Thursday, November 15, 2007

From the desk of Jacquie's daughter...

Two years ago I decided to make a drastic lifestyle change. I had spent the past six years depending on a common prescription drug. I began taking it daily at 16, not realizing the global impact it would have on my health. There were months where I felt numb, as though my hormones were sealed off. It made me feel disconnected from my body, my rhythms, and normal emotions. Every girl I knew in university depended on the same drug. Fifty years ago, we would have been revolutionary feminists, taking control of our bodies and reproductive choices. But I felt like my body was out of control – a sensory-deprivation chamber.

The pill is an odd thing. It comes in packaging of different shapes and sizes, but mine were in round packets with pills in three colours. Popping one out each night at 10 pm felt like a grotesque simulation of a Christmas ritual – opening the door to an advent calendar and eating the chocolate within. The only complaint I ever heard from other girls was how annoying it was having to remember to take the pill every day. Some spoke of how they wanted to switch to the patch or take a shot, or even have their periods disappear completely.

While dating in university, I remembered my mum telling me as a kid that the pill can inhibit and alter one’s normal sex hormones, suppressing sexual interest and responses. I wondered if my pheromone responses were messed up and if I’d ever been attracted to the right guys.

Then, I had a moment of reckoning. After Christmas, two years ago, finished with both the advent calendar and my packet of pills, I asked my doctor if there were any reliable alternatives for contraception that wouldn’t impact my hormones. When I she told me about copper IUD’s, my first thoughts were of medieval torture gadgets and pelvic inflammatory disorder. My doctor assured me that this wasn’t the 70’s anymore, all the women in her office used them, and she had used IUD’s herself for over 20 years.

“So, what’s the catch?” I asked.

“There is none.”

This seemed ridiculous. I felt completely betrayed. None of my previous doctors had mentioned IUD’s before – why weren’t they throwing these things at women like party favours?

“They’re just not a hot consumer item because prescription drug companies don’t make any money off of them compared to the pill.”

Then I looked at the statistics: Less than 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15-45 use IUD’s. The failure rate is very low - between 0.09 and 0.25 % - even less than the pill. It's slim, tiny, and undetectable. I paid only $90 for mine, which I think was partially covered by my extended medical plan, and it stays in for 5 years. There are no hormone imbalances, no alarms going off every night at 10 pm, no increased risks of cancer, etc., although it's best not to use an IUD unless in a monogamous relationship - it makes it riskier to catch STD's. Most care providers don't have up-to-date information on IUD's or know how to insert them - another reason why they are so uncommon. There isn't just a huge consumer influence on the public to use the pill, care providers are pushed in that direction as well.

Yes, it in hurt like hell for a minute when the doctor put it in – but that was it, one minute – and yes, I had strong period cramps for a few months. But knowing that I was drug-free, I was myself, and that my body was normal again, was amazing. Plus, I was sticking it to the pharmaceutical companies! My period is like clockwork and when we one day decide to get pregnant, out it comes at the doctor’s office and we can start trying right away.

It's sad to realize that I never really knew myself, my body, during those 6 years. But now I know that when I explode into tears, or want to curl up in a nest, it's just because I'll have my period in two days, and not because of the side effects of the pill. I feel like I'll be more in tune with the changes of pregnancy, when I'm there one day. - Sarah Munro

(photo: "Flying IUD" sculpture, University of California, Santa Cruz)

(Note from Jacquie: I asked Sarah to write a post on IUDs because, in all my years as a doula, I can only remember one client who had used an IUD prior to a first baby. Most women aren't told the real story about IUDs - that they are a safe choice for many women to consider, that they can be fitted prior to childbearing, that they can be used safely while breastfeeding, that the copper IUDs keep your body clean of BCP hormones...
that they are about living autonomously. Check out more info online, including contraindications.)

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