Birth control should not be painful

I find the same phrase haunting me: “Get an IUD.” Regardless of intent, insisting that people with uteruses should get any specific form of birth control is inappropriate and counterproductive.

The insertion of IUDs is not only painful but requires a longer than average recovery period compared to other birth controls. Pressuring painful forms of birth control only perpetuates a culture in which women are forced to undergo pain and discomfort in order to live the life they desire.

When Donald Trump won the election on Nov 9, 2016, it sparked a social panic related to accessing safe forms of contraception. Many expressed fear of their reproductive rights being stripped away entirely. Taking to Twitter, individuals expressed serious concerns over the future of birth control: “I have truly never been more shocked in my life. Hug your friends a little tighter, promise to protect each other, and everyone go get an IUD,” said writer Rachel Varina.

Encouraged by widespread support on Twitter and publicized by certain news organizations, IUDs were made out to be the solution. In the first week after the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood reported a 900 percent increase in patients seeking IUDs. By the following January, reports by AthenaHealth suggested IUD prescription rates increased 19 percent.

Unfortunately, the fear of restricted birth control has been made a reality. The Trump administration has repeatedly taken shots at birth control accessibility. With recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, birth control and reproductive rights for women may seriously be at risk in the near future. It’s completely sane, and smart, to feel wary about future access to birth control.

Societal expectations tell women IUDs are their best option under this administration. Headlines such as “Get an IUD Before It’s Too Late,” and “Here’s Why Everyone Is Saying to Get an IUD Today,” shine light on the pressure women in the U.S. have felt the past two years. In 2017, writer for Dame Magazine, Anna Krist, pointed out a connection between white feminism and increased IUD pressures, allowing for a “number of white feminists to unwittingly perpetuate the racist assumptions and behaviors they claim to be fighting against.”

IUDs are often recommended because of their benefits. For instance, a ParaGuard IUD can last up to twelve years—about seven years longer than a birth control implant. With a bit of luck, twelve years should outlast the current administration. It’s also one of the most effective forms of contraception. Some people don’t feel much pain at all during this procedure. For others, it is neither a healthy nor comfortable option.

I have never, ever experienced pain like that before or since,” one IUD patient told Cosmopolitan in 2016. Outline writer Casey Johnson called IUD insertion, “absolute bullshit and violence” in a recent tweet. This is due to the virtually zero pain management before, during or after insertion. Aside from numbing gel and Advil, there are no guarantees an IUD patient will be given any painkillers for a procedure that’s been compared to the pain in childbirth. The painful nature of the procedure makes it unfair to pressure anyone seeking contraception into considering an IUD.

This perpetuates the idea that having a uterus means one is expected to undergo pain to live the life they want. It is expected women grin and bear through period pain. It is expected women have children. It is expected if women do not want these things, they must take the necessary steps to avoid these things, even if it means going through a procedure that will cause, in some cases, blinding pain.

Anyone looking into birth control methods should research every option of contraceptive available to them. At Portland State, The Center for Student Health and Counseling provides those seeking birth control with a variety of options: “We offer IUDs, Nexplanon, condoms, oral contraceptive prescriptions, vaginal ring prescriptions, female condom prescriptions, and emergency contraception,” said Tara Gardner-Brown, assistant director of health services for SHAC. “Every woman’s experience and health history is different and an individualized plan should be discussed with their healthcare provider.” There is no perfect form of birth control yet, but knowing your options allows space for more personal body autonomy.

It’s no one’s place to tell any individual what to do with their body. IUDs are not a perfect form of birth control. It is inappropriate to insinuate women need to experience pain in order to be safe and secure under this administration. Women should never feel as though they need to put their body through extreme discomfort in order to live the life they want, and if that is the case, something needs to change.