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At Age 14, Going on the Pill Was Empowering. So Was Quitting It at Age 33

I started having my period at 14 years old. Right away I was having very long and very heavy periods. But because I was so young, I didn’t really know that that was an issue. I thought what I was experiencing was what a period was supposed to be. But I lost color in my face, and I would come home from school every day and nap for like two hours. Eventually my mother asked what was going on with me, and I told her that I’d had my period for like 18 days at that point.

She took me to the doctor immediately, and we found out I was anemic. Among other options, we talked about going on the pill, which would help regulate my heavy periods and keep me from bleeding so much. So we decided to do that. And to be honest, I didn’t really think of it as a choice: It was like, I can’t continue to bleed like this on my period. So, okay, I’ll go on the pill.

But looking back on it now, as an adult, I’m really happy that I was able to go on the pill without it being any kind of difficult decision or awkward conversation with my parents about wanting to be sexually active. That element of things was taken off the table for me early, and because of that, I was able to make the decision about when I wanted to have sex without the fear of getting pregnant. It was empowering in that regard: I didn’t have to sneak off to Planned Parenthood.

At 33, though, I was focusing a lot on my health and started eating very clean and switching out most of my health and beauty products to more natural and organic brands. I didn’t like the fact that I had been taking synthetic hormones for almost 20 years, so I decided to go off the pill. I thought that I could regulate my hormones naturally instead of relying on the pill to do it for me.

I went without birth control for two years, and my body did pretty well on its own. My periods were regular and manageable—nothing like they were when I was 14. But when I got into a serious relationship and I wasn’t ready to get pregnant, I decided to go back on some kind of birth control.

I didn’t want to be on hormonal birth control, so I researched all the nonhormonal options. I’ve never liked condoms, and I wasn’t thrilled about putting chemicals like spermicide in my body in order to make a diaphragm effective. Ultimately I got a copper IUD.

It felt different than the first go-round with birth control, when I went on the pill. I had so many options. But also, when I was 14 years old and with my mother and my doctor, it felt like the decision was being made for me. But when I decided this time, I talked to my doctor, I did all of the research. This time it felt more like it was fully my decision, which was definitely very, very empowering.

When I was talking to people and doing my research, it was interesting to me how often people automatically defaulted to saying, “Why don’t you just go on the pill?” It felt good for me to keep pushing in the direction that I wanted to go, and to do my own research and make a decision that aligned with my values and health goals, despite it’s maybe not being the easiest or most obvious option.

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