A year into a serious relationship I decided the most responsible thing to do would be to get on some form of birth control. Because better safe than getting pregnant and having a baby in law school.
“I got back acne and I haven’t seen my period in two years”. That was the first thing my doctor said when talking to me about ‘Implanon’ – one of the contraception options, she was recommending for me. As she ran through my list of options and the potential side effects I became increasingly stressed out.
There was the IUD, which was not hormonal so wouldn’t mess with my hormones but might cause painful periods. There was also a one in a million chance of it coming undone and getting lodged in my uterus. One in a million but still a possibility.
Then there was Implanon which seemed like a dream. Goes in your arm, and you don’t need to give it a second thought for at least 2 years. Only problem, it was a little cost. And a little too permanent for me. I was in a relationship, not married.
The final option was the pill which came least recommended by my doctor. Some women experienced incredible weight gain and adult acne on it. You also had to take it every day at the exact same time. You couldn’t slip up or you could pregnant. But it cost me about 500 – 1000 naira for a three month supply. I could stop whenever I wanted, and nothing was at risk of getting lodged in my uterus. It seemed like the perfect option for me. So I got on the pill.
The relationship ended almost two years after it began, but I’ve stayed on the pill since then. Here are ten things I’ve noticed about the pill, my body and being a sexually active woman in Nigeria in these years.
I stopped getting lectures on my supposed promiscuity.
When picking up my monthly supply from a pharmacy, I noticed that I didn’t get as many judgmental glares or five-minute lectures from pharmacists, as I would when trying to buy emergency birth control. It could just be that I’m older now and my double chin and love-handles place me at an age where the pharmacists expect me to be married or engaged. Or it could be that emergency birth control is culturally seen as an option for promiscuous young women, as opposed to the pill. But it’d be really great if Nigerian pharmacists would allow young women buy whatever kind of birth control they wanted in peace.
I didn’t get fat.
I’ve packed on a couple of pounds between last year and this year but I really can’t attribute it to the pill. It’s what you get when you wolf down half a box of pizza at 2 am when you are not 16. I also didn’t put on a single pound in the first year and a half of my relationship with the pill. Even though I now have to pop open the button on my jeans after just drinking a bottle of water. I’ve stayed the same dress size since I got on the pill.
There was no acne too.
If anything, it cleared up my skin. I used to get a pesky clutter of pimples on my forehead which miraculously went away, the first couple of months after I got on the pill. I got off the pill when I was away from my partner for 2 months in Abuja and they made a vicious come back. Returned to Lagos and got back on the pill, and they cleared right back up.
I’ve managed to not get pregnant.
If you use it perfectly, there’s a 0.03% chance that you’d get pregnant on the pill. That number climbs higher when you are reckless about timing for the pill. Even though I have an alarm set to go off on my phone at 11 am every day and I am surgically attached to my phone, I manage to always take my pill late. Sometimes skipping days altogether.
It’s so bad, some months I get breakthrough bleeding because my ovaries are confused. Are you trying to have a baby or not? Make up your mind already. The good news is, there has been no baby yet. Only one or two scares that had me stay consistent for a week straight before falling off track. Old habits die hard. This is however not an endorsement for recklessness. Most of my nonchalance stems from the fact that I have a condition that’d make getting pregnant a tad more difficult than usual.
The summary of my ramblings is that the pill has been great for me. I could probably be a poster girl for it. I have virtually no side effects and managed to not get pregnant. Will it work great for you? I don’t know. You might get back acne, which is a small price to pay. Or you might put on a shit ton of weight and get really sad which makes it really not worth it.
While I’ve had a great run with the pill, I’m eager to try out a non-hormonal option. What kind of birth control are you on if any? And what has your experience been like? If you’d like to talk about this and the many more fun things that make up being a Nigerian woman, or you just have a story to share with me, I’d love to hear it – firstname.lastname@example.org.