A Hormone-Free Birth Control Option Is Finally Here

Presented by Phexxi™

When it comes to finding the right birth control, we have to always remember to put our health first. For a lot of us, finding the right BC leads to ongoing trial and error and, quite frankly, settling is what we are used to doing. Let’s face it, not all of us want to be taking hormones and it can be frustrating to cycle through multiple birth control options and still not find the right fit for our specific and unique needs. Now, there’s a hormone-free birth control option that you use only when you need it—it’s called PhexxiTM (lactic acid, citric acid, and potassium bitartrate) Vaginal Gel 1.8%, 1%, 0.4%. Phexxi is a contraceptive gel that is FDA-approved AND hormone-free. We sat down with the founder of The Period Doctor, Charis N. Chambers, M.D., to discuss how Phexxi works, its benefits, challenges, what we should consider when choosing a birth control, and why it’s important to have a lot of options.

How Does Phexxi Work? How Is This Different From The Way Other BCs Work?

Dr. Chambers says, “Phexxi is a first of its kind, FDA-approved, hormone-free, female-controlled prescription contraceptive vaginal gel.” It’s a pH modulator, which means it works by maintaining the vaginal pH so that it stays at a level that is inhospitable to sperm (within 3.5 to 4.5). She explains, “Without Phexxi, when semen enters the vagina, the pH in the vagina increases, which allows sperm to remain mobile and make their way up the reproductive tract and fertilize the egg.” Phexxi works by maintaining the natural acidic state in a woman’s vagina that reduces sperm mobility and decreases the chance it will get to an egg to fertilize it.

As we all know, the most effective birth control is whichever method you’ll stick to. Phexxi is different than other birth control methods because it’s hormone-free and you only use it when you’re actually having sex (more on that in a sec).

Why Is It Important For There To Be Multiple Available BC Options?

Simply put, Dr. Chambers says, “Women deserve more. The last major hormone-free innovation in the contraceptive market was in the early ’90s with the female condom.” Wow, I feel old. She says that Phexxi is “an important step forward in women’s health as it offers women control over how they choose to prevent pregnancy.”

She adds, “It is important for women to understand what they are putting in their bodies, and the potential outcomes and side effects associated with their birth control. Women should not have to settle when choosing a birth control option that is right for them.” Dr. Chambers says it’s worth noting that Phexxi will feel different to everyone. While the most common side effects are vaginal itching, burning, and yeast infections, most of these were mild to moderate and less than 2% of patients who participated in the clinical trials of Phexxi discontinued use because of side effects. Some male partners reported local discomfort.

How And When Do You Use Phexxi?

Dr. Chambers explains, “Phexxi is easy to use and works immediately, which I know so many of my patients will love! The gel is self-administered through an applicator that is inserted similar to a tampon applicator.” The easy part is that you only use it when you actually need birth control, aka when you’re about to have sex. The only catch: Phexxi is only effective when used before sex, but luckily it works immediately and can be used up to an hour before sex. If you don’t have sex within an hour of using it, or you have sex multiple times in that hour, you’ll need to apply it again. Also note, Phexxi is not effective when used after intercourse and is not approved to protect against STIs, including HIV.

Who Is Phexxi A Good Option For?

If you’ve tried a bunch of birth control methods and still feel like you’re settling, or you no longer want to use hormonal contraceptives, Phexxi may be a good fit for you. Maybe you prefer using birth control in-the-moment vs. ingesting or implanting something in your body, or maybe you are in between pregnancies and looking for an easy-to-use option –whatever the case may be, Phexxi could be a good birth control option since it gives you contraceptive control on your terms. You may want to visit Phexxi.com to learn more and talk to your healthcare provider to see if Phexxi is right for you.

Who Should Not Be Using Phexxi?

While Dr. Chambers says, “Phexxi is appealing to a lot of women who are looking for a contraceptive option that is safe, effective, convenient and easy-to-use,” she acknowledges that it may not be right for women who are “allergic to any ingredients in Phexxi, or who require protection against STIs and HIV.” Dr. Chambers also says you should tell your health care provider if you have a recent history of three or more urinary tract infections per year.

What Are The Challenges—If Any—Of Taking Phexxi?

“It’s important that women using Phexxi remember that Phexxi has to be administered before each act of vaginal intercourse, immediately before or up to one hour before, and that it does not work if used after sex,” Dr. Chambers says. So basically, you can’t get too caught up in the moment that you completely forget to take it.

What Else Should Women Consider When Choosing A BC?

Dr. Chambers says, “I always say the best birth control is the one that you will actually use, so with my patients, I always try to understand what their routine and preferences are. Some birth control requires daily use, like the pill, or you have long-acting reversible contraceptives like the IUD or implant, which is the most effective because they completely remove factors like human error. But many of my patients tell me they don’t want to take birth control every day since they’re not having sex every day – they want birth control on their terms and to only use it when they actually need it.”

She also recommends you address access and insurance coverage with your doctor when discussing birth control options. And if you are only seeing your doctor through telemedicine, no problem—Phexxi has partnered with an exclusive telemedicine service that you can access directly from their website to get a Phexxi prescription.

