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Life Without Interference

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October 15, 2020

By: Lily Stewart

Recently, I saw my doctor for a yearly wellness visit. We spoke about my health, my habits, and my medicine—the usual. The doctor asked how I was liking my birth control pills, noting that I had mentioned severe pain due to endometriosis during previous appointments. I nodded, saying that my pain had become much more manageable, and other endometriosis symptoms were no longer as noticeable. She was happy to hear that and said, “You know, if I were in charge, I would see that all students have access to birth control pills. You just don’t have time for pain or pregnancy.” I nodded, and we went on with the checkup.

After the appointment, I thought more about what she had said. She was right; many students simply do not have time for pain or pregnancy. Many people, in general, do not have time for pain or pregnancy. Birth control pills―with their myriad benefits that include preventing pregnancy, regulating periods, minimizing pain, and treating other PMS symptoms―improve the quality of so many lives. My doctor’s comment got me thinking about the changes that birth control pills have made in my life, and those changes have been numerous. The pill has granted me the ability to live life without interference.

When I first started my period, I was eleven. I expected irregularity as I adjusted, but it never seemed to settle down. It would come and go without warning, and I would wait on edge for its arrival for months. It stayed irregular for years and never changed its spontaneous and sporadic nature.

The pain never seemed to ease up either. I had heard about period cramps from friends and family, but my experiences did not align with what I had been told. No one mentioned waking up multiple times a night from the pain. No one mentioned vomiting from the pain. No one mentioned not being able to move from the pain. No one mentioned taking an unhealthy amount of ibuprofen and acetaminophen to get even the slightest reprieve from the pain. 

I dreaded my period. It wasn’t a mere inconvenience; it derailed my life for weeks. I would miss school for days at a time because I could not walk for more than ten steps at a time. I skipped extracurriculars because I was exhausted from spending the night before curled up on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. I would not even leave my bed to get food or water because I could not turn over without experiencing extreme waves of nausea. The symptoms did not only take place during the week of my period; they began a week before and continued for a week after. The symptoms dictated all of my behaviors and nearly all of my moods.

When I finally spoke to my mother about the issue, she was heartbroken. She told me about our family history of endometriosis. “I was hoping that it would skip you,” she sighed. Unfortunately, it did not skip me, but the new information allowed me to take charge of my situation. After learning about endometriosis, things began to make sense, and I began to think of solutions. My mother took me to appointments with my doctors, but my concerns were frequently disregarded. 

I did not receive actual help until eight years after I had started my period. I began seeing a new gynecologist, and the minute I relayed my experiences, she leaped into action. She explained the condition, went through treatment choices, and sent me home with extra resources and information. After talking through several options, she prescribed birth control pills. She wished me luck and instructed me to come back if things did not improve. 

Luckily, things improved. The difference was immediate and striking. Every month followed a precise schedule. The pain lessened dramatically. My nausea disappeared almost completely. I stopped missing school. I did not have to limit my activities. My life was no longer under the control of my period.

Birth control pills have improved my life beyond belief, and they improve the lives of so many other people across the world. However, not everyone has the same resources that I do. Not everyone has supportive family members, compassionate physicians, or insurance policies that cover the pills. If birth control pills became over-the-counter medications, they could become accessible for all. Everyone deserves a high quality of life and the ability to make the best decisions for their health. Free the pill; improve lives.

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