometimes hormonal birth control and migraines don't mix.
7. Ask your doctor questions about all of your options.
"If your doctor isn't giving you options about birth control, or isn't listening to what you want, or your side effects, FIND A NEW DOCTOR."
8. Some forms of contraceptives can help treat other medical issues.
"I'm a gynecologist. The combined pill does decrease rates of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer as it stops ovulation. We use the Mirena IUD to treat and reverse early endometrial cancer and atypical hyperplasia (which is like a pre-cancer) in women who still require fertility preservation. The Mirena is also really great for endometrial protection in women requiring HRT (hormone replacement therapy), or who are not suitable for surgery like a hysterectomy. We know that not everyone does well on hormonal contraception, but it can be life changing."
9. You can request a numbing spray before getting Nexplanon implanted.
10. Your birth control might need to change with your body.
"What worked for you in one stage of life might not work in a different one. Pre-baby, I had no issues being on the mini pill. After I had my son, the mini pill messed me up so bad."
11. The pill can help ease the pain for those with terrible cramps.
"I wish I had been on it earlier. I had cramps that had me doubled over in pain and sent me home from school, and my period was always heavy and lasted 10 days. On the pill, it’s rare for me to get intense cramps, and I’m down to a light five days."
12. The IUD insertion process isn't always painful.
13. Ask your doctor if there are any foods or medications to avoid while taking the pill.
"I have been on Lamotrigine for several years now as a mood stabilizer. This year, three months ago, my new doctor told me it impacts the effectiveness of the pill. I'VE BEEN ON IT FOR YEARS."
14. Even if your period stops, your period symptoms might not.
15. Some have little to no side effects from taking birth control.
"I had no reason to be afraid. My birth control pills really help my PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) symptoms so much. No more weight gain, unwanted hair, mood swings, or painful periods."
16. There are various forms of contraceptives available, including an arm implant.
"I got my Nexplanon in April 2019. My experience has been only good so far. My period was totally gone by October 2019 and hasn't shown up since. I've had no change in sex drive, and my hormones are so much better."
17. For some people, IUDs can completely eliminate cramps.
18. And for some people, the first period post-IUD insertion can be extra painful.
"I wish someone had told me about how painful the first period can be after having an IUD inserted. I chose to opt for this method for a number of reasons, but a big one was due to severe cramping, pain, vomiting, and clotting during my periods. So when this one arrived a month after the big day, I was in shock. Everything has eased up since then, and I'm currently in year four of the Mirena five-year IUD. It's the best decision I could have made, but that first time always sticks out in my mind."
19. Read the information pack on the back of contraceptives.
20. That it's OK to ignore the influence of others in your life outside of your doctors and do what's best for you and your body.
"Ignore the religious pressure that might keep you from getting it if you are highly involved in church. I had terrible periods that would leave me in bed for three days a month, and I completely regret not getting it earlier."
22. Everyone's experience is different.
"As a sexual health doctor, the main wisdom I can share is that EVERYONE'S EXPERIENCE WITH EACH CONTRACEPTION IS DIFFERENT! Each woman will react differently to the same hormones, even given in the same way, so it’s important not to rely on other people's experiences in making your own decisions. Unfortunately, finding the right contraception that suits you is often trial and error, and there’s no one-size-fits-all. Go see your doctor, talk about your expectations, and find what’s right for you that way."
23. Once you find the right fit, your life can significantly improve.
"I have been very fortunate that birth control pills eliminated my terrible period symptoms. I would bleed heavily and had terrible bloating, intense cramping, headaches, and vomiting. One time the pain was so intense from cramps I passed out. It took me two times to find a pill that worked for me, but once I found the right one, it seriously changed my life for the better."
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.