What Is One Last Thing You Want Women To Know?

Dr. Chambers reiterated, “Women should not have to settle when trying to find a birth control option that fits their needs. I want women to know that when it comes to their reproductive health, there are options out there for those who seek them. It is important that you advocate for your health and wellbeing. If you are one of the 21 million women who have decided not to use hormonal birth control, well I want you to know that you deserve better.”

Talk to your doctor and visit Phexxi.com to learn more about this hormone-free option.

This article is sponsored by Phexxi. Please see the full prescribing information for Phexxi. Please report side effects by contacting Evofem Biosciences® toll-free at 1-833-EVFMBIO or contact FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.


Phexxi is a trademark owned by Evofem Biosciences.

8 Hormone-Free Birth Control Methods For People Who Hate The Pill

Back in my late teens and early twenties (f*ck, I’m so old), I tried four different birth control pills. No matter which pill I was on, I kept feeling like a raging bitch with zero control of my emotions, getting killer headaches, and gaining a bunch of weight from being super bloated all the time. The pill definitely helped to manage my ovarian cysts and keep me from getting pregnant, which is great, but I don’t plan on going back on it ever again because of how negatively it impacted my mental and physical health.

So WTF do I do now to not get pregnant and die? Nothing! JK. I’ve been using a combination of condoms and the calendar method via a fertility tracking app (shout out, Clue), which works well, as long as you know when you are and aren’t ovulating. Although my flow is heavier without hormonal birth control, I feel my (painful) ovulation, my cramps feel like a baby monster is crawling its way through my reproductive system, and my cysts are pretty bothersome every month now, I’ve felt SO much better, in control of my feelings, and like myself again. 10/10 would recommend ditching the pill and doing the same (health permitting, of course).

Don’t get me wrong. Just because hormonal birth control pills didn’t work well for me doesn’t mean they aren’t going to work for you. They’re a super popular BC method for a reason. When you actually remember to take them (endless thanks to phone alarms), birth control pills with estrogen and progesterone, or just progesterone, can help suppress ovulation, regulate abnormal cycles, reduce acne, decrease heavy flows, and manage ovarian cysts from PCOS. They’re easy to take and can also be pretty cheap depending on your insurance, which is why it’s traditionally the go-to BC method. “For young women who aren’t ready to have a child and would like to decrease the risk of having certain types of cancers, prevent unwanted pregnancies, the use of birth control pills is probably the best option. When ready for pregnancy, pills can be stopped and pregnancy can be attempted without any delays,” says Aykut Bayrak, MD, fertility specialist and founder and Medical Director of LA IVF, a group of fertility clinics in Southern California. 

HOWEVER, there *might* be some ugly side effects if this is your main method, which I experienced first-hand for a few years. Let’s just jump right into the worst of it. According to Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH, FACOG, double board-certified in OB/GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, using oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) long-term may increase risk of breast or cervical cancer (but decrease risk of uterine, ovarian, and colorectal cancer!) and may increase liver tumor formation (which is rare). Greattttt. On another note, Bayrak says the short-term cons may include headaches, irregular bleeding, bloating, spotting in the first few months, irritability, mood swings, and increased risk of clotting. “Most side effects tend to decrease or disappear after a few months or can be managed by trying different brands that can typically have a different dose and combination of hormones,” he adds. 

All this is to say that if you’re not loving how you feel on the pill and want to switch to a non-hormonal birth control, there are options out there! Here are eight popular non-hormonal birth control alternatives and each of their effectivity rates.

IUDs (99% effective)

Don’t wanna be pregnant for a while? Don’t mind undergoing a quick procedure? Gaither says that an IUD can last about 10 whole years. “An intrauterine device (IUD) is a highly effective, non-hormonal method where a T-shaped small device is placed inside the uterus which prevents pregnancy at a rate of 99%,” adds Bayrak. He notes that it can cause cramping and some irregular bleeding on the short run, but it’s generally well-tolerated in the long run. TBH, I’ve heard both horror stories and happy endings from friends who’ve had IUDs, so beware of the pros and cons before getting one. And, to be clear, there are IUDs that use hormones, so I’m specifically talking about the copper one here.

Condoms (98% effective)

“Condoms are the worsttttt. They remove all feelingggg” –f*ckboys everywhere 

Suck it TF up. Condoms are a great alternative to taking that damn pill every day. “Condoms are recommended for all women who do not have a steady partner to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” says Bayrak, adding to keep in mind that they must be used from the BEGINNING of intercourse until AFTER ejaculation occurs to avoid pregnancy and STD exposure. (Meaning, no, f*ckboys everywhere, you can’t just use it for the first few strokes and call it effective.) Condoms are highly effective (98%!) when used properly. Just always check for holes, tears, or package defects before using. 

