How a Commonsense Public Health Program Helped Me Choose the Best Birth Control for Me

Getting periods suck. Like clockwork, every month my period would bring painful cramping. My cramping was so painful, it felt as if my back was about snap in half. Often, it affected my sleep for a few days every month, and ultimately it affected my schoolwork.

I would beg my mother to let me get on birth control, and she would always say no and hand me a few Tylenol. For any woman who has experienced severe cramping, you know a few Tylenol does nothing to alleviate the pain. Like a lot of parents, she struggled with the idea of her daughter getting birth control. For me, I just didn’t want to be in so much pain every month.

At the age of 15, I decided to put myself on birth control.

At the time, I was living in Minnesota and was able to find a program through Planned Parenthood that provided free birth control to young women. I felt bad lying to my mother and hiding my prescription, but I also knew what was best for my body.

Eventually, I moved to Colorado and I stopped taking the pill. I wasn’t sexually active and I thought maybe since I was a little bit older, my body had regulated itself. After a few months, I began cramping and experiencing other hormonal symptoms, such as mood swings and cystic acne. I did a little bit of research and found a program that provided birth control to those who needed help to pay for their prescription (a similar program to the one in Minnesota) and got back on birth control.

I started attending college, met my then boyfriend and became sexually active. At first, I was very good at taking my birth control at the same time every day because I was worried about pregnancy. But I admit that I became comfortable and would forget a few days here and there. For a while, nothing happened and I assumed everything was okay. However, I was shocked and frightened when I found out I was pregnant. I was 19, in a toxic relationship, and working on my bachelor’s degree.

Having a child was completely not in my best interest and I decided to have an abortion.

Afterwards, when I was deciding what birth control method I should use, I was hesitant to get back on the pill. I knew I did not want to have a baby for at least five years and I did not want to risk another unintended pregnancy. When I went back to my provider, I began discussing other options. She mentioned the IUD and I told her I was interested but I couldn’t afford the cost. To my surprise, she told me it was covered as well.

The program is called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, and it functions under the Colorado Department of Public Health. With the help of private grant funding, in 2009 the program began providing young women the choice to get cost-free, long-acting and reversible contraception, like IUDs and implants. Studies show that out-of-pocket costs related to birth control are a major barrier to access. For IUDs, costs can be up to $1000. I doubt I would have been able to afford the IUD on my own due to the high cost — but since the financial barrier was removed, I chose to get an IUD.

The IUD has been the best choice for me; it still provides a constant therapy of hormones to control my fluctuations but also protects me from pregnancy. It was completely reassuring to know I didn’t have to take a pill every day — and that I would not experience an unintended pregnancy again. For five years, I do not have that worry.

Given all those benefits, I was shocked when I learned some our state politicians disagreed with how important this program is for women like me. When private funding for the program came close to ending last year, these anti-women’s health legislators opposed continuing the program through state funding because it provides IUDs as a method of birth control. Sadly, these politicians were able to temporarily block the inclusion of the program in Colorado’s budget last year. They did not care that the program was helping thousands of young women like me, or that it would save the state of Colorado millions of dollars.

Luckily, this year was a different story. New private funding just saved the program and the Colorado legislature decided to fund it for next year! What was so different compared to last year? This time, legislators heard from women like me, and the program’s funding had bipartisan support — which helped get it past the politicians who usually interfere in women’s health. I am proud to live in Colorado, where legislators were able to work across the aisle to support such a great program.

While a LARC may not be the best birth control option for some women, it was the best option for me. It is so important that women have access to the full range of birth control options and that they can make their own birth control decisions.

Today, I am close to graduating from college.

I’ve been exploring many career options, and using my twenties to become a successful adult. One day when I decide that I am financially and emotionally ready to be a mother, I hope to start a family. My IUD, and the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, has given me the ability to do just that.

The author, M., is a Planned Parenthood patient, volunteer and reproductive rights advocate.
The program M. participated in is the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which provides Colorado low-income the choice of long acting and reversible contraception like IUDs and implants. The program was previously funded by grant dollars, but this year the Colorado legislature included $2.5 million in funding in its budget for the program.
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