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.
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)
Gotta love modern medicine. According to a new study, a new form of male contraceptive has been successfully trialed on a group of 16 monkeys and prevented pregnancies for over two years of testing.
The new contraceptive—aka male birth control—is like a vasectomy, but less invasive. No snipping, if you will. The scientists injected the monkeys with a gel called “Vaselgel” that blocks sperm from escaping the body. Plus, it’s a 100% reversible procedure, although Michael Scott will still tell you it’s not altogether pleasant.
The male monkeys were each given the injection and released to live with
all the little birdies female monkeys for an entire two year breeding season. TBH, this is more information than I’ve ever wanted to know about the monkey reproductive cycle. Anyway, these monkeys were fucking chilling and didn’t get any of these single, independent female monkeys pregnant even with all that casual sex on the reg.
Before you go throwing your birth control away, Vaselgel hasn’t been tested on humans (yet). But it’s now been trialed successfully on monkeys and rabbits with no side effects and no pregnancies, so it sounds like the greatest fucking gift to mankind ever. The makers of the gel, the Parsemus Foundation, are testing on humans next and anticipate releasing the treatment on the market next year. This mean’s we’re one step closer to to turning the tables on that fuckboy so we can ask “are you on the gel?” before he tries to get it in.
On Monday, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPFA) said that the demand for IUDs has increased by 900 percent since Donald Trump was elected to office, and normally, I would normally call bullshit on a statistic that high. But honestly, that sounds about right because Trump’s presidency is fucking terrifying for anyone with a vagina.
PPFA president Cecile Richards went on CNN on Monday to talk about the upcoming Women’s March on Washington (chill) and the recent attempts by Paul Ryan to defund Planned Parenthood (super not chill). She had a bunch of awesome stuff to say about Planned Parenthood, most of which was directed at the haters trying to shut down federal funding for one of the most extensive providers of betches’ healthcare in the nation. You’d think that the debate over abortion would have been over a long time ago, but this is America. Why resolve something quickly when you can tell women what to do instead?
While she was on CNN, Richards said Planned Parenthood has seen a 900 percent increase in women trying to get IUDs through the organization after the Great Cheeto was elected president. According to Jezebel, she said that most of these IUD-seekers are “desperately concerned that they might lose their access to healthcare” once
the Legion of Doom Trump & Co. take office.
She also pointed out that legally, Planned Parenthood isn’t allowed to use federal funding for abortion, so the whole defunding thing makes zero sense even if you’re super anti-abortion for some reason. Instead, the money is legally required to go toward procedures like Pap smears, contraception, STI testing, and other procedures every betch should get regularly.
ICYMI, people have been hating on Planned Parenthood for a while now—since at least 2007, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence started leading the charge against its funding—and PP could use all the help it can get right now.
If you want to support Planned Parenthood (which you should, because bodily autonomy and all that good shit), there are a few options. The most hilarious is donating to PP in Mike Pence’s honor—just make a regular donation and fill out his name in the “in memory” option. You could also become a clinic escort, which takes some training, or do the whole calling local representatives thing. Even lazy/busy betches can contribute by just reading up on abortion and calling out assholes who don’t know what they’re talking about. (Fact #1: Abortions don’t cause depression, are you kidding me with this shit?)
So it’s no wonder women are getting long-acting BC while they can. If you’re one of the women considering an IUD before Trump takes office, hit up Planned Parenthood while you still can (aka while it still exists). Even if you already have one or don’t need one, support them before we all start living in a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale.
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Since the dawn of time, contraceptive use has been an issue between women and the men who think they have the right to tell us what to do with our bodies. Between abortion and Plan B, the government has an unhealthy amount of say in whether we have a child or not. Not to mention, they have a large hand in whether we get acne/cramps/other problems related to being a woman that birth control fixes for us so our lives aren’t completely unbearable, so thanks a fucking lot for that. However, considering the shit show that was 2016, 2017 seems to have risen in a much brighter and healthier light: French pharmaceutical company HRA Pharma has teamed up with Ibis Reproductive Health, a research nonprofit, to make birth control available over-the-counter.
HRA Pharma and Ibis Reproductive Health have been trying for a while to make this wish a reality, and originally hoped to get this shit approved by the FDA within the next few years. And it seemed like things were going pretty swimmingly—OTC birth control pills have the backing of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, aka the big guns. California and Oregon had already approved legislation to make birth control available directly at the pharmacy without a prescription. The world was bright and shiny and full of hope.
UNTIL. Until Trump got elected, because now everything’s fucked (shockingly). If Trump and the Republicans in Congress succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to make it really difficult to make over-the-counter birth control happen. However, all is not lost (yet). Luckily for us, the FDA makes decisions based on science and not t
he sexist idea that women should not be allowed to have bodily autonomy politics. So in other words, even if Planned Parenthood is defunded, abortion is made illegal, and we all live in a real-life version of The Handmaid’s Tale where women exist solely to pump out babies for the rich and powerful, none of that shit would theoretically matter to the FDA. And the good news is that science has our back on this—the majority of the evidence, real evidence, supports the idea offering the pill OTC is safe for women.
In conclusion, if Trump decides not to ruin everything for women (and everyone ever), birth control could be made OTC. So like, keep your fingers crossed.