Diaphragms (80-95% effective)

The only time I’ve ever seen a diaphragm was in 8th grade health class. Like, I’ve never known anyone under the age of 50 cop to using one. But apparently they’re super effective, so joke’s on us. “Diaphragm is a highly effective barrier contraceptive method when used properly, but not so much popular any longer due to difficulty of use and placement,” says Bayrak. On that note, they’re user-dependent so their effectiveness ranges from 80-95%. Gaither clocks in the average effectivity rate at 94%, though. Plus, I saw a tip once (not a d*ck joke) where you can cut a condom to create a diaphragm at any time, so this might be a good idea… just saying.

Permanent solutions (99% effective)

If you already have kids and don’t want any more, or if you know for certain that you will never ever want kids, there’s a permanent birth control method for that. “Tying of the tubes (tubal ligation) or interruption of the male tubes called vasectomy are highly effective methods,” says Bayrak. 99% effective, to be exact. Remember, this is a PERMANENT option so there’s no going back after you do it. But if you’re absolutely sure kids are not in the cards for you, it’s an option.

According to Gaither, other non-hormonal contraceptive options include cervical cap + spermicide (failure rate 14-29%), spermicides (failure rate about 25-28%), sponges (80-91% effective), and family planning (75-88% effective). Just remember that certain methods (like calendars and IUDs) don’t protect against STIs, so be careful and always use the right forms of protection where necessary. And as with any type of BC option, she reminds that “it’s best to consult with your health provider as some pre-existing conditions may preclude the administration of certain types of contraceptives.” May the healthiest odds of preventing pregnancy be ever in your favor.

Images: Pexels, GIPHY (4)

6 Lifestyle Changes You Should Make Before You Get Pregnant
So, you’ve decided you want to start trying for kids. Mazel! Aside from getting off your birth control, there are a number of ways you should start preparing to get pregnant (and I don’t just mean coming to terms with the harsh realization that you can’t drink for the next nine months). There are obvious benefits to taking these steps. Getting healthy before getting pregnant can help you more easily conceive and may make it easier to lose the baby weight later, if that is something you’re concerned about. Taking a prenatal vitamin may already be on your radar, but did you know that meditation and strength training can also help? There are literally tons of things you can do, and you may not even have realized you SHOULD do, before trying to get pregnant. These can make your pregnancy easier and even ease labor later on. Praise be.

1. Cut Back On Fun Sh*t

Okay, yeah, it kind of blows. But you won’t be drinking, smoking, and doing recreational drugs while you’re pregnant, right? I hope not. So start curbing the habit now. And it’s not just to mentally prepare you to have to say no to girls’ nights—it can also increase your ability to conceive. According to Parents.com, “Excess alcohol intake has been shown to interfere with your fertility and can also lower sperm count in men.” Additionally, they note that smoking cigarettes can affect egg quality and increase your risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm labor, and other issues after you get pregnant. Smoking that cigarette when you’ve been out drinking may be a go-to drunk habit right now, but if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s time to chill. You won’t want to do it while you have a bun in the oven, so start getting used to being responsible and adhering to what your D.A.R.E. officer told you now.

2. Have A Preconception Checkup

Ever heard of it? You may think that your body is in tip-top shape for a baby, but you could be wrong. So, if you’re planning to start trying to conceive or are no longer using birth control, make an appointment with your gyno and general practitioner. They can check and make sure you’re at a healthy weight, have healthy habits, are up to date on all of your vaccines, aren’t currently taking any meds that could harm or hinder a pregnancy, and discuss any outstanding issues that could make conceiving difficult. They can also help you figure out when and how to go off of birth control if you haven’t done so already (and/or remove any implants that need to come out). Plus, they may even have some tips and tricks, like which prenatal vitamins to take, foods to avoid, and easy exercises that’ll help your body adjust once you do actually get preggers.

3. Take Prenatals And Folic Acid

Before you even start trying to get pregnant, you should be taking a prenatal vitamin and LOTS of folic acid. You may have already known that, yes, taking a prenatal vitamin is f*cking obvious, but folic acid is a super important B vitamin that will help your baby develop correctly. According to March of Dimes, taking folic acid “before and during early pregnancy can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).” They also note, “If all women take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help prevent up to 7 in 10 (70 percent) NTDs.”

4. Get To A Healthy Weight

You’re unique and beautiful just the way you are, but the reality is if you aren’t at a healthy weight, conceiving isn’t going to be easy for you. That is true of people who are both overweight and underweight, btw. Being overweight or obese can lead to complications during pregnancy, trouble conceiving, and other issues. According to the CDC, being overweight or obese can put moms-to-be at risk for “heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).” Being underweight isn’t without its issues either, as you can be at a higher risk of miscarriage and other complications later in pregnancy. So, get yourself into healthier habits now, because it will pay off later.

5. Go The F*ck To Sleep

Once you’re pregnant (and even more so, after you have the kid) your sleep pattern is going to get REAL F*CKED UP. Between getting up to pee constantly, finding a comfortable position, or learning not to sleep on your now-giant boobs, the time before you’re pregnant is the time to stock up on sleep. Plus, people who sleep more tend to be less stressed, more rested, and less likely to have an emotional breakdown in the office bathroom. There are even studies that show a good night’s sleep can help you get pregnant faster, since your body is more rested and able to keep your cycles in check.

