Recently, fellow bloggers Paul and Lori Byerly of The Marriage Bed and Sheila Gregoire with To Love, Honor and Vacuum posted on birth control methods. The Byerlys’ article covered recent studies on the negative effect of oral contraception on women’s sexual satisfaction, while Sheila’s post provided a great summary of the range of birth control options available to married couples. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage also added her take on this birth control conversation.
What birth control method a couple chooses is a very personal decision and includes such factors as if and when they desire to have children, financial wherewithal, what feels comfortable to each and both. Since I’m absolutely fine with sharing my own experience, I wanted to add my personal two cents to this topic of birth control.
I started taking oral contraception in high school. It wasn’t to protect me against unwanted pregnancy, but rather to regulate heavy and horrible periods. My doctor proposed the pill as a way to get my menstruation under control. It definitely helped.
It also meant that when I became sexually active, I was already used to taking the pill so that was my choice of contraception. I took it for a few years without problem. When I decided to behave like a good girl, I chucked the premarital sex and the pill along with it.
After marriage, I got back on the pill. A couple of years into it, I experienced a terrible depression. I was tired all of the time, cried for no reason, and generally felt awful. My doctor suggested antidepressants, which I began taking. When I was too nauseous to stand it, I stopped taking those pills. I also decided to stop taking The Pill for a while. Voilá! As if a magician had pulled an unexpected rabbit from a hat, my depression was gone.
I tried another contraceptive pill (different hormonal balance), and it had the same effect. After two bouts of depression with oral contraception, I no longer wanted to mess with my hormones. Goodbye, pill!
I have used condoms only a handful of times. I have friends who swear by their use, saying that they are easy to manage, keep the mess to a minimum, and don’t alter your body’s balance like oral contraception.
For myself, I hate condoms. First off, is it just me or do any other wives out there think it looks really weird to see your hubby’s penis shrink-wrapped for sex? The bigger issue with me, though, is the lack of skin-to-skin contact. Friction increases arousal and thus the possibility of orgasm. I found it difficult to climax when my husband wore a condom.
Perhaps we could have tried various brands and styles. For instance, ribbed condoms provide more friction. However, I concluded here that skin against skin was an important part of the sexual experience to me. Goodbye, condoms!
What were my choices now? I saw my gynecologist and talked to him about options — knowing what my goals and desires for birth control were. All hormonal treatments were out — no pill, shots, under-the-skin, etc. No IUD because that violates my moral stance. (Note: IUDs do not prevent fertilization of an egg; they prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Revised: A reader informed me that the copper IUD releases copper which is toxic to sperm, thus preventing fertilization; I checked her statement and confirmed that the device indeed works toward preventing fertilization and implantation.)
My doc suggested trying a diaphragm. A diaphragm is a bendable disc with a semi-sphere shape. A woman’s vagina is measured by a doctor so that he can prescribe the correct size. Fit is important because this is a barrier method. In addition to the diaphragm itself, one should apply a spermicide to the edge just in case those crafty sperm swimmers find a teeny opening around the disc.
The first few times I used the diaphragm, it took a while for me to apply the spermicidal gel, bend the diaphragm in half, insert it properly, and then move my fingers out so that it could get into place. After using it for a while, however, I could pop that baby in faster than you could sing a verse of “Camptown Races.”
This was THE METHOD FOR ME. I wished that I had started out with this method. I loved it! It left my hormones alone. It lasted for a long time and did not require me to remember to take something daily or buy something weekly. It just sat there in my night table drawer ready for me when I needed it. It was easy to insert and easy to remove. I could leave it in for several hours and wasn’t bothered by its presence. It prevented pregnancy until we were ready. Hello, diaphragm!
So am I suggesting that every wife go out and get herself a diaphragm because I’m raving about it? Absolutely not.
What I learned through my experience is this: I should have really researched the options when I was first looking into birth control. Instead, I walked into my doctor’s office, asked about birth control, and walked out with the standard pill prescription. Looking back, I believed that my only goal was to prevent pregnancy. Over time, I discovered that there were other considerations for me as well — such as skin-to-skin contact and convenience.
Each woman and couple needs to look at what is important to them when choosing a birth control method. Various methods have pros and cons. (Be sure to read the Byerlys’ interesting article about recently-discovered cons of oral contraception.)
But study the methods yourself. Look into the advantages and disadvantages. Don’t rely on your physician or your best friend who suggests the method they like is the method for you. It may be; it may not be.
Also, I wouldn’t put too much stock into the claims that the pill is 99%+ effective while another method is only 98%+ effective and make your decision based on that. I’ve known a few couples who used the pill properly and still got a little munchkin and couples who have successfully prevented pregnancy with natural family planning for years. If you use any birth control method properly, it will likely work. Until that one time when it doesn’t, and I believe that God can get you through that one.
Of course, if you really want to prevent any future pregnancies, I could write a whole other post entitled “In Praise of Vasectomy.” For now, I’ll avoid having my male readers grab their crotches protectively until I can give that topic more coverage.
Your turn: What birth control method do you absolutely love? Go ahead and rave below. Why do you love it? What considerations do you take into account when choosing a birth control method?