At 19, I Depend On Birth Control To Take Control Of My Future

By Lena Sakalla
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

While some people start birth control to become sexually responsible, my reasons for starting birth control were totally unrelated to the contraceptive benefits as it can also reduce acne, bone thinning, cysts forming in breasts and ovaries, serious infections in ovaries, iron deficiency, and PMS symptoms. I wanted to drastically reduce my PMS symptoms as well as establish a predictable schedule for my periods; both were achieved with the help of birth control. Before going on birth control, I suffered from a thing I like to call period paranoia; that’s the constant stress I had as my body continued to adjust to this whole menstruation thing. My period was irregular, and I could never prepare for it.

Eighty-five percent of women suffer from one or more PMS symptoms. I am one of the lucky 5-10 percent of women whose lifestyle is significantly impaired because of it. I suffered from endless PMS symptoms. With irregular cycles accumulating to sometimes twice a month in attendance, I was left with constant stress, mood swings, and fatigue, all while learning to manage severe depression. This added physical and mental taxation on my body, making it more difficult to multitask and succeed in my heavy school and theater schedule. It was extremely hard to maintain a healthy and happy mindset. I felt completely out of control of my emotions and my body three out of four weeks of the month — not cool. With birth control, I can regulate my cycles to a reliable schedule, and I don’t have to keep tabs on the nearest bathroom anymore.

While not a panacea, birth control made my road to recovery drastically easier. My mind and body were no longer at the mercy of my uncontrollable hormones. It helped moderate factors that were previously out of my hands while I pursued other methods to eliminate my depression. Today, I’ve learned to manage my depression and I'm less anxious than before. Instead of my body controlling me, I am in control of my body and my future.

At 19, I’ve finally gotten a handle on my menstruation and the rollercoaster PMS that accompanies it. Thanks to a specific rule included in Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, which established contraception as critical preventive health care, my birth control doesn’t cost me anything. But this benefit is under attack by the Trump administration, which recently released new rules allowing any university or employer to deny coverage for birth control because of “religious” or “moral” conflicts.

I am one of nearly 62.4 million women in the U.S. who can get copay-free birth control and I won’t sit quietly while they take it away.

Let’s face the facts: I’m a sophomore in college. If I had to start covering my birth control cost, my access would be drastically reduced. I’m not the only one: a recent study showed that 1 in 3 women said they could not afford to pay $10 or more for their birth control. More disturbingly, the Trump administration’s proposed change to this birth control rule could cost women up to $1,100 each year.

As a dependent of my parents, I know they would be unable to cover this expense, especially since starting birth control in the first place wasn’t necessarily an easy battle won.

So you can understand that as a young woman who depends on copay-free birth control, the Trump administration’s new rules to create massive loopholes for employers and universities to deny birth control coverage is distressing. By chipping away at the copay-free birth control benefit, the Trump administration is taking away my certainty to feel comfortable in my own skin, to be in charge of my health, and to just be me. The message from President Trump is loud and clear: women’s health is a nuisance and not a priority.

As President Trump saw in January, women won’t sit quietly while he rolls back women’s rights. That’s why I will do everything I can to urge the Trump administration to reverse course so that birth control doesn’t become unaffordable and inaccessible.

Lena Sakalla is a sophomore at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where she is majoring in Musical Theater. Lena has joined forces with the Keep Birth Control Copay Free campaign to get the word out about protecting access to copay free birth control. December 5th is the last day to speak out and submit an official comment on the Trump administration’s new birth control rules.