Friday, July 21, 2006

birth control: the verdict

Earlier this week, I went to see a gynocologist, for a check-up and to discuss birth control options. I have used nothing but condoms for the last six years, so I thought it was time to review what else is available.

Normally I dread doctors and avoid them at all costs. In this case, I wanted to have peace of mind that my girl parts were running normally and, it turns out, my new gyno is really cool. She's Asian and looks like she's in her early 30's (though she's probably older), really smart, upbeat and friendly, and put me at ease so much that I spoke freely about my sex life and didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable when she was prodding my girly bits. Apart from that, she also has the same music taste I do, which makes me trust her all the more.

Anyway, I told her about my horrible experience with the Pill. She said there are birth control pills with lower doses of estrogen available, and mentioned the mini-pill which is progesterone only, but warned that I might still experience certain side effects like depression. Considering how tenuous my moods can be on a day to day basis, and how I now even have to pay for a night of hard drinking with a consecutive day of anxiety and depression, I don't think putting more hormones into my body is a good idea.

I mentioned the option of getting an IUD (Intra Uterine Device). This is something that's recommended more for women who have already given birth, since it requires dilating the cervix. Also, there's a risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and a small chance it could even cause sterility. Since I am fairly sure I want to have kids some day, I'm not going to gamble with my fertility like that.

My doctor also gave me some information on the diaphragm. It's funny, but there's something kind of old fashioned about diaphragms to me. I don't know any women who use them and it seems to be a less popular method of birth control. Maybe it has something to do with the ick factor. I mean, it's bad enough we have to deal with tampons, but the prospect of inserting something that looks like a miniature UFO every time you want to get funky is not very appealing. Also, condoms have become so ubiquitous nowadays that they have easily become incorporated into the ritual of having sex, but diaphragms? Not so much ("Ooh baby, you are really turning me on. Where's your... diaphragm?" Ugh, the word alone invokes instant unhorniness). Also, if a woman's weight fluctuates by more than ten pounds (and mine certainly does), she needs to be fitted for a new one. And did I mention it has to be kept in for six hours after intercourse? Too much muss, too much fuss.

So it looks like I am sticking with condoms. Which is fine; they don't really bother me, and they don't bother BF David, either. Plus, I am about to get some very special condoms...


pookalu said...

how about those no estrogen birth control methods? depo-provera or that one with those commercials with the four periods a year?

Sarah said...

Sounds like you made the right decision for you...

Let me just add this in case the pill is something you consider again in the future:

I have a history of depression (though long in the the past) and mild anxiety, and I was a little scared about that side effect as well. I was delighted to find taking birth control (Mircette brand -- often taken by people with migraines, which I also have a history of) has evened out mood swings for me rather than made them worse. Though when I go into that last week (when the hormones drop off) sometimes there's a little moodiness, but nothing awful.

Dolly said...

The mini pill has no estrogen, but still has side effects. Depo makes some women gain up to 40 pounds (yikes!). And as nice as it would be to get only four periods a year, I get panicky if I am even a day late, so I can't imagine being at ease going that long without a period. A lot of it comes down to just not wanted to mess with my body's chemistry, too.

Dolly said...

Thanks you for your input! I'm going to set aside the pill option for now, but it's still good to know.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dolly -

Do you use condoms just for birth control? Or do you use them for protection against STD's as well?

I guess I'm asking .... at what point exactly does the condom make it's appearance in your evening's activities? What kinds of 'play' will you do with/without a condom?

I appreciate your candor!

NotCarrie said...

I really don't want to gain weight with anything I'm using. That would worry me.

Anonymous said...

I've been on the pill for less than 2 months--and I've already decided to go off it! I don't blame you for having concerns (I had many before I went on it--but decided to "give it a shot"). Not only have I been bloated for the past few mood swings have been outrageous. I went from being a pleasant, easy going a emotional wreck. I've been feeling depressed and extremely moody. I cried for a good 3 hours last night--really no good reason for it. Thankfully my BF is understanding and wants me to stop using it ASAP (and clearly doesn't want to deal with my being such a wreck anymore). Anyway, I have no plans to EVER use it again.

Dolly said...

If you use condoms, they will prevent against both pregancy and STDs, regardless of intention. But I do use them for both purposes (all the health classes we had to take in school made me really concerned about contracting HIV or another STD). If I ever stopped using condoms, it would only be in the context of a monogamous relationship, after both of us had been tested.

Word. It's hard enough to deal with cravings during PMS, but voluntarily taking something that could make you heavier is frightening to me.

