I have always dealt with heavy, painful and irregular periods. I remember spending hours in the sick room at school in agonizing pain. The very concept of wearing panty liners at any stage of my period was laughable, as I was confined to wearing thick nighttime pads that felt like nappies (diapers) throughout my period.
If the pain and heavy flow weren't enough, I constantly feared that I would have a "What's that red stain on your skirt?" moment.
After five years, I decided enough was enough and booked an appointment with my doctor. She recommended that I go on a contraceptive pill (Microgynon, in my case) to help regulate my periods. She explained that it could reduce the pain and regulate my heavy flow. And just like that, I was sold on the benefits.
I'm always hesitant when telling people about being on contraception. The minute you tell someone you're on the pill, they turn into a medical professional listing all the side effects and, in some cases, telling you not to go on it. The unwarranted advice is paired with another assumption. During conversations I've had previously with friends, it always comes up that we, as women, only go on oral and implantable forms of contraception due to our partners not liking condoms.
Assuming a choice
This harmful assumption completely strips a person's agency over their body by assuming that the only reason for exploring other contraceptive methods is a man's pleasure.
Sadly, this assumption can manifest in the bedroom, with some women believing their partner's pleasure is a priority, and as long as he is satisfied, they should be, too. If a man complains about condom sex not feeling "as good," some women may feel obliged to go on another form of contraception to ensure that sex for their partner is pleasurable.
"There are stigmas associated with their use, such as an assumption that the user is having sex, is attempting to please men, or is promiscuous," said Kerry-Anne Perkins, D.O., a New Jersey-based OB-GYN with Alliance OB-GYN Consultants. "Some women with menstrual irregularities who may benefit from the use of contraception may refuse them for these reasons. We need to destigmatize and change the narrative so that all women may feel confident and comfortable in their choices and reasons for using contraception."
Although some women do feel coerced into going on contraception, it's high time we stop assuming this is the case for all.
"Individuals decide to go on contraception for various reasons, including those with vaginas and cis women wanting to experience penetrative sex without a condom," said U.K.-based sex consultant and coach Ness Cooper. "They may enjoy the way the sensations feel when it comes to condom-free sex."
Any of these people who decide to forgo condoms entirely and rely on hormonal birth control, spermicides or copper IUDs should be sure to take regular STI tests.
"If the individual is taking part in casual sex or multiple partners where they may not fully know their partner's STI/sexual history, taking preventative STI methods such as PrEP may also be a good idea," Cooper added.
No matter what contraceptive method you want to use, it's essential to do your own research beforehand, including on the associated risks of pregnancy, as no method is 100 percent effective. Still, as I did, a person may have many reasons to start using birth control.
"Most women use contraception for their own empowerment, to choose pregnancy when they are ready, for peace of mind while engaging in sexual acts, or for their overall health if they have menstrual or reproductive problems," Perkins said.
While I believe it's important to have conversations regarding your sexual health and contraception with your partner, ultimately, it's always your choice, and no partner should be coercing you to go on contraception, no matter how they think condoms feel.