Edit desk: A reproductive disaster

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After a celebratory 20th birthday piercing turned sour and left me passing out face-first on my kitchen floor last semester, I made an appointment at the health center.

Clare Fonstein

I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say the piercing wasn’t doing too hot. And neither was I, for that matter. 

My roommate eventually rescued me with a glass of water as I sat on the floor with bloody teeth and a bruised face, thinking my Southside Commons apartment would be my final resting place. 

After a few days of mild paranoia, I made it to the health center. I eventually ended up making an appointment for the following week, and the one after that, and the one after that; perpetually until I eventually went back home for winter break and started making appointments with my doctor there. 

This was not the fault of my new ear piercing. It was because when I had my first appointment, they had to take my blood pressure about six times because no one could really believe the number. It rivaled someone way beyond my age with stress tendencies and a high-sodium diet. 

 I lived a fairly healthy lifestyle, so this didn’t make much sense. I ran more often than never, had a natural distaste for red meat, ate my veggies and so on. 

After what was actually months of appointments, blood tests and making the steep walk to the health center many times, it was determined that this was all because of a dumb little tic-tac sized pill I usually remembered to take before going to sleep. 

My hormonal birth control. 

The little pill that left me emotionally volatile was also what was impacting my blood pressure and thereby, a lot of other very important functions in my body.  

Throughout the process I became hyper aware of my health. I never let a morning pass without exercising and flushed every egg yolk I came across down the drain. Resentment began to build. 

If you’re a woman looking at your birth control options, not many of them are really that attractive. I opened TikTok one day to find a woman talking about how getting an IUD was worse than when she had had open heart surgery. 

I took this at face value. It is the norm for women to go through the process of changing their bodies’ hormones, so this burden comes without second thought. It is not that often that I would say I feel personally victimized by the patriarchy, but this was one of those moments. 

For some historical context, not that long ago, research was done for hormonal male birth control, but it was abandoned because of mood-altering side effects, ones that are often already seen in female birth control. 

Throughout my blood pressure crisis, I was also working on an article about abortion access in Pennsylvania. I worked on it for a long time and it made me think about the issue differently. Abortion is such a hotly debated topic that each side feels morally rooted in their stance.

Couldn’t stress on this debate be alleviated if actually good birth control options existed?

This whole topic seems like something that could be bypassed. Nobody wants to have an abortion. Better birth control seems like a win for everyone.

This experience opened my eyes to something that I did not realize was an issue. The ripple effects of poor birth control options greatly intensify if you expand the picture. Birth control options exist, but have been created in a way that is skewed to favor men, making it a women’s issue instead of a shared one. 

The price is constantly being paid for this, just silently without connections being drawn between the cause and impact. 

In addition to my lessons learned in this experience of feeling wronged, if you ever get the advice from whoever is doing your piercing that “less is more” in terms of post-piercing care do not believe them because it will come back to bite you. 

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3 Comments

  1. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    “This experience opened my eyes to something that I did not realize was an issue. The ripple effects of poor birth control options greatly intensify if you expand the picture. Birth control options exist, but have been created in a way that is skewed to favor men, making it a women’s issue instead of a shared one.” There is such a method.

  2. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing a personal narrative about your experience with birth control. I’m the Marketing and Communications Director at Male Contraceptive Initiative, and would love to speak with you about our work providing funding and advocacy support for new methods of male contraception. We agree that family planning needs to be a shared responsibility and are working to make that a reality!

    • Robert Davenport on

      Kevin,
      Your organization’s website omits an available birth control option for men that it lists for women.

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