6. De-Stress Your Life

Whether you love yoga, indulging in back-to-back episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale (weird flex if you’re trying to get pregnant, but okay), or hours of quiet meditation, the time to get your de-stress activities on is now. People who have high stress levels have a much more difficult time getting pregnant, so removing things that cause anxiety in your life isn’t just a good practice on the reg, it’s great when you want to ruin your life with a kid (yay)!
So, if you’re debating getting pregnant and bringing a bundle of screaming poop joy into the world, make sure your body is a temple of health and sh*t first. It’ll be easier in the long run.
Images: Michalina, Unsplash; Giphy (6)
A New Study Revealed A Huge Misconception About Periods

There are a few facts in this life that we can count on. Men lie. People who say “I’ll pay you back” will never pay you back. Your period will arrive like clockwork every 28 or so days. And before you come at me for that first assertion being untrue, I have enough text message receipts to fill the Old Testament to prove it. The bigger issue is that a new study led by UCL and Natural Cycles, a contraceptive app, found that a basic assumption we take for granted about menstrual cycles is not actually a given. And by that I mean, this “rule” that your period comes every 28 days? You know, the premise that a lot of hormonal birth control packs are based off of? Yeah, it doesn’t even apply to a vast majority of women. Cool cool cool cool cool. Good thing we don’t base a whole slew of other science on this premis—oh wait.

The study, published in Nature Digital Medicine earlier this week, examined over 600,000 menstrual cycles of 124,648 women who used the Natural Cycles app. These women were from the United States, Sweden, and the UK. Researchers set out to look at how menstrual cycles were influenced by factors like age, BMI, and body temperature, in order to try to understand when women are more or less likely to get pregnant. Now, to be clear, the sample size of this study is not a complete accurate representation of the general population. For one, the sample only consists of app users. For another, only 8% of the app users in the study are obese while 15% of women in the general population are obese. Finally, the study excluded those with a pre-existing condition that would impact fertility, like PCOS, hypothyroidism, or endometriosis, as well as women who were experiencing menopausal symptoms. This makes sense considering the study was specifically concerned with pregnancy, but it does mean its findings are not applicable to everyone.

i can always tell when i’m going to start my period by how close i get to cutting my own bangs at 3am

— gabbie hanna (@GabbieHanna) November 6, 2017

Now that we’ve gotten all the disclaimers out of the way (shouts-out to the AP Psych class I took senior year of high school), let’s get into what the study found, because it’s actually very interesting. Researchers collected data from women ages 18 to 45, with BMIs between 15 and 50, who were using Natural Cycles from September 2016 to February 19. The women had not been using hormonal birth control within 12 months from registering for the app. So, remember how I said that it’s basically taken as gospel that menstrual cycles last 28 days? Yeah. Guess how many of the cycles actually lasted that long.

Just 13%. Thirteen percent of women in the study had 28-day menstrual cycles, and yet that timeframe is the basis for a lot of birth control methods and, equally importantly, fertility windows. If you literally Google “when does ovulation occur”, the top answer will tell you that ovulation typically occurs about 14 days before your period starts, if your average menstrual cycle is 28 days. The problem with this model is that, according to this study, very few women do have a 28-day cycle, and in fact, researchers actually found the average cycle lasts 29.3 days. And, furthermore, 65% of women had cycles that lasted between 25-30 days—but that means 35% of people (or over a third) do not. That is a good chunk of people who do not even fall into this window that we take for granted as “standard”.

I love period dramas, I have one every month

— Karen Chee (@karencheee) August 11, 2019

So why does this matter? Researchers’ big takeaway was that this has significant implications for people trying to get pregnant. As Professor Joyce Harper, one of the researchers of the study, put it: “ovulation does not occur consistently on day 14 and therefore it is important that women who wish to plan a pregnancy are having intercourse on their fertile days.” More specifically, these results are important for people who are trying to conceive and are using apps or cycle dates to predict fertility days. “An individualized approach to identify the fertile window should be adopted,” said Dr. Simon Rowland, Head of Medical Affairs at Natural Cycles. “Apps giving predictions of fertile days based solely on cycle dates could completely miss the fertile window and it is therefore unsurprising that several studies have shown that calendar apps are not accurate in identifying the fertile window.” Harper added, “In order to identify the fertile period it is important to track other measures such as basal body temperature as cycle dates alone are not informative.”

On the surface, it’s not a particularly shocking conclusion that all reproductive systems are not identical, or that in general, biological functions and processes are complex and unique to the individual and cannot be generalized to a neat window or category that fits every single person. But then again, this is done all the time—whether we are talking about menstrual cycle lengths, body mass index, diets, or anything else. Am I surprised we are only now just being confronted with data that confronts the standard 28-day menstrual cycle, given that understanding of the female anatomy seems to be so low on the priority list that the clitoris was not even fully discovered until 1998? No, I am not surprised. But this study is giving me, and the researchers, hope that more studies will be done on the menstrual cycle, particularly, clinical trials done in controlled settings. “These initial results only scratch the surface of what can be achieved,” said Professor Harper. “We hope to stimulate greater interest in this field of research for the benefit of public health.” She added that with increased interest in and dedication to doing empirical studies, “there is enormous potential to uncover new scientific discoveries.”

