25 Women Talk About How Birth Control Changed Their Lives For The Better And Worse
Birth control (in the form of the pill) has been available in the U.S. since 1960. Countless women have benefitted from being able to take the birth control pill, the shot, use the patch, an intra-uterine device, or the arm implant (along with condoms and so many other forms of birth control) since then.
To showcase how birth control has affected women’s lives, both positively and occasionally negatively, we’ve spoken to 25 Latinas to get their real stories.
1. The one whose mom encouraged it.
“I started hormonal birth control pills when I was 16 or 17. The primary reason was my dysmenorrhea (horribly painful cramps without reason) but the timing of my mom saying ‘You should do this’ just happened to coincide with the time my (white) teenaged friend had a baby. Since then, I’ve almost always been on it, and many many different kinds, to keep my period away for as long as possible. I tried an IUD for a year, but due to a particularly sensitive cervix, I felt bloated and uncomfortable (and STILL got my period and cramps) throughout the entire year. I’m back on birth control pills now, wishing I could cut it from my life because the hormones make my mood effing crazy.” – Cyn
2. The one who is a fan of Nexplanon.
“My preferred method is Nexplanon but it is not widely available overseas. They’re good for THREE years and I had to have it removed in Costa Rica. The HR person at my boyfriend’s company assured us that a doctor there could do it. Turned out he had just watched a YouTube video on it and had no actual experience. I now have a scar and really great memory of a shitty minor surgery. Fast forward and I’m now living in Istanbul. The OB-GYN I emailed clearly didn’t know what Nexplanon is — she suggested I talk to a pharmacist? — so I need to figure out a way to get it removed because it “expired” last month. When I had it put in, I assumed I’d be back in the U.S. more frequently. Kicking myself for not looking into this sooner because I probably could have gotten it removed or replaced in London. So now it’s back to condoms for me and boyfriend! I’m unclear on whether it’s still releasing hormones or to what degree, so I don’t want to add another hormonal method of birth control on top of it. A larger issue is that it took quite a bit of Googling before I could ascertain what countries Nexplanon is available in.” – Giselle
3. The one whose birth control helps better than antidepressants.
“I have clinical PMS. Past partners and I have been able to know my period is coming on because my depression suddenly worsens. Birth control helps with that more than antidepressants. I also enjoy the freedom it gives me. I’ve never been super regular so not having to worry about having a period at all, if I chose to, keeps me from having anxiety over potentially embarrassing incidents at work. When my longterm partner and I separated, my doctor and I talked about the options available for me considering I now had a family history of blood clots (on the side of my older half-sister). We settled on the shot since I can’t be trusted to take something every day. It’s time to get the shot again. It’s been sitting in my fridge for about a month. I can’t bring myself to inject myself. The needle is super long! I haven’t exactly kept my hookups a secret from my mom, but I feel awkward asking her, or any family member, for help.” – Gabby
4. The one who loves Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood has always been there for me. As a freelance theatre artist/marketer and now a writer, it was the only constant even while I had insurance. I’ve been on the pill, the patch (which I hated), Depo-Provera (which I loved) and now had a tubal ligation after two healthy pregnancies.” – Michelle
5. The one who had a NuvaRing fiasco in Spain.
“I had a NuvaRing fiasco. I’d been off of birth control for three years but was starting to have sex with men I didn’t know very well after moving to Europe. So I thought, ‘I’ll try the ring.’ Unfortunately, the doctor was awful and shamed me for wanting STD testing. HI was living in Spain at the time and he basically told me that if thought I was prone to STDs, then I was a whore. Still, I got him to give me the NuvaRing. When I asked for instructions, he said you just pinch and insert it. I did exactly that on the same day that I had sex with a guy I had been seeing for the first time. He was Egyptian and very well endowed. He used a condom because obviously I didn’t trust this new ring in my vagina and wasn’t in a committed relationship with him. But next morning, after he left, I found the ring in the sheets. Long story short, I spent like 50 Euro on it and it was a waste because I didn’t even have it for one full day and once it’s out of your body and not in the fridge, it’s basically worthless.” – Lola
6. The one who whose IUD healed her trauma.
“In terms of meaningful, NOTHING helped me recover from the worst of a sexual trauma than that IUD. But in terms of funny, I basically carry around brochures in my glove box to give to friends because I am an evangelist and think they are the GREATEST. The only bad thing about IUDs is you can only have one at a time. I would have four if I could!” – Johanna
