I Was Judged for Taking the Pill
Originally Published: February 26, 2015
Revised: February 26, 2015
As a 17-year-old, I have found that some adults treat you as an equal, while some still treat you like a toddler. This can be particularly tricky when it comes to sexual health, since it is a controversial topic even today. When I began taking birth control, I encountered this issue when I least expected it: at the dentist’s office. When I went in for a routine dental cleaning, I hadn’t expected to be confronted about my hormonal birth control.
I was sitting in one of those big, green, plastic-covered chairs when my hygienist asked about any new medications I was taking. Of course, I told her about my birth control pills, only to receive a look of condescension and disapproval. If she had asked, I would have told her the reason for my birth control—I have PCOS.
My choice to take the Pill is mine, whether it be for medical reasons or for preventing pregnancy. No one should feel ashamed for choosing to take birth control.
WTH is PCOS?
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a combination of symptoms caused by a hormonal imbalance involving enlarged ovaries that contain cysts. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as acne, weight gain and irregular periods. PCOS can also cause fertility problems. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about one in 10 to 15 women are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome, and yet most people―in my experience―have never heard of it.
Since acne, weight gain and irregular periods can be caused by any number of things, especially as a teen, I never realized I might have PCOS. I originally thought I just had bad luck with my skin, and my irregular periods could have been caused by my eating, sleeping and exercising habits. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for PCOS, but the symptoms can be managed. This is where the hormonal birth control comes in. Taking birth control can help regulate periods and clear acne. However, when you stop taking it, the symptoms will all return.
Birth Control Puts Me in Control
It can be scary sometimes—OK a lot of the time—to think that I’m not in control of my own body, that I might have fertility problems in the future or that I have cysts on my ovaries no matter how I try to prevent it. But I know that taking the Pill helps me fight this enemy of unknown origin.
Which brings me back to my hygienist. My medical history and personal reasons for taking the Pill are mine, and that should be understood by all health care professionals. Taking birth control does not automatically mean having sex and me taking the Pill is no one’s choice but mine. Even if I were taking the pill solely to prevent pregnancy, that choice should also be of no concern to the dental hygienist cleaning my teeth. Instead of being shamed for my choices regarding birth control, I should be encouraged by health care professionals and other adults to make responsible choices, including the prevention of pregnancy until if or when I feel ready to have a child. I didn’t think it necessary to specify my reasons, and either way, I don’t think that anyone should make assumptions or judgments about the choices other people make about their sexual health.
Since my encounter at the dentist’s office, I automatically defend myself every time I tell someone about my birth control. However, I shouldn’t have to. My choice to take the Pill is mine, whether it be for medical reasons or for preventing pregnancy. No one should feel ashamed for choosing to take birth control. Honestly, I applaud those of you with more courage than I to discuss your birth control choices openly. In the future, I hope to become more confident about taking the Pill, and I hope that we can end the stigma surrounding teens taking birth control so no one ever feels ashamed of their responsible choices.
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