Images: karencheee, GabbieHanna / Twitter

All Your Faves Introduced a Bill For Free Birth Control Without A Prescription

Access to birth control means giving womxn the basic right of controlling their own bodies. So naturally, it’s up for debate. However, a group of congresswomen and a senator are introducing a bill that could help make sure that affordable birth control is available to all womxn.  Yesterday, Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Katie Hill, Ami Bera, AOC along with Washington Senator Patty Murray released a bill that would ensure that birth control pills require neither a prescription or an out of pocket fee. Finally, lawmakers with some goddamn sense around here!

Psst! ? Birth control should be over-the-counter, pass it on.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 7, 2019


No, the pill isn’t yet available over the counter. But the bill stipulates that when the FDA approves birth control pills for OTC use — which the bill urges it to do without delay — women should be able to get it without a prescription and with no extra out-of-pocket fees.

AOC dropped the trailer to the bill in a tweet that said “Psst! Birth control should be over-the-counter, pass it on” last week. Turns out this wasn’t just another one of her *perfect* tweets, it was the foreshadowing of an actual bill. Deemed the ‘#FreethePill legislation’ (so chic), the bill is v similar to one that was proposed by Senator Patty Murray in 2015. Murray essentially drafted the OG legislation and is now teaming up with this group of congresswomen bring it back, stronger than ever. We stan a comeback.

Massachusetts representative Ayanna Pressley referred to the group of lawmakers as “the Destiny’s Child of OTC birth control” with Murray the reigning Beyonce.

Hi there @tedcruz hit up our girl @pattymurray she and I have already written the bill, album dropping tomorrow ? @AOC's vocals (& original co sponsorship) = on point. @KatieHill4CA’s an original too. Just call it the Destiny's Child of OTC birth control https://t.co/Ri2q1Viez4

— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) June 12, 2019

To those asking, yes @PattyMurray’s the Beyoncé of the group. Thank you for your long-standing leadership on reproductive justice Senator https://t.co/OWRkUU8dOs

— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) June 12, 2019

“Wait” you must be thinking. “Republican Senator and human form of phlegmy sneeze Ted Cruz is a supporter of the bill?”

I agree. Perhaps, in addition to the legislation we are already working on together to ban Members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, we can team up here as well. A simple, clean bill making birth control available over the counter. Interested? https://t.co/7kh3kqxN1w

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 12, 2019

As you may recall, Ted Cruz and AOC had a nice convo on Twitter about how they would like to team up and introduce a bill that would ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists. That was enough to freeze over a nice top layer of ice in hell, and with this second Twitter interaction, I can only assume hell now looks like the set of Frozen. Since when is Ted Cruz so into bipartisanship? Does he have some ulterior motives here? Did Arya Stark murder Ted Cruz, take his face, and is now working from within the GOP?!

The likely explanation is that Ted Cruz supports this bill because it would mean moving reproductive healthcare to the free market. As it stands now, the Affordable Care Act essentially requires employer-backed insurance to cover women’s birth control, so all insured Americans have access to it. Altering this so that birth control is given OTC would take the government out of providing womxn with birth control, which is something religious and small government conservatives can get behind.

I still like my Arya theory though.

I Went Off Birth Control For The First Time In 15 Years & Here’s How It Felt

For most of us, birth control is a necessary evil. Like doing our taxes, or pretending to enjoy giving blow jobs (just me?). It’s the thing we joke about when our alarm goes off during happy hour, the thing we bitch about when we’re overly hormonal, or feel grateful for after a hookup goes awry. It’s a thing we hate sometimes, but can’t—or won’t—live without it. And if you think I’m being overdramatic with that statement here are the receipts facts: according to recent studies, nearly two thirds of American women use contraceptives in some way, shape, or form. I should know because for the last 15 years I was one of these women.

If a friend told me they were goingn to go off birth control, I would act aghast. “You can’t be serious. I don’t know who I am without it,” I’d joke. But it wasn’t really a joke. I was 12 when I first started using birth control. I had a heavy period that would come every 10 days. I was bleeding more days out of the month than I wasn’t. My doctor recommended me going on the pill to regulate my periods and my mom, who had nothing but good experiences with birth control, was all for me trying it out. Fifteen years later, I never looked back.

Being on the pill felt like an extension of myself, like an arm or the gel manis I can’t live without. There was never a question of me not being on it. To be totally fair, I never seemed to have the issues most of my friends had with the pill. I didn’t have crazy mood swings or weight gains. If anything, I felt like going off the pill would cause those kinds of side effects. My personality is already a fun mix of dark cynicism and the occasional rage blackout, I don’t need to f*ck with my hormones on top of it.

