If we were still in the 1500’s, we would be told as women that sex is for reproduction purposes only. Luckily, we now live in the 21st century where women are now more free to have sex without wanting a child out of it (gasp!). And luckily, the medical industry has followed this freedom, all thanks to the sexual revolution of the Summer of Luuuurve back in the '60s.
There are many forms of contraception out there so that women can find the right one for their body and needs. Sexual health is such an important educational topic for all, but in this department women and girls generally are the ones who hold the responsibility. As new technologies and medicines are discovered and released to the masses, the more choice there is, meaning that women can make decisions about their entire life without input from anybody else. They can choose where and how to work, if and when they want children and a family, who they want to sleep with… And all of this without the worry that they may accidentally fall pregnant and potentially put their life in financial, physical or mental risk if children don't appear in their end game. However, that’s not to say finding the right contraception for your body is as simple as choosing a chocolate bar from a vending machine. Unfortunately for some it is a bumpy and hormonal road.
My sister and I are like chalk and cheese. That's not to say we aren’t close, but we have very different personalities and bodies. Even though blood related, we both had two completely different experiences with our sexual health and our contraceptive journeys.
I asked my mother if I could book an appointment with the doctor to enquire about taking the contraceptive pill when I was 16 years old. I had just started my first ‘real’ relationship (with a very cute guy in my year at school who I'd been crushing on for a while) and was already known as the ‘sexual one’ in my friends group. This label was given to me despite being a virgin and not even having my first kiss yet. However, as things progressed with the cute guy and sexual bases were met, I knew I was ready for sex.
It was as simple as this for me: I went to the doctor, I was put on Microgynon (the 21-day combined pill that allows a seven-day break for your period), and the only symptom I experienced was slight weight gain. I didn’t care because by then I was taking advantage of my newly found sexuality and guys certainly didn't complain about my body (because as we all know, at 16, a cute guy/girl/person of our affection's judgement is all that matters). Every six months I went back to the doctor to check everything was still working and get a prescription for the next six months of pills. I did this for many years, until recently they realised that my BMI was way over the limit for Microgynon. This meant that my risk of migraines and brain-related swelling or bleeding had increased, so I was transferred to Cerrelle, another combined pill. This one I was to take continuously for the whole month without a break for periods. Although it was because of my weight gain that I had to change, I viewed it as a positive change, and was grateful that there was a choice out there that meant my routine wasn't disrupted, and I could still have amazing sex without worrying about pregnancy, or - now - periods too *cue never buying pads or tampons again*.
On the other hand, ask my sister and her face will contort into mixed annoyance and despair. She too started on the same combined pill as me at the same age. However, her symptoms showed more aggressively, with a lot more weight gain and sluggishness. Because her body type is slimmer than mine, she took her weight gain a lot harder mentally, and it gave her depression. She stopped using the pill and tried other pills. No effect. She ditched the idea of pills altogether and then tried more intrusive but safe methods, such as the implant in her arm and the coil. But after only days of trying both, it would leave her with agonising cervical cramps and general body pains, as well as intensifying migraines. She just couldn't win. In the end, she simply opted to use condoms for protection and let her body do what it needed to do naturally.
Throughout the years of contraception trial and error that my sister endured, by best advice to her was that everybody and every body is different, and you just have to do what's best for you. Sometimes that means going against even what the doctors suggest, but don't feel bad about it. You know your body and it will speak to you when something is going wrong or right. Listen to it, it wants you to have a good sex life! And think of all the fun you can have if you're listening to your body and not having to put up with the horrid side effects of something that's just not right for you.
This week, we want to know: were you slut-shamed during your school years? Did it affect your experiences after leaving school?