If You Have Endometriosis, The Best Birth Control Method Might Take Awhile To Find
One Christmas Eve, I passed out on my bathroom floor because my uterus was trying to kill me. My whole body ached. And hurt. And stung. I don’t even know the word to describe this level of pain. It was like swords were cutting through me and there were hot stones inside of my head and all of my skin was actually just made from a giant bruised peach. I would soon learn that the culprit was endometriosis. But, the best birth control method for managing endometriosis and its symptoms? That would remain a mystery for quite awhile longer.
Let's jump back to that Christmas Eve, though, when I spent the afternoon sprawled on my couch crying out in pain, wrapped in blankets and armed with hot water bottles, just trying to survive the day. Everyone thought that it was probably a good idea for me to see a gynecologist. And, terrified as I was by that thought — I was just 16 at the time, and the idea of sticking my feet in stirrups and having a doctor poke around my pelvic area was nightmarish — I had to agree.
After my first appointment (which was totally fine, BTW!), my doctors arrived at the conclusion that endometriosis was likely causing my problems — which sounded like total gibberish at the time. If, like my 16-year-old self, you're unclear on what endometriosis even is, allow me to explain. As Planned Parenthood defines it, "Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the inside of your uterus is found outside of your uterus. It’s a pretty common health problem that can be painful." (Tell me about it, sis.) There's no cure, but there are ways to help manage symptoms — including birth control!
Which is where my crazy, topsy-turvy birth control journey begins. Here's a look at every method I've tried, and the ways each has positively or negatively impacted my life.
(Full disclosure: This is 1000 percent based on my own experience with my uterus — a lot of women have hated methods I've loved, and vice-versa. Your doctor can help you find the methods that work best for your body and lifestyle.)
First up was the Pill, which made me want to cut my own arms off. It's been nearly a decade since I first tried the Pill, so I'm fuzzy on the details of which I was taking. But I'm p sure it was a Progesterone-only type, like Norethindrone.
Unfortunately, it made my body freak the eff out. I was, of course, supposed to take it at the same time each day. But if I missed my little "Pill Time!" alarm by even 15 minutes, I would immediately start bleeding. Like, a lot. And it didn't seem to helping manage my pain during my period, either. Boo.
So, after a couple of months on the pill (and several ruined pairs of light-wash jeans), I asked to switch gears and try a different birth control method.
Not that kind of shot, sadly.
No, the next, and longest, stop on my birth control journey involved trying the Depo-Provera shot — a shot of Progesterone hormones injected into my arm or booty every three months.
I liked that I no longer had to worry about birth control on a daily basis. The shot is 99 percent effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy. And, in many cases (mine included), it completely stops your period — I saved so much money on tampons and Midol! Plus, because I no longer had a period, I no longer had to worry about my endometriosis symptoms holding me back on a monthly basis. Hallelujah.
But there were downsides. Of course there were. Occasional, sporadic spotting was a hassle; so was stopping by my OB-GYN's office every 90 days. The shot can also lead to decreased bone density over time, so I was encouraged to take calcium supplements. Then again, these felt like small prices to pay in exchange for no period pain (and jeans that didn't look like they belonged to a serial killer!).
I stuck with the shot for about seven years, but those appointments started to become trickier and trickier to fit into my schedule, especially after I started working full time. Around January of last year, I started looking for a new fix that I could rely on for years to come.
Enter my current — and absolute favorite! — BC method: Nexplanon. Nexplanon's a birth control implant that's inserted into your upper arm. It kind of makes me feel kind of like a cyborg, but like, in a fun way.
Before landing on Nexplanon, I'd spoken with a couple of different gynecologists and ruled out the idea of getting an IUD (an intra-uterine device), predominantly because I'm pretty sensitive to pain ~down there~ and, for many women, the process of having an IUD inserted into their uterus is a pretty painful process.
Interestingly, I learned at Planned Parenthood that many doctors are hesitant to offer the birth control implant at this point because not many offices are equipped to handle the insertion, so you may want to get a few different docs' opinions before ruling it out.
I've had Nexplanon for about a year and a half now, and I could (and often do) sing its praises from the rooftops. While I still experience spotting from time to time, I don't have to worry about a period, taking a pill, dealing with endometriosis pain, or stopping by my doctor's office on the regs. It's good for up to four years, and, as mentioned, makes me feel like a cyborg (a fun plus!).
All this to say, finding the right BC method can be a process — especially for us ladies with endometriosis. If you've recently been diagnosed, seek opinions from different doctors and trust that there is something out there for you.
Oh, and remember: Your uterus is cuterus, no matter what.