But I did end up going off birth control. For me, the decision wasn’t so much of a conscious choice as it was necessary to my finances at the time. When I was 26 I quit my job in the city to move back to my home state to be closer to friends and family. I quit without having another job lined up, which meant forgoing a monthly income—and health insurance. Being on my parents’ insurance was out of the question because I’d just aged out before quitting my job. My only options were to pay out of pocket or look into COBRA, a new law that lets you stay on your previous employer’s health insurance for up to 18 months after leaving your job, but it was going to cost me HUNDREDS of dollars a month. With no new income coming in and my bank account practically hemorrhaging money from my move across state lines, I chose to save money and forgo getting health insurance completely. Bye-bye, birth control.

At the time I thought I would find a new job in a few months and be back on birth control by Christmas. I was unemployed and living at home with my parents and, if my dating app matches were any indication, that wasn’t a great look for picking up guys or having sex. I guess living off parental pity isn’t as sexy as I thought it was? Who knew? So, I thought, if I wasn’t having sex, then what was really the harm in going off it? Sure, there’s the crazy mood swings that might manifest, but, as I was living at home, so only my family would have to endure those and they’re genetically obligated to love me anyways. Right, mom?

So I decided to go off birth control with the sole intent of not making it a permanent situation. I don’t know what I expected when I stopped taking the pill. The metaphorical floodgates to open and to start bleeding uncontrollably? I pictured my first period post-pill to look a lot like Carrie after they doused her in pig blood. That I’d bleed for an entire month and ruin every piece of underwear in my possession. I expected my acne to get worse, and to be rocking in a corner somewhere with all my ping-ponging emotions. But that’s not what happened at all. In fact, after I went off the pill I didn’t get my first period for 8 weeks, and when I did get my period it only lasted 4 days. I was shocked. The whole reason I went on birth control in the first place was because my periods were heavy and long. Post-pill, they were short and light. Manageable, even. Other than my cramps being a little worse than normal, my periods were a lot like the ones I had while on the pill. This doomsday mentality I’d crafted around being off the pill was just that: a mentality. It wasn’t real. 

I thought being on birth control gave me a sense of safety—and it did, don’t get me wrong—but being off the pill made me feel empowered in ways I didn’t expect. For one, it helped with my anxiety. I used to obsessively try and plan out my periods by skipping pills in the pack so I wouldn’t have my period on the weekend or on random days during the week if I had an important work meeting or something. If I wasn’t planning out a period, then I was constantly trying to hound my pharmacist for my prescription. If the pharmacist couldn’t refill my prescription on time and I couldn’t start my new pack of pills within the first three days after my period, I would panic and have a breakdown. I can remember crying in my office because the pharmacist told me my insurance had changed last minute and I could only refill every 31 days, so I’d need to wait a few more days to pick up my prescription. Crying in my office! And not even over something reasonable like my office nemesis eating the last everything bagel in the break room.

Sure, I could have tried another form of birth control, one where I don’t need to worry about monthly prescriptions or even getting a monthly period, but the pill was so ingrained in my life that I truly thought I couldn’t function without it. I’d heard horror stories of friends getting the birth control implants in their arms and bleeding for weeks at a time, or having to fish an IUD out like an errant tampon. The pill worked for me. My periods were light and manageable. My skin was clear, my hormones weren’t making me crazy (aside from what just comes naturally with my personality). Sure, it caused me stress and anxiety, but wasn’t that worth it in the long run? And if I went off it or tried something new, who would I be then? I’d been on the pill for 15 years, over half my life, and I was terrified to make that change.

Then there’s the sexual aspect to it. For my entire adult life I’ve been on the pill. I was a late bloomer so when I started having sex in college, I’d already been on the pill for six years. Six. Years. That’s, like, almost the entire length of The Buffy The Vampire series (sorry #Spuffy fans, but I don’t count the 6th season because it was trash!!).  My uterus was practically a cement fortress at that point, and boy did I love to test the limits of that fortress. I felt invincible because I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant, but at the same time I felt powerless. I was constantly having to fend off arguments from guys as to why I still wanted to use condoms, as if being on birth control gave them free reign over my body. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t say no, like wanting to protect my body from diseases was too flimsy an excuse.

This is something I have to work on personally. I know this. Standing up for myself in my relationships with men, and also not choosing to date flaming piles of garbage masquerading as human men. But that doesn’t change the pressure I felt during those instances. I felt like I was solely responsible for providing the contraceptives during sex because I’d been on the pill for so long. Once I went off the pill, I thought having sex without that added protection would be scarier, but it wasn’t. I didn’t feel like it was just me having to be responsible for safe sex anymore, I felt like I was in a partnership again.

