It’s the same for so many of us… We spend our entire youth having no clue as to how our bodies work, desperately trying not to get pregnant, hoping that taking two pills at a time will make up for the one that you missed and swallow down emergency contraception four days before your period arrives thinking “phew, got away with it that time.”
Then when you actually do want have a baby, you realise that it’s actually really bloody hard to get pregnant. Turns out you're only fertile for up to 6 days out your whole cycle. 6 DAYS!
My husband and I decided to try for a baby when I was 27 years old. 27 years of having no idea how my reproductive organs functioned. Not only that but in trying to remain baby free throughout my youth the only method of contraception offered to me was the pill. In fact I didn't know one other female in my family or circle of friends on anything but the pill. It genuinely hadn't even occurred to me that there were other options available to me. Now the feminist killjoy I’ve become understands that this is to keep girls afraid of sex. If we don't understand our bodies, if we don't understand when or how we can get pregnant and if we don't tell them about long lasting reversible contraception (such as the coil, the implant, the injection etc) then this will keep them pure and in clean unused condition for their future husbands…but I digress…
Fast forward two children later and the midwives, health visitor and my doctor at my six week postpartum check up are thrusting leaflets about the multitude of female contraception options available to me into my tear soaked hands. Why now? Why at my six week check up when sex is the furthest thing from my mind are we now talking about this? All I wanted to do was ask them why I felt so low? Would my baby ever stop crying? Is it normal to have mastitis twice in this short time and why am I still bleeding?
Of course all of those things eventually sorted themselves out and once we made our decision to not have any more children I started to think about contraption and the options that were available to me. There’s Google but that just gives you the worst case scenario for any situation you are looking for information on so that was no good. The leaflets handed to me at my 6 weeks postpartum check up were long gone and I’ve seen a health visitor twice since having my second baby so unless I wanted to make a doctors appointment to discuss the options (awkward for me) I really didn't know what to do. I’m the eldest of three sisters both of whom are young with no kids but my middle sister Jen who is honestly wise before her years and has tried almost every type of female contraception there is sat me down like she was the big sister and talked me through them all. How each method made her feel and what she thought my best options were. She also told me what her periods were like after each method. On some she didn't get a period for months and on others the bleeding was painful and almost constant.
I wish there were a hundred of her so I could have asked a village and used everyone’s knowledge to make my decision but I made mine on my gut instinct. And this got me thinking - what if there could be a place filled with contraception stories of women just like us. A hundred sisters we can rely on to tell us the whole gnarly truth from hormones to bleeding and everything in between?
I put the call out on social media and you did not disappoint. I’ve spoken to many wonderful and inspiring women and they’ve shared their stories with me so that I can now share them with you. My plan is to keep adding every week, every month and if I'm lucky every year so that we have a wealth of knowledge and lived experience, so that we may know our bodies more and make informed decisions about what to put in them. They say it takes a village to raise a baby but it also takes a village to empower women. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you're village is all around in the flesh and maybe your like me and you relay on the internet to find your tribe.
So I’ll start. Here’s my contraception story in all its gory details. My hope is in sharing it here it helps you understand more about yourself as your stories did for me.
I first stared taking the pill Dianette when I was still a virgin. Weird right? I had been battling horrific acne since about the age of 12 and I had just finished a brutal course of Roaccutane. Roaccutane was a drug which was eventually removed from the market as patients had been suffering side effects of depression and suicidal thoughts in large numbers. Once my course of Roaccutane had finished I was left with poor mental health and the return of some acne. Not as severe as before but definitely more than I could handle and so it was decided by my doctor that I would start taking Dianette contraceptive pill which is also used to treat acne. Interestingly enough Dianette is banned in some parts of Europe and has been linked to the deaths of 7 women from the UK. It also sports hair loss and depression as some of its more common side effects. Needless to say I suffered for a long time on Dianette and had no idea that the emotions I was feeling could be stopped just by stopping my pill.
My fear of pregnancy was huge and as I’ve already established that my woeful lack of knowledge in reproduction and menstrual cycles meant that I took that pill every day without fail sometimes twice a day ‘just in case’. I had no idea what effect it was having on my body, let alone on my mind. Once we decided to have a baby I stopped taking the pill, had sex once and couldn't understand for the life of me why I wasn't pregnant yet! Initially having difficulty getting pregnant made me investigate Dianette to see if anyone else was having trouble conceiving and I was horrified to learn about the physical and mental impact it had had on so many woman's bodies.
I’m lucky, after 5 months we finally conceived Vivienne and two years later we had Ophelia and vowed NEVER to take hormone contraception again. I had the copper coil fitted, against doctors advice, four weeks ago. I’ve always suffered from extremely heavy, painful periods and it’s thought that the copper coil magnifies period pain and blood amount. This has definitely been the case for me. I’m 6 days into my first period on the coil and it’s carnage. I’ve never bled so much or felt quite so horrendous BUT I can honestly say even taking all of this into consideration it is bearable. I’m used to cramping and heavy periods so it’s my normal. Sure, it's more than I'm used to but I can’t get pregnant and I’m hormone free and that’s the most important things for me.
So now it’s your turn. I’ll be posting your contraception stories here and I’m always looking for more. Email me at email@example.com and be part of the sisterhood, part of the village. Empowerment through knowledge and understanding, always. Thank you.