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Contraception, Matriarch and Me.

Alicia sits cross legged on a bench in a park. She is wearing a frog hat, red jumper and black leggings. She is smiling while looking at the camera.
Alicia on a park bench in London.

My coil fitting was one of the most painful moments of my life. It hurt so badly I fainted after it was finished. Halfway through the fitting, one of the medical staff tried to pass me a small stress ball because I was crying. I felt so humiliated and angry. I know it was meant to be a kind gesture, but I felt resentful. Why was I expected to just ‘grin and bear it’? It seemed completely unfair.

Talking to other people who had the same procedure, I rarely heard a story that didn’t involve pain. Even when I asked our Matriarch community through our instagram stories, the pain of the coil fitting was mentioned several times. When you check online, this also seems to be the general consensus. This begs the question that, if this is such a commonly known fact, why hasn’t anything been done about it.

I was not warned of the awful pain having an IUD would be!”

An opinion from the Matriarch instagram

This is part of a bigger issue. Women’s voices are not being heard and have not been taken seriously for years. The history of female sexual health is marred by misogyny. Gynaecology also has a history that’s steeped in both sexism and racism. However, medicine has made so much of an effort to distance itself from its past. So why has contraception and sexual health been left in the past?

Going back to my own experience with contraception, I’ve been on some form since I was 14 years old, and I still feel like I’m navigating this space with little or no understanding of its effects on me. I used to be on the pill, however I had to come off it when I realised it was seriously dampening my mood. I often felt like I was completely emotionally unstable. The tiniest little thing could make me fly into a rage. But that felt better than the emotional ‘blankness’ I also felt.

In our Matriarch poll 73% of people who responded said they’d suffered side effects because of their birth control. While many medicines come with side effects, it seems to many that side effects from birth control are not taken anywhere near as seriously. This fact was reexamined this year because it was discovered that you were more likely to get a blood clot from the pill than you were from the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. However, decisive measures were taken with the vaccine and under 50s were advised against taking it. Yet the pill is still given out whenever people complain about painful periods, regardless of the suitability.

Talking with our Matriarch community was really insightful. Lots of people reached out through our instagram stories to tell us their experiences. It definitely made me feel less alone. Some opinions we heard included:

“I’ve used Rigevidon and it’s been completely fine which is weird cuz I know people react badly to it.”

“Not sure if this is what you want but I always feel like I’m judged for not being on contraception. Extra hormones in my body would not work well!”

Opinions from the Matriarch instagram.

I fully believe that more open conversations about contraception, birth control or whatever you may call it are essential for creating change. It also means that you can hear experiences and stories that you might not have thought about before. People spoke about all kinds of stigma and judgement they received based on their contraception choices. These ranged from being made to feel embarrassed when getting the morning after pill, to people who felt judged because they weren’t on contraception right now. We need to make sure we continue these open and candid discussions so no one feels shame or stigma based on their birth control choices. We also need to hold medical professionals and bodies to greater account.

It’s time to listen to menstruating people’s voices. However, I’m hopeful that as a community of people, we can inspire change that will help generations have fairer treatment when accessing contraception.

Thank you to everyone in the Matriarch community who have shared your experiences and opinions with us. Your voices are so powerful and important. We're grateful for you all.


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