7. The one who was raised Catholic but still tried birth control.
“I was raised Catholic and we were always told no birth control. When I got married, the priest said I had to use the family planning method but I used Implanon. I chose that because it was easy and I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to use birth control. I used it for a couple years but ended up getting blood clots, gaining weight, and having my period for like two or three weeks at a time. I got off it. I’ve been off birth control for three years now. I feel like it affected my body so much. I don’t think I’ll ever get on it again. I do think women have the right to chose and if they don’t get side effects, then they should use it.” – Vanessa
8. The one who got an IUD… and is now on the pill.
“My health insurance was about to expire last summer after I switched to freelancing, so I got an IUD so I wouldn’t have to take the pill while traveling. Well, after a year with it, my PCOS symptoms went haywire (acne, hair growth, etc.) so this summer I had to go back on the pill because there’s not enough hormones in the Mirena. I was going to get the IUD removed, but they couldn’t find the strings so I had a very invasive ultrasound and they saw it’s still in there, but the appointment to get it taken out wouldn’t have been for another two months so now I’m just going to keep it in another four years. But since I’m now on the pill too, my emotions are quite heightened from all the estrogen. So you could say the last year has been a trip, birth control-wise.” – Samantha
9. The one who was on the pill for 15 years.
“I originally went on birth control pills when I was about 16 years old because I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and had had a couple burst (which was incredibly painful). I was raised by a strict Catholic mother, so that’s pretty much the only way she ever would have allowed me to be on the pill, to be honest. I struggled with them (nausea, mostly), but took them diligently for more than 10 years until I was ready to have children. I went off them when I was 28, promptly got pregnant, and then went back on them until I was ready to have my second child. Because I’d gotten them as a teen, I stuck with the same prescription for over a decade and never had an issue. I did pay for them out of pocket when I was a college student because I had no insurance, but they weren’t expensive, and then when I got married, my husband had amazing insurance through work, and they were covered 100 percent. I didn’t have issues with weight gain or anything, but after my second child, I told my husband I didn’t want to take them anymore because at that point, I’d been on them mostly for about 15 years and I wanted to stop. He got a vasectomy and I haven’t taken them since.” – Kari
10. The one whose IUD literally saved her life.
“Getting pregnant can be a life-threatening issue for me and the baby. Because of my medical condition, I can’t use just any form of birth control. After almost dying from a blood clot related to taking oral birth control, I found out about IUDs and they have literally saved my life. I’m able to get pregnant by choice, under the care of a doctor, and prevent potentially deadly situations for me or my baby.” – Anne
11. The one who loves the Depo Provera shot.
“I suffered from age 13 with menstrual cramps so bad that I would black out from pain. I was losing close to a pint of blood a month, over a seven-day horror show and passing clots the size of chicken livers. Oral birth control made me horribly ill and aggravated my stomach ulcer. At age 24, after my first child, my doctor suggested Depo Provera, which utterly transformed my entire existence. I didn’t have periods at ALL. It was HEAVEN. I went off twice to become pregnant with my other two children and went back on immediately after their births. Unfortunately, I am sans birth control now due to spinal collapse which puts me at high risk for clots, But, on the plus side, I’m 44 and hopefully, menopause will come soon, AND I live in Uruguay now which has kickass over-the-counter meds for menstrual cramping.” – Grace
12. The one who is all about the Mirena IUD.
“I use the Mirena IUD — no maintenance, low hormone, periods have almost disappeared though I’m still cycling, and insurance covered it. Started my period at 10 1/2 and have always had a heavy flow, intense cramping, 21-day cycles, so when people say, ‘Oh, but your period is good for you, women need to do that’ I’m like, ‘No, thanks!'” – Adriana
13. The one who didn’t love the IUD.
“I was on the pill from around 17 to around 23 before I realized that the pill was what was causing my horrible mood swings, depression, and suicidal thoughts. I stopped taking it and almost immediately felt like a different person! My partner and I switched to condoms for a few years (which neither of us was crazy about) before I decided to try an IUD. I was in intense, constant pain all the time (plus strange period cycles) for a year and a half years and finally decided I’d had enough and took it out earlier this year. I now have Nexplanon (the arm implant) and so far it’s been the best of all options.” – Nicole