Look, I’m absolutely not advocating that women go off birth control or refuse to use it. I’m advocating that everyone should do what’s best for them. Women need birth control for more than just sex, and my experience is proof of that. But since I’ve been off the pill I’ve felt more at ease in my own body. I don’t feel anxious about my period or refilling a prescription. I feel more confident in my sexual relationships. These were not the emotional or psychological reactions I expected to have when I stopped taking the pill. I fully expected to feel more anxious, more out of control, powerless. I didn’t realize how much pressure this one, tiny thing had over my life until I was off it. And, to be fair, I got lucky—there are women who do experience side effects after stopping birth control, such as a heavier, irregular period; shedding hair; breakouts; and decreased libido, so just because I felt completely normal does not mean that you will too. Everyone is different, I’m just saying that for me, my choice to go off birth control did not have those drawbacks.

It’s been seven months since I made the decision to go off birth control. I have a job and health insurance again, but I still don’t know if I’ll go back on the pill. Or if I ever will. After 15 years of taking a pill every damn day of my life, it’s been nice to take a break, to not have to worry about medication. Will I feel differently in a few months? A few years? When hell freezes over and I finally get in a long-term, committed relationship with someone? Maybe. But for now, I’m not looking back.

Images: Giphy (3); Pixabay.com (1)

4 Women Discuss What Getting An IUD Is Really Like

I’m not going to lie to you guys, I’m paranoid as a person. I literally had stress dreams about Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed all last night. I’ve been on the pill for years, and I love it. I didn’t gain weight, I didn’t really have crazy mood swings, and it helped my periods immensely. Before the pill, I was soaking through a super jumbo tampon AND a maxi pad every night (I guess I just have a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina). I also got such bad cramps that I would get nauseated, often canceling plans because I couldn’t move. So yeah, life before birth control wasn’t a fun time. I do not wish to return to that time.

But it seems that I might—or at the very least, my birth control (which already costs me $50 a month) may become prohibitively expensive and I’m considering switching to an IUD. So I did what I do best: Google what it’s like to get an IUD, scour Reddit for answers to the same question, and finally, ask my friends who have one what it’s like to get an IUD. You know, anything but make an appointment with my actual doctor.

Here’s what my friends said about what it’s like to get an IUD. Please note, none of this should be taken in place of medical advice. If you are wondering what it’s like to get an IUD and are considering one, talk to your doctor. And if you want to know more about WTF is happening in our political system rn, subscribe to the Betches ‘Sup for our daily newsletter.

Age 27, Kyleena

Why did you decide to get an IUD?
Truthfully, my decision to start the process towards getting an IUD was largely motivated by the Presidential election results (although I had already been considering the option for a while). Reliable, easy birth control is extremely important to me, especially given that I have been in a heterosexual monogamous relationship for almost 5 years and am currently in professional school (so DEFINITELY do not want any babies at any point in the near future/before a bunch of my debt is paid off). Knowing that some changes in health care coverage could be coming down the political pipeline was the final motivation I needed to start the process towards getting an IUD.

Which IUD did you get?
I got Kyleena because it is physically smaller than Mirena but still lasts for 5 years. I also chose it because I know that my body works best with lower dose hormones, so there was no reason for me to consider Mirena.

Kyleena is brand new and you could only get it starting in October. It last 5 years and you get what they call “scant” periods which is sort of like a withdrawal bleed on normal BC but for me was more like super light spotting for a week straight

What was the insertion process like?
Well, first of all, I couldn’t just show up to my doctor and get an IUD like you can with the pill. I had to have a consultation, and insertion appointment, and a follow-up 4-6 weeks after the insertion.

My doctor told me that they generally recommend scheduling insertion during/at the end of a menstrual cycle because that is when the cervix is naturally most open, which makes for an easier procedure. I had my insertion on the first day of my period and it was absolutely one of the more uncomfortable experiences I have had (imagine a really deep, intense cramp that you can feel inside your body, the doctor described it as “visceral”).

However, it only took my doctor three attempts to get the IUD in place and the pain was over in probably 90 seconds or less. Afterward, I went home and laid in bed, ordered Thai food, and took it easy until the general uncomfortable effects/cramping subsided about 3 to 4 hours after the insertion. I was shocked to wake up the next day with little to no lasting effects and didn’t need to take any painkillers after the day of the insertion.

The side effects were uncomfortable but no worse than bad period cramps. They also didn’t last long at all.

Would you do it again?
YES, I WOULD 100% DO IT AGAIN. The fact that there is literally no chance of human error (like forgetting to take a pill/change your NuvaRing, etc.) is a huge comfort to me. I also haven’t had any changes in my skin, weight, moodiness, or any other thing that is traditionally associated with changing birth control methods.

Age 27, Mirena

What made you decide to get an IUD?
I went to my gyno to get a checkup and refill on my birth control and she asked me if I had ever considered an IUD. She’s a huge proponent of them and explained how they’re much more effective and convenient than the pill. Plus it was 100% covered by my insurance. She had me convinced so I agreed, and then she was like “we can do it today” which caught me off guard. But I said “f*ck it” and went for it! 

