One week out of every month, women across the world deal with their favorite thing in the world: periods. A decent percent of women deal with painful periods that impair their ability to function in daily life from debilitating pain. There is an option that some people use to mitigate or fully eliminate the issue of period pain, but it isn’t as wide-spread as it should be: birth control.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the way that birth control methods deal with periods is “hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs) affect the menstrual cycle and lessen the amount of bleeding.” Often times, these methods also reduce pain significantly since pain can be a byproduct of an irregularity in hormones. Birth control has also tied into other reproductive conditions like Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a reproductive condition that affects 1 out of every 10 women, according to endometriosis.org and The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. One of the treatments is hormonal contraceptives, or birth control. Endometriosis is a severe condition that can lead to issues with infertility, scarring of the reproductive organs, debilitating pain, and may cause some cancers.
Birth control has shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of reproductive problems, but why aren’t women using it in larger numbers. The answer lies in the stigma surrounding birth control. There is a misconception perpetuated that women use birth control because they want to be sexually active or are “sluts who can’t keep their legs closed” rather than someone trying to stop pain from ruining their life one week a month. Religious groups, such as Christian sects and Catholicism, denounce the use of birth control as sinful and against God’s will. That stigma impacts so many girls of faith who need birth control for medical purposes and find themselves torn between their religion (and often family) and their medical and mental health.
Growing up as a young woman with Dysmenorrhea (painful periods), I found myself torn on the issue of birth control as regulation due to familial circumstances. My mother was a doctor and offered the option of birth control when I was old enough since she knew her side of the family suffered from painful periods. The, there was my father and stepmother who were extremely religious. They would rail against birth control as for “whores who wanted to go against God by having extramarital sex” and would stonewall my mother’s requests to get me the medication. Needless to say, I felt uncomfortable about approaching the topic with them. At the time, my periods were already quite severe with week-long heavy bleeding and cramps that rendered it nearly impossible to get out of bed some days. As the years went on, my periods actually worsened to encompass symptoms such as nausea, borderline anemia, headaches, and dizziness. It wasn’t until I was seventeen and had an incident that frightened me so badly. I nearly collapsed from dizziness, pain, and nausea in my room during a family party, which lead to me breaking down and calling my mom in tears. She helped me set up a OB-GYN appointment and I discovered that I either had a hormone imbalance or I had endometriosis. The OB-GYN perscribed me birth control since I was old enough to get it without parental consent and I started taking it, not caring what my father and stepmother thought. I put my health first. Now, almost a year later, I can say that birth control changed my life for the better. Not only have I personally gotten better, but I have taught others about the wonders of birth control and some of my friends have bettered their lives because of it.
When discussing the topic of birth control and deciding it is right for you, here is some of my advice:
-If you are considering birth control, consult your doctor or visit an OB-GYN. Visiting your health care provider is crucial in determining the best approach to this topic. I would highly suggest choosing the OB-GYN as their speciality is related to reproductive health
-Research into reproductive health organizations to debunk myths and stigma. If you have questions that you are embarrassed to ask or can’t reach your doctor, go to organizations who can answer your questions. For example, Planned Parenthood is one of the largest family planning and reproductive health organizations in the United States with a global initiative to debunk stigmas across the world. Consider researching different perspectives on the issue to gain a better understanding and a full picture.
-Understand that people can do whatever they want with their bodies and don’t deserve judgment. If a woman wants to take birth control for the purpose of safe sex, then she should be able to do so without judgment. If a woman wants to take birth control for a medical related purpose, then she should be able to do so without judgment either. People need to learn that what I do with my body is my business alone. Don’t shame people for personal decisions relating to their body. Before judging others for making different decisions, try compassion and attempting to understand their circumstances.
At the end of the day, you are the one with agency over your body. Birth control is a vital tool to a woman’s every day needs, whether it is for health or personal reasons. Stigma should not keep people from stopping their pain and seeking treatment.