14. The one who got an IUD put in because of Trump.
“Birth control was never something that my mother discussed with me, so I had to figure it out for myself. My first experience with birth control was when I was in college and in my first grown-up relationship. I attended a Catholic University that didn’t prescribe birth control, so I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic. The clinic was not in the best neighborhood, and there were a lot of security measures to prevent attacks from anti-PP groups. Everyone was generally helpful, and I went on the pill for a few months. The pill wasn’t the best fit for me. I had awful cramps, and because my schedule was all over the place, taking medicine daily was not ideal. Now I realize that I could’ve tried different pills and that there can be a long adjustment period, but I didn’t have a dedicated gynecologist to help me work that out. While I was in a stable relationship, we went without hormonal birth control. That relationship eventually ended, but it wasn’t until Trump was elected that I decided to find a solution for my birth control. I ended up getting a copper IUD. My insertion was literally the day before Trump’s inauguration. So far, it’s been a good choice for me. Everything was covered by insurance, which is wonderful because it’s an expensive cost upfront. I am glad I found a non-hormonal option. My periods were usually pretty regular and light, so it made sense to go with an option that didn’t rely on hormones to regulate my cycle.” – Sarah
15. The one who thanks her pill because it lets her avoid a period.
“I use the pill to not have my period. It’s amazing. I have little side effects (although I had to try several ones to get it right) and am basically happy with it. And not only do I not have my period, my mood swings have gotten less as well. I love my pill (although it gets a bad rep at the moment). And, obviously, that’s on top of the very important reason for taking the pill which is to not get pregnant (hey, I already have three kids, that’s enough!).” – Olga
16. The one who had a bad IUD experience, and now uses Nexplanon.
“I use the arm one (Nexplanon) because of a kinda funny, definitely not-fun-at-the-time attempted IUD implantation. Here’s what happened: I spent 45 minutes at Planned Parenthood and they couldn’t get it in because my cervix is apparently too strong. Two different people tried to shove it in there. Meanwhile, I spent the full 45 minutes with their big metal thing hanging out of me twiddling my thumbs. Eventually, they gave up and I got the arm implant instead.” – Bri
17. The one who can’t take hormonal birth control.
“I have four children and cannot take any birth control due to blood clots. I’ve also had a stillbirth and an ectopic pregnancy. I was raised in a very Catholic household and, although I did use it for a time, also just feel conflicted about it now besides the health issues. I’m no longer religious but I am spiritual and I know there has to be life before birth as well as after death; that just makes sense to me. I don’t know that this baby will be my last. I would rather he not be. Where two eat, three can eat. We’re okay. We will make it work. Not interested to debate. Personal choice goes both ways. I choose to have the baby and I do not need assistance or anyone’s help really. I office out of my home so daycare costs aren’t an issue; those would’ve been prohibitive previously but they’re not a factor at this time. Flexible work and care options have been more life-changing than the availability of birth control in my case.
I would like to add that the above isn’t a popular view within the Latin community. Families are very concerned about their family size and related stereotypes. My in-laws keep hinting at birth control and vasectomies. I have had both doctors and pharmacists inside and outside of the U.S. prescribe/sell me pills I shouldn’t be using. I read my former OB the riot act about it because I have blood clots. The kind that kill you. The kind that make women at risk for embolism and stroke. The kind they should know better than to prescribe. She backpedaled quickly but I still came home with a sample ‘in case you change your mind.’ What, about not dying? No. I’m so glad to have switched OBs and not have it pushed on me. I wondered what kickback she was getting from a drug rep.” – Callie
18. The one who loved taking the pill, and only stopped to get pregnant.
“I started taking the pill even before I started having sex, just in case. I was in my early 20s at the time; I had been a ‘wait until marriage’ person, but I also didn’t want to be stupid and naïve, especially since my boyfriend and I had very good chemistry. I was still on my parents’ health insurance at the time (thanks, Obama), but my OB-GYN had already brought up the pill during a routine exam. So, when I was ready, I simply contacted her, she set up the prescription, and I began receiving it in the mail (especially awesome because I lived out of state). I kept using the pill until my husband and I had been married a couple years and were ready to start a family. I was lucky to not have any noticeable side effects from the hormones, although it was really nice to know exactly which day my period would arrive. And it was easy to simply stop taking the pill when we were ready to get pregnant. We used condoms in between kids because I didn’t want to add extra hormones to my postpartum body or accidentally forget to take a pill.” – Maria
19. The one who still faces a lot of shame from her Mexican Catholic family.
“My take as a Latina is that I had a lot of obstacles having access to birth control. First of all, it was the culture. My parents were traditional Mexican Catholics and not only was birth control never an option for me growing up. Now, as an adult who’s married, there is still a lot of shame when I discuss that I am on birth control. I truly learned about family planning from Planned Parenthood… And then there’s the other issue of not being documented and not having health insurance.” – Ximena
