In April 2015, I wrote an article explaining the differences between copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs, as well as the health benefits, risks, and negative side effects associated with them. The article also focused on the reasons why more women are turning to the IUD as their favorite method of birth control— many interviewees mentioned little to no hormones, three to 10 years of protection, affordability, and higher success rates. I spoke to 10 different women who have undergone the insertion process and have experienced both the benefits and the negative side effects of the long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC). I stressed that the IUD will not be an ideal method for all women, that — unlike other forms of birth control — it cannot be used to treat certain medical disorders, and that it is most important to decide for yourself and discuss your safest birth control options with a trustworthy doctor who is knowledgeable of your medical history. After the article was published, I found myself wondering why do women judge other women's birth control choices so harshly?
When I posted the article to my Facebook, I received a lot of messages from friends and women who were relieved to hear other people discussing IUDs honestly but mostly positively, as they had been considering making an appointment for themselves. Others were simply relieved to learn that there was another, maybe better birth control option available for them out there in this big, overwhelming world of pregnancy prevention. However, I also got quite a few messages and comments that I can best describe as judgmental and fear-mongering. This disappointed me; as women, we're already constantly shamed for exercising our right to reproductive freedom. Then shouldn't we know better enough to support each other? Why were women telling other women that their choices were wrong, merely because they were choosing something different? Why were they concerning themselves with what another woman does with her own body?
This also upset me on a personal level, as I had mentioned in the article that my crazy medical history means that the copper IUD, or ParaGard, is the only birth control that I can use safely besides barrier methods (which have lower success rates). Yet, women with no medical background tried to frighten me because they didn't like that contraceptive. These women, who already knew about the health problems that I'd encountered, could have descriptively expressed their dislike for the contraceptive in order to actually educate me about less common risks. That would actually be useful information to have prior to deciding whether or not to make an appointment. Instead, my inbox contained messages that said nothing more than "IUDs ARE TERRIBLE!!!!!" Um, care to elaborate?
It is important to acknowledge that the majority of the comments on my Facebook page were from women expressing their satisfaction with their IUDs for the same reasons mentioned by the interviewees. But sprinkled between these comments were a couple statements from women only proclaiming "NO!!!!" without any context, or even from women complaining that a short article clearly meant to focus on IUDs only discussed IUDs, which bothered them since they don't like IUDs. So women shouldn't even be able to educate themselves about contraceptives that you don't like?
These instances all surround a personal experience with one specific article of mine about the IUD, but it is something that uterus-owners face constantly when it comes to their decision to use any form of birth control, from The Pill, to the diaphragm, to the NuvaRing, to condoms, to the Nexplanon. Of course, it is important to inform each other about risks associated with such complex, vital, and difficult medical choices. Also, when the process of selecting birth control is as overwhelming as it is, we depend on friends to share their experiences and serve as guides through the stressful process. But that requires compassion and the provision of actual facts to help another person make good choices and know what sort of concerns to bring up with a doctor. Aggressively telling someone nothing more than "No, that's bad!" is selfish and useless, and fails to acknowledge all of the reasons why different birth control is better for different women.
Let's take a look at why you shouldn't judge another woman's birth control choices.
1. Different Women Experience Different Benefits From Birth Control
Many women use The Pill for more than just pregnancy prevention. It helps treat various disorders and health problems, including endometriosis, acne, and severe menstrual cramps. The IUD works better for women who are very negatively affected by hormones, and the Mirena and Skyla IUDs still lessen cramps and can make periods lighter.
Women whose health benefits from hormones can still access them through the Mirena and Skyla IUDs or NuvaRing, but in smaller doses, which, for some women, means less of the negative effects. Some women aren't comfortable with any of these methods, and successfully use condoms or other barrier methods. You can't know all of the reasons besides pregnancy prevention that cause a woman to choose a specific birth control, so don't shame her for making a choice that helps her treat other medical issues.
2. Some Birth Control Is Very Dangerous For Certain Women
3. Are You A Doctor?
Oh, you're not? Then why are you trying to interfere with the decision a woman made with a gynecologist she trusts?
4. Our Sexual Choices (And About All Of Our Choices) Already Get Judged Enough
We can all remember the first time that we were slut-shamed. (You didn't even have to be sexually active yet. You just had to be a girl or woman). And that first moment of slut-shaming was just the beginning. These misogynistic sentiments are internalized within us, and this effect of the patriarchy frequently results in women slut-shaming other women. We already experience this from from men, our families, and even doctors, so why do we continue the trend? We don't need our friends to judge the decisions we make within our own sex lives too.
5. We Should Support Each Other In The Face of Increasingly Restrictive Birth Control Policies
Fifteen states in the U.S. received a failing grade for reproductive rights and accessibility this year. There are plenty of reasons why you can't get the cost of your contraceptives covered by the Affordable Care Act (including religious exemption by your employer — remember that Hobby Lobby bullsh*t)? And remember the birth control commercial parody from last year's season of Inside Amy Schumer, depicting the insane barriers to birth control access, and how it made us laugh and then cry from its accuracy? The GOP is shamelessly attacking and rolling back reproductive rights policy. Getting birth control is hard enough without controlling and aggressive remarks from friends and family. What we really need is to support each other as we navigate the unjustly difficult path to bodily autonomy.