Anonymous 4:23,
Your experience with the pill sounds very much like mine, except that my boyfriend at the time was nowhere near as sympathetic as yours (that was not a very long-lived relationship). I know it takes some women a few months to adjust or a few different pills before they find the right one, but I didn't enjoy messing with my body like that. I hope you feel better soon!

coasta said...

not much to say here.

i hate condoms. but the japanese make some pretty good ones.

i have nothing else.

Bama Girl said...

They brought the sponge back! It's cheap and efficient. No, I don't work for them, just read the article and I got excited.

Although I did use the Seasonale birth control. Not having your period for three months at a time; best ever.

Dolly said...

Never used the sponge, though I wonder if I'm better off sticking to condoms, since they also prevent against STDs.

As for Seasonale, you didn't get worried about possible pregnancy, getting your period so seldomly? Even with such a low risk, I'd still be paranoid.

pookalu said...

dolly --

the depo means you have no periods at all.

also i was talking to a health care professional about it -- the weight gain is not because the injections make you gain weight, it just increases your appetite. therefore, you eat more because you want to eat. with that in mind, as long as you're aware of it, it's not that it'll change your metabolism, you'll just understand where the desire to eat comes from.

Anonymous said...

Hey folks: one of the advantages of sex after 40 is that your fertility is way, way down (both on the male & female side), so if you stick to one partner, things work themselves out pretty well.

Something to look forward to.....

Stephan said...

My gf use depo, started 2 months after we met. Shots every 3 months.

She does has some mood swings, when the hormones really change. she also gets quite heavy and long periods when they finally arrive. But honestly I much prefer that than having to deal with condoms. We are monogamous. together for one year. both been tested. After both thinking about it, the benefits do outweight the 'problems' from it.

It's been great for our sex life. We both hate condoms. Well, I do with passion. As a guy We don't have to think of buying some, breaking up the sex act "oh honey, hold on. gotta find them", or worry about them breaking (It happens, always more than it should). I would be devastated if I would have to use condoms again (more than occasionaly for x reason)

so anyway. I think it is really up to you to judge what is there to gain/lose by using a contraception method. Personaly if I love someone other the long term, having a piece of plastic between us makes me feel I am fucking a stranger instead of making love to my gf...

Anonymous City Girl said...

i rencently went on estrostep fe.
for years and years i wouldn't use anything except condoms because i would get very extrem side effects. i had to go on estrostep because of another issue, but after about two or three full cycles (28 pills each), any minor side effects i was having have disappeared.

Dolly said...

I don't know, my PMS cravings are bad enough!

Since I want to have kids someday, I don't want to be rid of my fertility just yet. I've also been reading about what happens when you get much older (lack of lubrication, decreased sex drive) and that's not something I'm looking forward to.

It's cool that you and your gf are on the same page re: birth control. I have never hated condoms and have not lasted long with men that had problems using them, so I'm glad BF David is as used to them as I am. It's gotten to the point where I don't consider them an interruption to the action at all.

Go you for finding a pill that works with your body! You are a more patient woman than I.

Stephan said...


we've been together with my gf for a year in 2 weeks... woohoo...

Before we took depo we've looked at the different options. It just seemed to be the 'easiest' one. One shot every 3 months. Periods every 3 months. No need to worry about taking a pill everyday, putting a patch, forgetting... but now I do understand the side effects it may have. I know that the first cycle, especially towards the end was tough on her (last 2 weeks). Heavy periods, stomach cramps, moody... I felt bad, we almost decided to stop, but after careful thinking decided to try one more cycle. 2nd cycle got a bit better. 3rd cycle I have heard no complains anymore. 4th is coming...

Same thing with my first girlfriend - we were together for 6 years, had tough effects at the beginning but after 3 cycles all went into order (birth control pill) and never had any problem for the remaining years of our relationship.

As ACG said, and my current experience, side effects go away after a while once you get use to it... Question of patience I guess and desire to deal with it?

Maybe something worthy to consider over the long term if you are willing to try a short term sacrifice or 'investment' on the future?

Anyway, if condoms work for you... hey great for you!

Anonymous said...

I'm 25 and was a sexual health counselor in college.

I've tried EVERYTHING and I totally love my diaphragm. If you're not in a 1,000% committed, monogamous thing, you need condoms, obviously, but if for nothing else, throw in the diaphragm during your period and you can get in on, blood-free.

I put it in when I'm getting ready to go out, or when my guy is on the way over.

I use it along w/ the pill (lo-ovral) and that works best for me, and I don't worry when I miss pills, or if I'm on antibiotics (sometimes negs out pill).

Depo causes uncontrollable bleeding in some women for a year. Others, it works for forever. For me, I was period-free for a year, then started hemorrhaging.

Diaphragm + low-dose pill = beautiful