What was the insertion process like?
Not gonna lie, the insertion process is pretty painful, but it’s also pretty quick. Afterward, I was cramping a lot, which sucked for me because I never usually got cramps during my period. But it was manageable. I was able to walk back to my car which was like a 20-minute walk across campus. And I also went to a dance class later that night. That wasn’t the easiest and I had to sit out towards the end. But overall the aftermath doesn’t put you out of commission from daily life or anything. You’re a little crampy for a day or 2 after, but I’m a lil bitch and I survived.

How bad were the side effects?
I didn’t experience anything bad at all. I think I was maybe a little more emotional for a few weeks because of the hormones but nothing crazy, I didn’t turn into a BSCB. I also spotted for like a month or so, but after that subsided I literally haven’t had a real period since… which at this point has been about 3 years!  

Would you recommend it or do it again?
I would definitely recommend it! I always say it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, seriously. But it’s not for everyone. I have friends who didn’t react well to theirs, so it’s good to know there are still risks. And yes, I would definitely do it again and intend to (healthcare disaster permitting) once mine expires in two years. 

Age 26, Mirena

Why did you decide to get the IUD?
I never really found a pill that liked my body. I tried a few that worked okay, but none that were fantastic. After a while, my doctor explained that the IUD might be a better fit for me because of the lower dose and it would be less of a worry, she explained how it was good for longevity.

What was it like to get an IUD?
The insertion happened at an inpatient clinic. It was done by a PA. It honestly hurt a ton. I was not really expecting the amount of pain it was. After they asked if I wanted to lay down for a while (and I did for about 20 minutes). I wish I stayed longer because on the subway ride home (I took the full day off of work) I was in pretty bad pain and was a little worried about passing out. Good news, I didn’t! It was all okay, but I wished I had stayed a little longer.

Would you get it again?
For my specific body, I am not sure. I’ve had some bad side effects that my doctor has told me are the outlier—for most people. The transition to having it and the pain that you have each month typically goes down. But for me, it has taken a while for that to happen. I am not sure what I will do when it is time to replace it. Probably get another because of the ease with which my birth control is now managed, but I’m not positive yet. I do really like not being on the pill. It is easier day-to-day for sure.

Age 27, Skyla

Why did you get the IUD?
I got it because I was sick of taking the pill. I couldn’t handle estrogen, and I wanted to get the smallest IUD for the least painful insertion.

How painful was the insertion?
Insertion sucked. Awful. They had me take a giant ibuprofen for it, but it still sucked, like, for 5-10 minutes. It felt like the worst cramp I’ve ever had. I was crying. But then I had no pain afterward, and it was done.

What side-effects have you experienced?
I have had some bloating for sure, but I actually feel a lot skinnier/healthier than when I was on the pill. I’d say my periods are pretty odd now, like every 5-6 weeks and super duper light. But I also sometimes get bad bloating before . I just need to watch what I’m eating, mainly.

Would you do it again?
I would definitely do it again, I highly recommend, especially if you’re having regular sex, can’t handle estrogen, and don’t want to get pregnant.

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The FDA Just Approved A Birth Control App And We’re Suspicious

There is an app for everything in your life. There are apps for ordering coffee in the morning, and now there’s one for making sure you don’t get preggers. The FDA just approved an app called Natural Cycles as a form of contraception. Considering there is still an ongoing debate in the U.S. over women’s reproductive and abortion rights, which could affect access for some to contraceptives, this app could be a saving grace. Natural Cycles is meant to give women control over their bodies and prevent unplanned pregnancy, which sounds great, but wtf is it and how does it work?

How TF Does It Work?

The app requires you to enter the correct information about your cycle and take your basal temperature, aka your lowest body temperature achieved at rest. It then uses an algorithm to determine when you are fertile. On the days when you are fertile you’re supposed to practice safe sex, or just give the vag a day off. Whatever you prefer. The only problem with this is that a lot of are still taken by surprise when we have a visit from good old aunt flow, so how TF are we going to enter all of this information in?

What Are The Benefits?

The positives of this app are that if we end up like in the Divergent movies (but with a phone and hopefully the guy who plays Four), this app will let women continue to practice safe sex. Post apocalyptic planning aside the app means that women don’t have to rely on hormonal contraceptives such as birth control and IUDs. We all have that friend with an IUD horror story or who took a birth control that made her totally nuts. (Unless you are that friend, in which case, my apologies) More importantly app claims to have a failure rate of only 1.8 percent compared to the 9 percent that condoms have. Remember though, this failure is not getting an F on a midterm you never studied for its having a child… so not something you can just cry your way out of at a parent teacher conference.

What’s The Downside?

In general this just seems like a lot of maintenance and personal responsibility which, considering how most of us have to set an alarm to remember to take a pill every day (and then still forget), can lead to problems. The other downfall is that the app costs $79.99 annually. For a lot of women, their birth control is covered by insurance (thanks Obama!) so that seems like a lot of money for an app that doesn’t even play Candy Crush or airbrush photos for you. However, if your birth control isn’t covered, then it is a lot cheaper than having to pay for your monthly set of pills. Or, you know, having a baby for the rest of your life. Either way this is the first of many new products that will come out of the femtech industry, tbh can’t see what else they role out!

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