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No Hormones, No Latex, No Babies?

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

I was on the birth control pill for several years, heterosexual years, of my young adult life. While other girls bloated and broke out, compliments of the little hormone bombs, I got a lighter, more predictable period with fewer cramps and clearer skin. My peers constantly complained about the plight of hormone-based pregnancy prevention, and I happily rolled with the estrogen punches, staying on the pill even when I started sleeping with women. "Hormones, shmormones," I said.

Then I went off the pill.

I waffled between verbally assaulting my then-girlfriend and sobbing over failed cooking attempts. I threw things and then let tears stream down my face as I sat in bed eating an entire cake. My periods disappeared. I was put on progesterone hormone pills to try to restart my natural monthly cycle. The progesterone made me feel so insane, I flushed the pills down the toilet.

In my current relationship, it's impossible for me to get "accidentally knocked up. " That's both a blessing and a curse. Condoms are obsolete and sperm nonexistent. So of course, this is when commercials for ParaGard, "the only reversible birth control that's more than 99 percent effective and 100 percent hormone free" start popping up. Where the hell was this when I was straight, pregnancy-phobic and single?

In a fit of jealousy, I set out to disprove ParaGard's seemingly wonderful, woo-woo birth control solution that promises to "fit your life, naturally" by unhormonally preventing pregnancy without interrupting your organic menstrual cycle. This didn't happen.

ParaGard is a 3cm-long, "T"-shaped "intrauterine contraceptive" made from plastic and copper. It's FDA-approved, has been successfully used for 20 years in the U.S. and is over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy (though, like most IUDs, it doesn't protect against STDs). It's easily inserted into the uterus by your regular doctor and can last anywhere from one day to 10 years: your choice. If you're a spontaneous procreator, you can have it removed by your doc and get preggers that very same day!

It really is just copper and plastic. Apparently, copper is Sperm Man's Kryptonite. While it seems that it would be cheaper and more fun to just stuff your vagina with pennies every time you have sex, it's not that simple, I guess. ParaGard's "T" shape also blocks sperm from getting to the egg and prevents any accidentally fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterine wall.

It's definitely pricier than pennies, but ParaGard is still cheap. Without insurance, the one-time installation is $754, which is steep upfront but pays off over time, especially in comparison to an estimated $1,150 per year for the pill.

Set it and forget it! Once ParaGard is inserted, return to the Doc after one month to make sure it hasn't moved and after that, simply reach up into your vagina once a month to feel for the tiny threads attached to the bottom of the "T" to ensure it's still in the right place.

There are no hormonal side effects like weight gain and mood swings, but there are some not-so-fun parts. Your uterus hates being messed with, so you might feel dizzy, barfy or pass out right after it's inserted (weird, right?). After that, your period might be really wonky and painful. This is a popular reason why women stop using it, especially younger women who complain of out-of-this-world, gut-wrenching menstrual cramps—one woman described it as "an alien trying to break out of my womb." Yikes.

I could rain on your heterosexual pregnancy prevention parade with some more serious risks, like "ParaGard can migrate through the walls of the uterus and lodge into your innards, requiring surgery to remove it!" or "Especially during the first couple of months, ParaGard can unknowingly fall out during your period, which won't prevent your pregnancy at all, so you'd better keep an eye on that toilet bowl, Missy!" These things are true but, when looked at side by side with the laundry list of daily side effects and stroke risks associated with hormonal birth control, having an alien baby doesn't really seem that bad.

Besides, if you're on ParaGard, your alien boyfriend probably can't impregnate you anyway, so you'll be fine.

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