You would not believe how often I received the response, “Why do you use the pill? You don’t need it.” (So often in fact that I’m worried all of you will go, ‘erm, yes… you don’t need the pill, you’re gay.’) Even more curious is that I don’t just get this question from men. Women also ask me why I need to use contraception as if it’s a bad thing. I don’t get it. All women know/have experienced the pain of periods, right? Let me tell you, as a lesbian they’re not any more pleasant.
I remember walking through the canteen of my secondary school when I was about twelve years old. Food was on the left, toilets on the right. The tables were set up in the middle on below the floor level in, which could be reached by walking down a small set of stairs. My friends and I were heading for a table when I felt something slip out of my vagina, or something like that. I wasn’t sure what I felt. I worried if some pee had involuntarily come out.
I rushed to the toilet past the stairs and around a pillar. I felt like everyone was looking at me. Walking up there while everyone could watch me from below felt incredibly exposing. Luckily, a cubicle was free and relieved, I closed the door. With a little dread, I pulled down my trousers. When I saw my underwear, a red, sticky substance stuck to its insides, a little thread still connected to where it’d come from. I knew what this was. Mum had put pads in my backpack a while ago, just in case. I just hadn’t expected it so early. I’d heard that few girls only get it when they’re eighteen. I had been hoping I was one of them.
(This was never made with the intention to be used for this post, in fact for that, the red should be on the other side of the vagina, but once I saw it it immediately made me think of period bleeding or the eruption of a volcano, which also, makes me think of period bleeding, lmao.)
Mum said she kept track of her periods so that she could predict when one would come. I followed her example but very quickly I noticed that mine weren’t exactly regular. Sometimes I’d get one, two weeks after the last. Sometimes I wouldn’t have one for six weeks (though this became rare, and it was more often the former as I got older). Mine never lasted just a few days. They tended to be between five and ten days long. Mum said it might take a while before my period found its rhythm. It was new after all, but it never did. It was an annoying inconvenience and an expensive one, I later learned when I moved out.
My period became even more of an inconvenience when I had my first girlfriend as neither of us wanted to have sex when one of us was on their period and mine lasted rather long and came back way too soon. Imagine how disturbing it got when we went into a long-distance relationship. If she was visiting me for a week after three months I didn’t want to be on my period.
She suggested I start taking the pill to regulate my period and I thought, why not? It would improve my life so much if I didn’t have to worry about bleeding at inconvenient moments.
The first pill I tried back in early 2016 didn’t work for me. It worked just fine until my first period hit as I didn’t stop bleeding afterwards. It went on for two months before the doctor agreed to try something else. She suggested the contraceptive injection, which has to be re-done every three months or so. It worked so well. I no longer got my period at all and even after my break-up, I was more than happy to keep it that way.
Unfortunately, I started being plagued by migraines midway through 2017. I went back to the doctor who said the migraines might be caused by my contraception. I had to wait one more month before the effects of the last injection stopped and surely, the first period came and my migraines didn’t stop. Still, the doctor thought it was better if I let my period get back to regulating itself. It was only after two and a half months of constant bleeding that she thought it was time to check if something was wrong or if perhaps, we needed another method of contraception to make it stop.
She wanted to check for STI’s and other possible infections. Was I having sex? No, not with men and, no, I’d only had sex with my ex from a year ago. Still, she had to make sure (which, fair enough I guess). She did two swab tests and then wanted to have a look inside. The tests came back negative and she’d been unable to look inside as I was bleeding (duh?!). It hurt to pee for five days after.
I was referred to a sexual health centre. The referral took an extra two months and by this point, I had been bleeding for at least four months. (I had been given iron supplements as I had been losing too much blood, obviously.) Here, the women wanted to look inside but listened to my fear of having anything inserted considering last time. She tried and I just about managed. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
She concluded that it would probably be better to give me a different pill before sending me on for research in the hospital, as it was unlikely I could cope with that kind of insertion. She chose the one that wouldn’t cause migraines and told me to come back if bleeding still wouldn’t stop. She didn’t do anything the doctor couldn’t have done, but at the very least, after a few weeks, I stopped bleeding!
