“You mean this could actually give me minor strokes?”
It’s a difficult decision as a young woman when you are considering whether or not you want to start taking birth control, let alone what contraceptives are best for you.
For me, it was a little bit more than that. Due to a long history of severe migraines, my doctor advised me that I needed to see a neurologist before using any contraceptives. This was because she was worried that my severe migraines could be causing mini strokes, and birth control could increase this risk and cause my migraines to worsen.
Like anyone needs worse migraines, right?
After an almost year-long process and many medical examinations, I was finally given the OK to go on the lightest form of birth control pill possible.
The pill I use is called Alysena 28; it’s a combination of Levonorgestrel and estrogen. I’ve been on it for 7 years now. Looking back at my 18-year-old self who was considering this option, I wish I could give myself a bit of advice.
So for any current 18-year-olds reading this, here are a few things to note.
1. Don’t over-stress it.
I know it seems like a difficult decision. I mean, you’re putting something in your body that you’ve never taken before—I get it. But trust me, it won’t change things that much. There’s no need to fear the pill, ladies!
2. Consult with your doctor.
I know this sounds weird because you obviously have to talk to your doctor to get the prescription. What I mean is be truthful with your doctor. Because of my migraine issues, I had to go on a medical journey to ensure that birth control wouldn’t harm me, and even though everything was fine in the end, what if it wasn’t? This is not to scare you! Just tell your doctor everything they may need to know, and this includes acne, which leads me to my next point.
3. Know that contraceptives can alter your acne.
I did a lot of research on the birth control I was offered from my doctor before I started to take it. I’d heard horror stories of people experiencing severe acne from birth control, and I’d heard stories of it helping people with their acne tremendously. In my situation, the type of contraceptives I was using had bad reviews when it came to acne, so as someone who’s suffered from acne, I was worried. I tried it anyway. In the end, it really didn’t make my acne any worse or any better. However, talk to your doctor to find the right fit for you.
4. Know that birth control can be a trial and error experience.
I originally went on birth control because or irregular periods and cramps. Seriously, I’d miss my period for sometimes two months at times. In my case, my first try with contraceptives worked well for me. I always get my period on that fourth week on Wednesday morning around 8 AM—it’s that regular now. My cramps also disappeared, and my period became significantly lighter and lasted fewer days. This may not happen with your first trial, but you’ll get here eventually with the help of your doctor.
5. You have other options.
Taking a birth control pill isn’t your only option. There’s needles, patches, and even an IUD option now. I’m not a fan of needles, and I felt odd about the patch. When I first started a contraceptive the IUD wasn’t really out there yet. Thus, I went with the pill, and I’m happy with my choice. However, many friends of mine use the IUD and they swear by it. There isn’t only one option out there so if the pill isn’t doing you any favors don’t be afraid to switch.
6. Just because you’re using contraceptives doesn’t mean you need to be sexually active.
I feel like there’s a bit of a misconception when it comes to contraceptives and being sexually active. It’s like if you’re taking a contraceptive that people assume you are having sex. At 18, this can sometimes be harmful to have people assuming this if it isn’t the case. I don’t want you to feel any pressure to have sex just because you’re taking a contraceptive now. Heck, I waited until I was 21 before losing my virginity and I have no regrets. But if you are sexually active, that’s okay too. Just don’t feel like you need to be sexually active in order to be on birth control.
7. Ask the pharmacist or doctor questions.
No question is a stupid question when it comes to your body and health. It’s important to ask things like, “What do I do if I miss a day?” Guess what? It’s better to ask beforehand than actually miss a day and start panicking. A few other good questions are:
– “Do I need to take this at the exact same time every day, or is there a few hours spared time?” (Every birth control is different.)
– “How long should I wait before I decide it’s not working for me?”
– “What are some symptoms of this kind of contraceptives not working well for me?”
– “What if I accidentally take two in one day?” (Trust me, it could happen.)
8. Choosing contraceptives is your decision.
Coming from a religious family, I was worried about starting birth control because of how they’d feel and what they’d think. In the end, my mother was very supportive. I found out that she started her contraceptive at the same age, go figure. I never ended up telling my dad. Honestly, I didn’t think it was his business to know anyway. I’m pretty sure my mom ended up telling him anyway though… Luckily, he felt too awkward to say anything to me (win!).
I just want you to know that this is your decision. It’s your body and you get to make the choices for it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing is right or wrong (except your doctor of course).
9. Over time, you may need to switch things up.
I haven’t experienced this yet, but it is a worry of mine. As you age, your hormones can change, and your birth control may not work the best for you anymore. If you start to experience irregularities and other changes, it’s absolutely a good idea to consult your doctor.
10. Changes can happen without needing to change your contraceptive.
There are factors in your life that may alter the way contraceptives work for you. Stress is a huge issue when it comes to your body acting strangely. There may be a stressful time in your life that causes your period to act differently, despite your birth control. Know that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change your contraceptive. Give yourself some time to see if your body goes back to normal.
After 7 years, I can say that I’m happy with my decision to go on my contraceptive. There are definitely pros and cons to the birth control pill, such as missing a day… or two, but my experience has been mostly positive. I wouldn’t change anything if I had the choice, and it’s helped me in a lot of ways while growing into adulthood.
Previously Published on Thought Catalog