Advocating for our health: Students explore birth control options


Amoura Deering, Staff Writer

For women on birth control, the medication is part of their daily lives. From their teens until they decide to start a family, they jack their bodies up on hormones to prevent them from doing what they were meant to do: make babies.

Most people refer to birth control as “the pill,” but there are far more options out there than just pill packs. All reversible birth control options contain hormones (except the ParaGuard intrauterine device, which is made of copper.)

When I was 16 years old I went on birth control. It wasn’t because I was sexually active nor was it for acne. I was underweight due to anorexia nervosa and my body felt periods were unnecessary.

My family has a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal imbalance that can cause infertility, and my doctor thought birth control would be the best option for my health. He theorized the hormones in the pills would help regulate the hormones in my body, and they did. Temporarily.

Two years later, my body built a reliance on the pills to the point where if I missed a dose by mere hours, I would start my period. I felt I needed a change.

I went back to my doctor, expressed my concerns and was given “all” my options. I was told I could change to a different pill or I could have an intrauterine device placed. My doctor skipped over options like the patch, the shot and the Nexplanon implant.

I went with the advice of my doctor and had the Mirena IUD placed. I was told it was the best option out there; it had minimal side effects and lasted for five years.

The placement was uncomfortable and I had cramps for a week, but once they subsided, things seemed fine. I was protected and didn’t have to remember to take a pesky pill every day. I was content with my choice.

Now, here I am with heinous cramps and uncontrollable bleeding for more than a month. I called my doctor out of concern and was told it is a normal side effect of the Mirena. I was also told an acne breakout was also a side effect.

I was left angry and upset because I wasn’t told about these side effects before the IUD was placed inside my body. I was desperate to find someone who felt the same unhappiness as I did.

Santa Rosa Junior College student Sierra Garcia, 21, had similar frustrations with her birth control choice. “I had originally been on Nexplanon for about a year, but it made my monthly cycle really unpredictable and my period would last for months at a time,” she said. “It began to drive me crazy. It would also itch horribly from time to time, so I switched to a tri-phasic pill and it works really well for me.”

Sixty-two percent of women of reproductive age are currently using contraception. The most common method is the pill at 28 percent, according to a 2010 Center of Disease Control survey.

Doctors should hold the responsibility to thoroughly inform their patients of all options and all possible side effects of each one. They shouldn’t just give their personal favorites and not explain them fully.

As women, we need to fully educate ourselves on our bodies and our options. We have resources here on campus available to us for low cost, and in most cases, free.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, Student Health Services teams with Santa Rosa Community Health to bring reproductive health services to the Santa Rosa campus. SRCH offers low cost Pap smears, birth control options, STD testing and pregnancy tests, among many other resources to SRJC students. Call ahead at (707) 527-4445 to make an appointment; slots can fill quickly.

As women, we can’t just rely on doctors to tell us what’s best for our bodies. We all must advocate for our health. If we don’t have our best interests in mind, then who really does?