Going Back on Birth Control After Going Off

If my body were a temple I would be sort of a F5 level Tornado. It’s not entirely my fault. On hormones, off hormones, switching hormones, going continuously on hormones. The straw the broke the camels back, as it turns out, was narcissism. Six months in to my purge from hormonal birth control my body went through what seemed like puberty round two. My skin broke out for the first time in over a decade. My hair was unbearably greasy. My complexion looked dull, and no matter how hard I tried to smile with my eyes, I looked dead inside.

It’s possible that’s because for the last decade my body had been fed with a more or less steady stream of estrogen. This is the me that I knew. The me pumped with hormones. I thought I was strong enough to beat it. I know if I’d waited just a little longer I might have stabilized. But I’m weak. It all came crashing down with that final, unbeatable pimple. And then all of the things that birth control had provided me clicked at the same time.

I was sick of depending on condoms in an unstable and terrifying political climate. Is the condom good? Did it break? It is safe? Am I pregnant? What if I get pregnant and I can’t get an abortion? What if abortion is illegal? What if I decide I want to get back on birth control but I no longer have insurance? My cycle was irregular and physically demanding. My initial uptick in mood had leveled off and I no longer felt self-righteous euphoria. I almost crawled back to my doctor asking her for more. I take no pride in this moment.

The Rebirth(controlling)

I asked for a lower hormonal dose, I started the next day. I’ve kept the pills in my desk drawer as a sign of my defeat.

I am still critical of how we dependent we are on hormones. Women, in particular, as the bearer of protection and the bearer of children. But there simply isn’t a similar option for men, yet. And even if there was, how can we really know for sure that extended use of hormones is safe? I might have a stroke, I might get a blood clot, or I might just not get pregnant. These are the moderately well-informed risks we take.

I now feel more in control of my own sexual health, again. Which is in direct competition with what I said before. Not being on birth control also made me feel more in control of my own sexual health. It’s just the way it is. I’m a complex person and I hold a multitude of feelings. I’m unlikely to get pregnant. My cycle quickly regulated. My skin cleared up in a week. And my hair has decided it’s okay to brush it again.

The Great Both/And

The moral here is that I may not have found my end all be all. Maybe you haven’t, either. Perhaps there is no final solution. Sometimes we’re on hormones, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we feel good about it, sometimes we don’t. It is intersectional, my feelings on these pills. My privilege of having them. The frustration that I have to use them. My fear of losing them. The concern that one day they may not work the way they are intended. The little pleasures they bring. The potential medical grief they could bring down upon me.  I’m going to take it one day at a time. I hope that my admission that it’s not always so clear makes it a little easier for you to ask these questions too.

Do you need advice? Submit at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog. Today, start a calendar to track your sexual and mental health. You can use a notebook and journal, jot notes in your schedule, bullet journal, or write on a scrap piece of paper. How do your emotions change throughout the month? How often are you having sex? What kinds of symptoms do you experience throughout the month (headaches? stomach pain? arousal?) If you menstruate, what is your cycle like? Do you have PMS? Make the calendar your own and see where trends pop up.

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Lena Cup Review

People who talk about menstrual cups fall into one of two camps. They are so absolutely obsessed with them that it’s a little creepy and you want them to stop talking, or they’ve never tried them before. I found a third category. People who are obsessed with menstrual cups but are turned off by the first group of people – the very vocal– so they keep their obsessions to themselves. A good chunk of my friends have flicked their tampons to the curb and gone full silicone. Now I know.

Like other humans, I sometimes get a little judgmental about things I don’t know much about. That was the primary reason I decided to try a menstrual cup. When I see this trait in myself, it must be squashed with experience. I hadn’t ever tried one before but for some reason I had an irrational hatred of them.

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a cup for menstruation. You slide it into your vagina and it catches and holds blood. After up to 12 hours you pull the cup out, empty it, wash it, and either re-insert it or place it in the storage bag. Menstrual cups can be washed and reused every month. A cup can last years with proper care.

Don’t you get blood everywhere?

I was pleasantly surprised at how using the LENA Cup allowed me to actually acknowledge my body. Tampons and pads actively minimize the amount of contact you have with your body and with your period. That’s the point, right? This adds to the narrative that periods are dirty and gross and you shouldn’t talk about them.

The LENA Cup wasn’t the mess I’d imagined.

When the cup is inserted, it seems to take the fluids with it as it slides up. In my use, this prevented any mess. It seemed to be a cleaner process than a tampon because I didn’t have to fiddle with any kind of trash. If you’ve ever had a period, you know that any kind of period trash can be pretty yuck. Especially in public bathrooms. No wrapping tampons in toilet paper or having to toss applicators in the trash.

You have to empty the cup at some point, though!

I had never seen how much I was actually bleeding so I had no idea what to expect. If you are uncomfortable with the sight of blood, you can remove the cup while sitting and knock it back into the toilet without looking. How much blood is in the cup will depend on how heavy you bleed, where you’re at in your cycle, and how long you keep the cup in. Wash it off with a bit of gentle soap, and slip it back in.

It looks too big to insert, how does that work?

You will use a menstrual cup folding technique to get the cup in. This makes the cup insertion size about equal to that of a tampon. The cup slides up and it pops open, sealing to your vaginal walls. This process involves touching your labia and pressing up a bit into your vagina to make sure it’s securely in.

There may be a learning curve with insertion. I would recommend pairing with a liner until you become comfortable enough going solo. The removal process may also require a bit of patience the first couple of times. Having an understanding of how to flex your pelvic muscles to lower the cup downwards can assist in getting it out quickly.

The cup is made of a very smooth medical grade silicone that is super safe for your body and the environment. Because it’s so super smooth, and because it flexes to your body, you’re not likely to feel it. I had always been able to tell when I had a tampon in by flexing or simply feeling it sit there. The silicone is so thin and light that I very rarely notice that it’s there at all. The LENA Cup can stay in for up to 12 hours. The length of insertion time combined with the smooth material made my period exceptionally less aggravating.

What about the different sizes?

There are a lot of different menstrual cups out there. You may need to try more than one to find that one brand that suits you. Most menstrual cups also come in two sizes: Pre-Childbirth or Post-Childbirth. LENA Cup is cool because it bases the size recommendations on the flow you have, not whether or not you’ve had a child.

The LENA Cup costs $24.90. At an estimate, I was spending a couple of hundred dollars a year on tampons or liners.  It’s saving me money. And, to be honest, it’s just cool. (Note: I still keep tampons in my bag + bathroom for those not-too-rare solidarity moments.)

LENA did not send me this product for review or pay me to say these things. I’m happy to be proven wrong once again in the judgement department. Bleed on, little uterus.

Buy the LENA Cup.
Buy the Moon Cup.
Buy the GladRags XO Flo Cup.

Have a question about menstrual cups? Submit anonymously by going to Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer on my blog. Prefer email response? I try to respond as quickly as possible to one on one questions: ask at suggestivetongue dot com. Today, try to challenge your preconceived notions of something you feel judgmental about. You try that green juice. You wear leggings as pants. I live in Portland and make no excuses for these examples. Until next time. xox st.

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