What form of birth control do you use?
It’s an extremely personal question and at the same time - one we all need to be openly discussing way more than we are now…..that stupid dilemma about pregnancy and fertility that most sexually active adults face.
My girlfriend and I have been together for 6+ years, and she came into the relationship with an IUD already in place. The idea that she couldn’t get pregnant because there was a foreign piece of plastic and copper stuck inside her uterus made both us uneasy, but at the same time - we loved how practical and functional it was.
Until the day it wasn’t.
She toyed with the idea of getting another one for about 4 seconds, and then decided no way. She already hadn’t planned on getting another one once the ten years was up anyway because the process of getting one inserted is extremely painful.
So now what were we to do?
Neither of us wanted anything to do with hormonal birth control. We were well versed on its impact on women’s health. Just look at the side effects from the birth control insert: migraines, gall bladder disease, increased blood pressure, increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke, weight gain, mood changes, nausea, irregular bleeding or spotting, benign liver tumors, and breast tenderness. And that’s not even the the whole list. It’s crazy that hormonal birth control is as widely used as it is, because while it’s easy and effective, it’s long-term issues are downplayed if even discussed at all.
We also hate condoms - who doesn’t? They have their place, but for a long-term couple who has regular sex, condoms are like stepping back in time to when you’re 20-something. They take all the fun and sensation out of sex, especially if you’ve already been used to not using them for years.
I’d heard of a few friends who had gotten vasectomies, but I had a weird feeling about them. I thought it was strange that people were so cavalier about permanently altering a major system in their bodies. I didn’t have any cliche issue about it ruining my “manhood” or some silly shit like that. But at the same time, I was concerned that it could impact my testosterone levels or cause me some kind of long term pain or autoimmune issues or whatever.
It just seemed like a bad idea from an overall health standpoint. And since I have spent the last few years really focusing on my physical well being and bodily integrity, including restoring my foreskin, I had no intention of consciously inflicting that kind of permanent damage. Nor did I think it was a good idea for her to make any permanent changes to her body for the same reason.
After using condoms for a few months, we were both getting really sick of them. To the point where it was chipping away at our desire to even have sex in the first place. We started doing more research about “pulling out.” The biggest question being - is there sperm in the pre-ejaculatory fluid? For a long time I believed there was, and the general public does too - this is why pulling out is not regarded as a serious form of birth control.
Though after researching it further, the big fear was allayed: as long as you urinated after your last ejaculation, there was no semen present in pre-ejaculatory fluid. And as long as you actually - you know - pull out in time, then your chances of an unwanted pregnancy were about as good as with condoms. SOLD!
But it turns out pulling out sucks too. I mean, yeah, you don’t have to use a condom, but you still can’t have natural sex. As the guy, I’m always having to be super focused on my bodily responses during sex. I can’t get lost in the moment. I still have to have part of my brain allocated to focusing on the exact right second. And then I have to stop whatever it is that we’re doing so I can pull out. It’s better, but still nowhere close to ideal. The constant threat of “if I screw up and get this wrong, then we’re potentially dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.”
It wasn’t long before I was like “yeah, uh, this just isn’t sustainable.”
So I woke up one day and decided to actually, you know, research vasectomies instead of just assuming they were as bad as I thought. I began reading about them on Wikipedia, and then progressed to the Planned Parenthood, WebMD, and Mayo Clinic websites. Wikipedia was reasonably neutral, but all those other sites were like “Vasectomy! Yay! It’s so safe and perfect and amazing, get one today!” It just seemed a little biased to me, like they just wanted my money or something.
I kept digging further. I wanted to find the real shit. The studies about all these men who were full of misery and regret afterwards. I knew they were out there. Finally I stumbled on this super comprehensive and incredibly geeky report from a medical journal. It took me almost an hour to read through, it referenced hundreds of studies, it went over every possible negative outcome that anyone has ever associated with vasectomies, and in the end it stated that it actually is one of the safest and most effective forms of permanent birth control that you can do.
All of my fears about low testosterone or autoimmune issues were gone by that point. Now it was onto some more anecdotal evidence: surveying my social circle. Much to my surprise, all but one of my five closest guy friends had already gotten a vasectomy, and somehow it had never come up in conversation until now. Their experiences were mixed; three of them said it was no big deal at all and thought it was the best thing they’d ever done.
One of them felt pressured by his partner to get it done, and as a result he experienced some grief afterwards. I felt bad for him. I don’t think he regrets it from a physical standpoint, but rather from an emotional one. I strongly feel like it’s a decision that the person needs to reach on their own. No one should ever pressure or guilt someone into permanently altering their body. I don’t like the idea of partners being like, “Well I birthed all the children, so at least you can do your part and get a vasectomy. Besides, it’s just a little snip, what’s the big deal?”
It’s actually a very big deal and is more than just the physical. It is an emotional, spiritual and energetic decision that we need to honor and give men the space to experience. And “just a little snip” completely oversimplifies the seriousness of the decision and belittles men’s bodily integrity. We do the same thing when discussing circumcising men at birth: it’s just a little snip. Circumcision is waaaaay more than just a little snip. It amputates a muscle, thousands of nerve endings, and the actual foreskin - which is a piece of skin equivalent to the size of a dollar bill in adult male. Plus - removing the foreskin totally changes the mechanics of sex in a shitty, unnatural way.
But all of that is a whole other conversation for another day…..
I must give thanks to my dear girlfriend for letting me come to the vasectomy decision on my own. She was actually quite averse to the idea in the beginning. I would even say she was more opposed to it than I was. She continually prompted me to question everything I read, and encouraged me to get the most information possible before making the decision. She thought that the idea of me having to endure even the smallest amount of pain afterwards made it not worth doing. In the end I had to sell her on the idea as much as I did myself.
The one friend that had not gotten it done yet was also very worried about permanently altering his body and hadn’t even really discussed it with his partner. He was also concerned that he might not be able to have children in the future, even though he already had three and currently did not want any more. There was the question of, “What if?” It seemed to bring up all kinds of emotions for him, which seems only natural when thinking of closing the chapter on your fertility. A whole chapter of his life was dedicated to conceiving and raising his children. The transition to the next phase of life….the realization that time is passing faster than we think…..that needs to be honored as well. And I have no doubt that because I don’t have children, nor do I want them (and never have, ever) made my decision quite a bit simpler, even though it still felt like it took forever for me to reach a conclusion.
I came to realize that as long as I went into it fully comfortable with the idea that it was permanent, and that I had reached the decision entirely on my own, I felt like it was the right choice for me.
Stay tuned for part two, with all the nitty gritty details....
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