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Birth Control Pill and Birth Control Methods Article

Pregnancy  Articles

My current method of birth control is the capital-P Pill.. the birth control pill. These are available by prescription, and on the condition of having regular pap smears. I kind of hate the birth control pill. It does weird things to me and makes me feel out of tune and not in control of my body. Sometimes it makes me resent being sexually active and want to be a nun (not a religious one).

However, the birth control pill is very effective and easy to take, and the latex free sex is great fun. I do find that my periods are way lighter and shorter (gradually down to about two hours for awhile but now up to 3 or so very light days), which is nice but kind of creepy. Other side effects have been random breast tenderness, random tummy tenderness (like tender ovaries), minor facial zits for the first time in my 20 year existence (no really, up until the pills I'd had 8 zits. It was a big joke. Now I usually have one somewhere for the first week of the pills. Not complaining, just a comment.), generally less severe menstrual cramps (until just lately), and that I gained about 5 pounds when I first went on them.

Birth control pills are a sequence of 21 small hormone pills, which may be identical ("uniphase") or composed of more than one type (usually 3/triphase I think). These 21 pills can be followed by either a week of no pills or 7 "spacer" sugar pills for people who would forget to start taking pills again after a break.

The hormone birth control pills contain a fake estrogen (estradiol) and a progesterone, which mess with your own hormones and effectively make your body act pregnant instead of fertile (see hormone cycle for details). Different brands have different levels of hormones, some higher than others but all of which are "low dose." The original birth control pills from the 60s that tended to cause blood clots and strokes and other ugly things were much higher dose. The low dose ones can still cause those, especially if you smoke, but the risk is much less than before. Birth control pills need to be taken at the same time every day to be most effective, and the rest of the instructions come inside each pack.

I avoided going on birth control pills for some time. My beloved and I used condoms carefully with no problems for 2 or 3 months, but after dealing with their inadequacies and noting that it would actually be cheaper to be on the pill than pay for the number of condoms we tended to use in a month, we went to a walk-in clinic and got a chat and a free two month trial from a guy who had totally stolen a labcoat and was pretending to be a doctor. He was friendly enough, but I'm glad I read the instructions myself to find out how long you have to take the pills before it is safe to leave out the condoms and whatnot.

Pills cost about $20 (Canadian) a month at a drug store and are refundable on some medical plans. I buy mine for $10 a month (cost) at the Regional Health Unit Birth Control Clinic, which sells them for cheap on the condition that you get an in-depth education from a volunteer, a pelvic exam at their clinic once a year (free), and a check up with a doctor at various intervals (also free). They are anonymous and confidential and all that and generally run a good service. They like to involve the male partner, and got a big kick out of my getting a pap smear in the middle of a date while my beloved waited in the lobby. Coffee, pap smear, movie. A productive evening.

The first brand (doctors say "flavour"?) of pills I was on was Alesse, which is very low-dose and left me with annoying breakthrough bleeding and periods beginning on random days. I also had weird and quite bad tummy cramps (like intestinal, not uterine) for those five months that went away when I switched brands, but which no doctor thinks was due to the pills. I don't know. The reason I waited five whole months to switch was that it takes a few months to adjust to a hormone level, and side-effects take that long to settle down. These pills were ugly sage green in a pink rectangular blister pack with arrows between daily pills, all inside an ugly sage green vinyl pocket to keep the light out. They tasted like chemicals. I got the 21 day kind with no week of placebo TicTacs to round out the month. I like a week of not taking a pill every day. I hate always having pills in me.

Alesse brand birth control pills have just embarked on a ridiculous marketing campaign involving thin girls with bouncy hair, big eyes and smooth skin giving lifestyle advice which is in no way related to birth control ("A lesson in style: no one remembers how you arrive... it's how you leave. Alesse." "A lesson in appearance: fashion is something you buy; style is something you possess. Alesse." Presumably Alesse is now short for "a lesson" and pregnancy is now a look). It bugs me that they are trying to make prescription drugs a lifestyle accessory. Kind of pointless though cause I don't think very many doctors let you pick your own drugs.

Anyway, my current pill flava is LoEstrin, or charming MiniEstrin in French. These are slightly higher dose but still low because I get migraines and high-dose pills could trigger them. They are minty green in a white square blister pack with arrows between daily pills and a set of calendar stickers to put across the top of the pack to label the days of the week, with the option to start on any day. Clever. They come in French too. The whole thing is packaged in a vile black vinyl/suede (?!) pocket. For some reason they have been flavoured to be minty. They are 21 day also.

Recently I got a pack of 28 day pills, because the clinic was out of my usually preferred 21 day. That isn't too exciting except that the spare week of pseudo-pills is this stupid pink colour, and the arrows on the pack are orange instead of green. I didn't take the extra pills, so my boy said he would. He chickened out for fear they might not be entirely hormone-free. Also it is nice to not take pills.

The extra week of pills confused me. Normally it is easy to look at the pack and see how many days are left until I bleed. These ones tricked my into thinking I had an extra week. Minor issue :)

I briefly possessed a trial pack of TriPhasil brand three-phase (three different hormone levels per month) pills, white, yellow and red in a teal (!) blister pack in a teal pocket with horrible pink celestial suns on it. Who designs these things?? The suns looked like skulls!

I bet someone soon gets the brilliant idea to make birth control pills in glittery girlie cases to match the shitty lady razors and other products they've made that way lately. Chicks will probably start buying the man-pills if they ever come out, just to get them in cooler cases. Man razors kick ass on lady razors (sorry, I used to work at this grocery store and we kept all the razors behind the counter where I stared at them when there were no customers).

I don't know why birth control pills are all aligned to 28 day cycles. For most brands, all of the pills are exactly the same, and don't modulate your monthly cycle except that you bleed when you stop taking them. I assume the people who designed birth control pills just picked the average cycle length, which was conveniently an exact number of weeks long (4, not 4 and 3 days). It would make sense to me to make custom pill packs as long as a woman's usual cycle, as you would think she would be cycling that frequently for some reason or other, but maybe pills wouldn't work that way. If a woman's personal natural cycle length wasn't important, you'd think that pill makers would at least devise a pleasantly long cycle like 6 or 7 weeks, so that women on the pill could enjoy not only lighter periods, but less frequent periods, and be the further envy of other women. Again, I don't know if this would actually work. I need to find a doctor who can properly explain pills to me, in more detail than "What the pill does, is stop you from getting pregnant." Why, for example, does missing a pill in the middle of a pack allow for possible ovulation, when not taking pills during the week between packs doesn't?

Some folks are now claiming it is safe (even preferable) to take packs of pills back-to-back and skip the period week in between. How come, if you can take pills for any length of continuous time, can you not stop any time? Why do you have to finish the 3 week units or risk pregnancy? What is so magic about 3 weeks of hormones? Why couldn't I skip every other week of pills if I felt like it? Or 3 days every 30 days sort of like my old cycle? This idea has a whole page to itself now, under bleeding.

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