It hurt like a bitch when my coil fell out. Well, when it started to. I was on a holiday in Wales with my girlfriend and some friends, doing some heavy walking, when I realized that something wasn’t right. A discomfort, sharp pains, and a general sense of bloating — all of which I would later learn was down to my coil being, as the doctor put it, expelled from my vagina. It was about half out by the time I got back to London and saw the doctor.
In a way, I was lucky — one of my friends had the same thing happen to her- but, thinking the end of the coil was her tampon string, accidentally ripped the whole damn thing out herself, narrowingly missing cutting up her insides. The coil is far, far from perfect, which is maybe why it’s so worrying that it’s still my favorite form of birth control.
After messing around with hormonal birth control in my teens to try to mitigate symptoms of my PCOS, I became skeptical of the horrible little things. Not only did they do nothing to stabilize my period — or pimples, for that matter — I watched different brands turn different female friends into unhappy wrecks. Sure, some people had a great response to the pill but after seeing enough tender boobs and crying spells, I decided I would never take a chance on it again. One friend opted for the implant in her arm, but hormonal birth control just didn’t feel right.
That’s how I ended up with a copper IUD
It sounded great — a non-hormonal option that you put it in once and it would last for years, without ever having to worry about whether I had taken a pill or remembered a condom. In fact, I was so set on a semi-permanent, non-hormonal option that watching my friend nearly pass out after I accompanied her to get her own put in didn’t turn me off it. Neither did hearing the horror story of hers falling out and needing to be replaced. Nothing could stop me from getting that particular birth control because, after years of searching, it sounded like the holy grail. The truth is, even though mine fell out in a painful, awkward way, I definitely would have had another one put in, if I hadn’t been in a long-term lesbian relationship at the time.
So here’s the question: What the hell is wrong with female birth control options if something that made me bleed, panic, and caused a huge amount of a pain still seems like a clear winner? Something has gone very, very awry.
Side effects are totally accepted — unless you’re a man
It’s no secret that every form of birth control comes with the potential of nasty side effects and the process of picking one is a horrible dating game, where you desperately search for the method, brand, or model that’s the least bad for you personally. But why are women still expected to deal with this alone? Birth control is still firmly thought of as a woman’s responsibility despite the fact that, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Women are expected to experiment, to mess with their bodies and their mind, and to never make it anyone else’s problem.
And it seemed like that was about to change — almost. Although a male birth control pill has been trialed, many have been uproarious about the side effects — side effects that women have been dealing with for a long time. Side effects that, more importantly, women have been expected to deal with without complaint. In fact, the study of one male birth control shot was cut short due to side effects — despite the fact that women’s birth control has so many side effects that every year actual deaths are linked to the pill. I’m not saying that that’s a standard that we should be endorsing — far from it. But if women not only deal with a litany of uncomfortable and damaging side effects, but can also literally die from taking the pill, why are the scientific communities and the public balking at men gaining weight or having a reduced libido? Women have been dealing with that — and so much more — their entire lives. Yet we still feel hesitate to inconvenience men — even when women are dying.
We all deserve better
Something has gone seriously wrong if I can have a metal screw expelled from my vagina and still feel pathetically grateful that it doesn’t make me bloated or mess with my mental health. There is no doubt that I, all women, and all people deserve more reliable birth control with fewer side effects. But that’s not the world that we live in yet. And when we live in a world where every women’s birth control comes with a terrifying number of potential drawbacks — including blood clots and deaths — flinching at the idea of side effects for men just adds insult to injury. The coil is still my favorite birth control, but I really wish we could do better.
Originally posted on Bellesa Collective