Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Occupation: multimedia freelance reporter/producer
State: New Jersey
Birth control: the Pill (since 2009)
When Maria found herself in a serious relationship nearly five years ago, she realized she needed a reliable form of birth control. "I wasn't ready to have a family yet," says the 24-year-old multimedia reporter and producer.
After exploring her options, Maria chose the Pill. "I felt the Pill would be more convenient than having to insert something, like a diaphragm, at the last minute. Plus, it's a tried-and-true method, so I was comfortable with it." Maria also liked the idea of being in control of her reproductive destiny. "I go to my doctor once a year for a prescription, and I take the Pill every day," she says.
Initially, Maria had trouble remembering to take the Pill daily. "For the first two years, I would forget to take it around twice a month," she says. "I would set my cellphone alarm, but I was taking the Pill at random times of the day. Finally, a friend told me to take it at the same time I was doing something else in my routine." Now Maria takes the Pill every night before she goes to bed. "I realized it's not so hard after all," she says.
Maria, who hasn't experienced any troublesome side effects, says the Pill gives her peace of mind. "I'm a worrier, so the Pill has taken a weight off my shoulders," she says. "Not having a reliable form of birth control would be stressful." She has decided she will stay on the Pill until she's ready to have children. "It lets me feel confident that I won't be jumping into something before I'm ready," she says. "And it lets me plan my life better. The Pill is a huge part of my life, and I'm grateful for it.'
Birth control: contraceptive implant (since March 2013)
At 19, with many dreams and goals ahead of her, Erin doesn't want to risk an unwanted pregnancy. So last March, she decided to get the contraceptive implant, which she learned about in a high school
marriage and family class. "I wanted long-term birth control," says Erin, who was dating someone at the time. "And I didn't want to have to wonder, Did I take the Pill today?"
Erin made an appointment with her healthcare provider. On the day of the insertion, her boyfriend accompanied her to the doctor's office. The nurse numbed the inside of her upper arm, pulled the skin up and inserted the matchstick-sized plastic rod "like a shot," she recalls. She was told not to do any heavy lifting right afterward. "It was a big relief," says Erin. "Now I don't have to worry about getting pregnant for three years." Indeed, the implant'which releases a hormone to disrupt ovulation and prevent sperm from reaching an egg'is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. A welcome side benefit? Within six months, Erin stopped getting her period, which had always been bothersome for her.
If Erin touches her arm, she can feel the implant, but it's not uncomfortable. She likes the fact that it can be located via X-ray. And if she relocates to another state, she can have the device
removed by another healthcare provider. "It's great because I'm all over the place all the time," says Erin, who is single again. "The doctor gave me a card to keep in my wallet." The "user card" lists the date the implant was inserted and the date it should be removed.
Erin enjoys the simplicity and convenience of the implant
so much that "I will most likely do this again," she says. "I
like not having to remember to use birth control every day
or every few weeks."
Occupation: attorney (public defender)
Birth control: contraceptive ring
In 2008, Charlene was faced with a tough
decision. She loved her method of birth
control'the shot, which she'd been using for around five years and had to think about only once every three months. But her doctor told her she'd been on it for too long.
"My doctor said it had the potential to deplete my calcium levels, and I have a family history of osteoporosis," recalls Charlene, 32, an attorney in California. So she chose what she considers the next best thing'the contraceptive ring. "I like the fact that it has low levels of hormones, and it's comfortable and convenient," she says. To boot: She doesn't get a period.
The ring needs to be changed each month'and women are told to remove it for a week so they can get their period. But Charlene's doctor gave her the okay to leave it in for one extra week each month. "I like not having the inconvenience of getting my period," she says. "I have a history of bad cramps and heavy bleeding." She does, however, sometimes take the ring out before sex. "Other than that, I never notice it at all," she says. While most women don't notice it (even during sex), it is safe to remove for up to three hours.
Charlene and her husband don't plan to have
children, so the ring dovetails perfectly with their
lifestyle. "I can enjoy my husband and not worry about having a baby," she says.
Indeed, the ring is a highly effective birth control method; your chance of getting pregnant is just 1% to 2% per year. At the same time, it's not permanent. "My husband brought up the idea of a vasectomy, but it's hard to undo that," she says. "The ring gives us a chance to make sure we know where we're going in life."
Charlene also says the ring allows her
to do her job without worrying about a painful
period forcing her to take days off. "I don't have to be
miserable during a trial," she says. "It's a huge benefit."
Occupation: IT security manager at
the University of Missouri
Birth control: IUD (since 2008)
After Becky gave birth to her daughter, Emerson, in January 2008, she realized she needed a no-brainer form of birth control. "As a new mom, I didn't want to worry about taking another pill every day," says Becky, 36, who was already taking medications for high blood pressure and allergies. Plus, she wanted a reversible form of birth control in case she and her husband decided to have more children. Her doctor suggested the IUD. The one Becky chose releases hormones that thicken the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from entering a woman's uterus. It's more than 99% effective, and it prevents pregnancy for up to five years. "I've been
really happy with it," says Becky, an IT security manager at the University of Missouri.
When the IUD was first placed in Becky's uterus, she
experienced cramping, but eventually it subsided. Over the next six or seven months, she had breakthrough bleeding, but "nothing painful," she says. Then, she stopped menstruating. "I haven't had a period in four and a half years," she says. "It was a pleasant surprise." (While some IUDs, like the one Becky uses, can stop periods altogether, non-hormonal forms will not.) Another advantage: "I haven't had any side effects," she says. "I can tell when I'm ovulating because I still get a little PMS, but it's nothing that I would consider a deal-breaker."
The benefits of the IUD are so great that Becky has decided to get another one next March'even though she and her husband have decided not to have more children. "With the IUD, I don't have to think about birth control," she says. "Plus, I'm not having a period. It's a good option for women who don't want to get their tubes tied'and want to avoid getting their period. It's the lazy person's contraceptive."
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