About a year later, I had to come off this one too because it clashed with another medication I was taking. Of course, it meant that I started bleeding again. I begged the doctor to give me something else as I didn’t want to wait and see if my period would start regulating itself. After all, it had never been good to begin with anyway. Luckily, she listened to me and pretty soon, my problem was over. I skipped the break (and had to because again, other medication. I didn’t mind!) and never shed any more blood.
Over a year on this pill, I started bleeding twice and both times, I had to first stop the pill and then restart it three or four days later, which made it go away. The last time this happened was one and a half month ago. The cramps hit me, a three-day headache followed and worst of all, constipation. When I restarted the pill after four days I was nearly praying. Please, please, please work and make the bleeding stop. I did not want to have to go through this whole continuous bleeding business again.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, three weeks ago I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. It was likely caused by the pill as there is no other plausible explanation for someone my age. I wasn’t even on the pill that specifically has a higher risk of causing a pulmonary embolism. Purely bad luck. As a result, I had to go off the pill.
In the hospital I thought, please don’t let it be a pulmonary embolism. If I have to spend one more night in this hospital, can barely move or breathe because of this pain and start bleeding tomorrow because of discontinuing the pill I’m going to fall down a negative spiral that will lead to suicidality and dissociation (bear in mind that I had not slept at all. Lack of sleep is one of my biggest triggers.)
The good news is that once they diagnosed a pulmonary embolism I got to go home. The bad news is that I am never allowed to take the pill again. You have no idea how desperate and hopeless I felt. After three years of several months of bleeding and trying one middle of contraception after the other I really just wanted to, you know, not bleed or have to think about it. I quickly realised that my only other option now was to have an IUD, an option I had always desperately avoided. As you might have gathered I do not fare well with vaginal insertion. Still, by this point, the prospect of more never-ending periods was worse.
I called the doctor who could only see me for a consultation on the sixth of January. As my period returned on the fifteenth, twenty-two days of bleeding until only a consultation felt like a nightmare. Why do I have to be unlucky enough to get a pulmonary embolism and then get punished for it by bleeding? Why do I have to get a period? I don’t even want children. And for everyone that says I will change my mind because I’m still too young, kindly leave, please.
By chance of luck, a friend who’s a doctor managed to ask one of her colleagues if she could see me sooner perhaps and place the IUD. She could! And on the eighteenth, I had it placed. The speculum hurt a lot. The one time I used it with Miss Lois I only managed to put it on its first opening setting. The doctor told me to relax but honestly, who can in these kinds of situations? I can’t really differentiate the things she did after placing the speculum. I just remember my legs shaking and it felt like I pushed the thing your feet rest on off the table every time she moved anything inside of me. (I don’t know how that’d be possible but it felt like it, lol.)
I do remember the sensation when the IUD was pushed inside. I couldn’t feel it entering vaginally but I could almost feel it in my butt or something? It was very unpleasant. Kind of reminded me of the feeling when pushing a large, long object inside your butt except it felt worse. But once it was done it was ok. It was just the speculum that was hurting me a lot. I felt very relieved when it was removed and I could dress again. It only hurt that day.
So why am I taking contraception? Because bleeding freaking sucks! And even if I wasn’t constantly bleeding, I would still take contraception because bleeding once a month with added cramps, headaches and constipation is horrible. Men, imagine if you were ill for a few days every month! (Who am I kidding, that’s what student life is like, ha, fml.)
Additionally, do you know how expensive it is to have periods every month, let alone all the time? We have free pads and tampons at my university in Scotland now but why the hell do women have to pay tax on these kinds of products? They aren’t luxury products. They are necessary. We aren’t choosing to bleed.
I don’t think any woman should need to explain or justify why she is using contraception. It doesn’t matter whether they use it as birth control, for a medical reason or simply because they hate this monthly bloody monster. And now, let’s hope my IUD works.
Read about my coming out story here.