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Trust Me, We’ve Got This: Women and Birth Control Edition

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September 21, 2016

I didn’t need birth control until I was almost eighteen. A few months away from college, not sexually active, and not facing any difficulties with my period; I had no real use for it until it became another thing to cross off my ‘become an adult’ bucket-list. When I finally got to the doctor’s office, I had enough internet research under my belt to know exactly what I was going to ask for. The main stipulation I had as I walked into the clean, tiled hallway was something that did not have to be taken daily, knowing my own habits for forgetting to take antibiotics and other medicines taken orally.

When I walked out, I had a prescription for daily hormone pills and a defeated sense of self.

After talking with family and friends, I found out my situation wasn’t all that unique when boiled down to the main theme; lack of trust in women. My doctor didn’t trust me to know what I wanted, even with my 18 years of knowledge about my own body and enough research to get me started on a book series about the subject of contraceptives.

If I wasn’t trusted, who else was being undermined when it came to their own health?

The CDC found that about 62% of women of reproductive age are using some kind of contraception, with about 28% of them using the pill. That equates to about 10.6 million women on the pill who had to have a similar appointment to mine, making the reality of this situation happening to another well intended person more than likely.

My view on the subject was solidified even more when I heard my sister’s run-in with her doctor, this time over the option of female sterilization. She told me the feeling of having her decision scrutinized, while women seeking fertility treatment were met comparatively with compassion and understanding. Equally heavy decisions, but not an equal amount of solidarity from the medical staff she saw. After more than a year of fighting, reassuring the masses it was what she really wanted, and jumping through enough hoops to be on the Olympic team for dealing with stigmas, she finally got the security of making her own reproductive decisions and went into surgery.

I’m biased (which is an understatement, for sure) in favor of my sister, but any woman who has to battle stigmas and argue with doctors for over a year to make a decision about her own body will find me on their side as well. Sterilization is second most popular birth control method among women, coming in at about 27% of all women using contraception; even that isn’t enough for people to know that yes, some women do want to take that step.

A year or two after that, I found myself listening to the same rant material all over again in my college roommate, Sam. Complete opposite of me, she loved using the pill as her preferred birth control method, but wanted a change in ingredients to ease some of the difficulties she had with her cycle. Even with her original doctor giving her the go-ahead, the campus health clinic rejected the idea of giving her a combination birth control pill due to a migraine she suffered from a few weeks prior. She knew, however, that the risk was minuscule and her history with migraines didn’t constitute that kind of warning. Regardless, even with her concern for mishaps and a desire for a daily pill that would reduce periods, she was still encouraged to get an IUD or an implant.

More stories could be put into this article, or you can take my lesson at it’s face value; women aren’t trusted enough to make their own decisions regarding birth control. Whether it’s choosing the form, making a decision about a surgery, or choosing what goes into our bodies, it seems to be a recurring trend of doctors thinking they know better than we do, and it needs to stop. It feeds into the general stereotype that women can’t make decisions for ourselves, especially when it comes to our health and wellness, and keeps many women all over America from living the way they choose to live.

There are some forms of birth control I would never consider using, such as the daily pill or sterilization, but I would never dream of taking those options away from my friends or family due to my own judgments and perceptions of such methods. My own experiences, knowledge, habits, and desires in my future lead me to the implant, but Sam’s different menstrual cycle and experiences turned her away from my preference. Just like my desire to have children turned me away from my sister’s choice. We’re all different women, but we deserve to be trusted to make our own decisions.

So doctors; stop talking, stop pulling out your pamphlets (unless your opinion was asked), put your prescription pad away, and take a moment to listen. Listen to the women you’re treating, listen to what she wants, and trust her. It’s really, honest-to-goodness, that easy.

 

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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