20. The one who didn’t react well to the pill.
“I tried the lowest dose pills and reacted badly to all of them with horrible mood swings and complete behavioral changes so, to be honest, I’ve been too freaked out to try anything else. My periods aren’t bad pain or bleed-wise but it’s always on my birthday/major holidays so I’d like to get rid of them. Forever.” – Camilla
21. The one who loves the pill because it helps with cramps.
“My doctor recommended the pill since I had terrible cramps (my mom had endometriosis and an early hysterectomy, and I was headed on the same path at 16 years old). It’s completely changed my life. I don’t know how people handle periods. They’re the worst. One part that’s not fun, though, is making sure my doctors get the prescription right. It seems like I’ve had to switch OB-GYNs every two years or so due to insurance changes, and I always have to remind them, ‘You need to write the prescription out for MORE pills than normal.’ I’ve worked in remote camps in Alaska for long stretches of time and not having to worry about being eaten by a bear — or deal with period stuff while in a camp with dudes and non-sanitary conditions — has been awesome.” – Linda
22. The one whose life has been deeply and positively impacted by birth control.
“I feel that birth control is very important. I honestly feel like it has made such an impact in stabilizing my mental state throughout the years; a surplus of estrogen definitely comes with its ups (hello, boobs!) and downs (oh, hey crazy mood swings).
Basically, looking at the nice, orderly rows of color-coded pills gives me a sense of hope and… Well, sense about my cyclical mood swings. It spells out that there is an end to my emotional hell week, where there is always one, sometimes two days that self-hatred and depression is at its worst. It tells me why I feel this way and reassures me that this is not going to be a constant status.
On Depo-Provera, I was an emotional, insecure, heavier-set wreck. I was paranoid, jealous, and my mood swings and irritability were unpredictable. I think it was because the hormones were a big dose at a time and not regulated in how it went through my body. I also had breakthrough bleeding and got PID. Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo was the magic formula that did it for me, stabilizing my moods throughout the month, allowing my weight to re-regulate, and helped me feel more in control.
Like I said, the color-coded pills that told me where my hormonal headspace was is incredibly reassuring and allowed me to focus on the “what” and not the “why” when it came to dealing with stress, problem-solving, and feeling in control of what was happening. I was switched to a monophasic once, though, and that made me nuts again. Higher levels of stress/anxiety, which affected my confidence. And I think it was Lutera, a generic OTCLo, that I got really, really depressed, but I don’t remember if it was Lutera or Alesse. So even though it was supposed to be the same pill, its effects were not the same.
I don’t remember how it feels to be on no birth control, but am as afraid to come off it as much for emotional reasons as I am for its main purpose. Honestly, I feel as grateful to being on it as someone who needs mood stabilizers, but as nervous as one, too, when people try to recommend IUD or say it’s not a lifelong long-term solution. I’m scared for the day when I won’t need birth control, to be honest, because it’s such a stabilizing force and security blanket for me! Especially since mood stabilizers zombify me really, really badly and make me think suicidal thoughts that I normally don’t at all. Weird, right? Totally defeats the purpose! But birth control makes me feel much more highly functional moodwise, and like I said, gives me hope and optimism by providing the light at the end of a tunnel visually and tangibly that the depression has a finite span.” – Susanna
23. The one who would get defensive if you tried to take the pill away from her.
“I started taking the pill at age 16 because I had horrific periods and was diagnosed with PMDD. Later, we figured out that I simply had regular depression but the pill made my life so much easier. Before then, I spent every period starting from age 11 being on maximum strength Midol for the first three or four days of menstruation. If I wasn’t drugged up the entire time, I would be hit with devastating cramps. Being on the pill made my periods light and almost entirely eliminated cramps. I will occasionally get mild cramps, but a bit of regular ibuprofen takes care of it. I’m lucky I don’t get bad side effects from the pill. I would punch anyone who tried to take them away from me in the face.” – Mariana
24. The one whose life was saved by birth control.
“Birth control has saved my life. I have cyclic vomiting syndrome and taking non-stop birth control is the only thing that prevents it. Before the doctors prescribed me birth control, I weighed 90 pounds and had to be hospitalized every two months for uncontrollable vomiting. Dehydration was a constant fear. Anyways, as long as I have birth control, I dont have to worry about it anymore.” – Alexa
25. The one whose PCOS is treated by birth control.
“I was diagnosed with PCOS at 20 years old and have been on birth control for a decade to treat it (regardless of whether I was sexually active or not). It’s been so incredibly helpful to have birth control covered in full by insurance these past years since ACA.” – Sofia
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