The Toll of Birth Control


Ehllee Buckholtz and Emily Metzger

64 percent of all women of reproductive age are using a form of contraceptive in the United States. 37.2 percent of those are teenage girls ranging from ages 15-19. Among teens, the usage of birth control is increased due to varying reasons, from sexual interaction to acne. Within Shawnee Heights High School, a teen using each form of medical contraceptives was interviewed.

Using the pill form is Freshman Ruebee Buckholtz, to suppress how frequently she needed to change her feminine products and due to the effects of her medical condition, anemia, or iron deficiency.

“Before I started birth control, I had an experience when I was at Walmart with my family and passed out because my iron levels were so low and my period was so heavy,” Buckholtz said.

After that troubling incident, her mother took her to her doctor and she was diagnosed with anemia and offered the solution of taking iron infusions as well as birth control. This helped slow down the flow of her period which had been inconvenient in her day to day life.

“I would have to change my pad or tampon in less than 30 minutes each time,” Buckholtz said.

Having started birth control, it has helped Buckholtz be more steady on her feet and control the number of times she has to change her feminine product. Buckholtz did not research the side effects, but has faced some as far as weight gain and altered  cycle timing. 

Another form of contraceptive is an IUD. An IUD is a device placed into the uterus for up to 5 years. Junior Katelynn Thomas has had her IUD in place since Dec. 26, 2018. Her initial decision to begin was due to her period. She would often times not be able to get up from bed because of the excruciating cramps that partnered her period.

“I would not be able to go to school, and not only because of the pain but I couldn’t wear clothes without bleeding on them,” Thomas said.

Her choice of an IUD rather than another contraceptive comes from her mother, who is a midwife at Lincoln Center and proposed this to be the most effective for Thomas’ circumstance.

“After reading through all the details, my mom and I picked the IUD,” Thomas added.

Within the first few months irregular bleeding would occur before eventually ceasing completely. Thomas says she still experiences the mood changes as an indicator of what time of the month it is.

1 in 1,000 women with an IUD experience an ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy outside of the uterus, which usually results in the termination of the pregnancy for the mother and fetus’ sake, as the fetus would be unable to survive and get the correct nutrients. 

When told this fact, Thomas had full knowledge of the risks and side effects from her mother’s experience and plans on continuing her usage of birth control.

Another form of birth control is Nexplanon, or more commonly known as the arm bar. Senior Izzy Erickson has had hers in place for 14 months. Erickson has also used the pill form but decided to switch for convenience and effectiveness.

“I switched to Nexplanon in August 2018 because I had read that it could entirely stop periods and I kept forgetting to take the pill,” Erickson said.

The side effects that come along with Nexplanon are typical side effects, but with research, it has also been found to increase the risk of blood clots, which in some cases can be fatal. Being a young, active teen, Erickson’s chances are very low. Besides that, Erickson did research on the best choice and consulted her doctor for further professional opinion.

“I did a lot of research and it helped that my older sister had gone through most of the different types so she helped me make a choice,” Erickson said.

Though this was Erickson’s best choice for her, the side effects still followed, with a weight gain of 45 lbs, which she suspects may be from the mixture of metabolism slowing with age and her birth control use. This has been the only noticeable side effect. 

During the procedure, the only sensation Erickson had was the numbing shots beforehand, and mild bruises after.

“I turned my head away while they inserted it because I didn’t want to watch and my mom had to tell me that it was already done because I couldn’t feel anything,” Erickson said.

The last choice of medical birth control is the Depo-Provera, or depo-shot. This is an injection of birth control in the hip. A student at Shawnee Heights has been using this form of birth control after finding it to be more convenient than the pill.

“I started birth control freshman year because I was having two periods a month,” the anonymous student said.

The depo-shot may interfere with bone mineral density. Prior to hearing this, they had no knowledge of this and thought this may be concerning, however they didn’t find it convincing enough to outweigh the pros of this contraceptive.

In the opinion of Nurse Jennifer Quanstrom, cons outweigh the pros in the case of using birth control as a support for menstrual cramps, acne, and period regulation, which are the leading reasons teens have begun their prescriptions of birth control. 

“I support people’s desires to use birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies but I don’t think birth control should be taken if you’re not at that point in your life,” Quanstrom said, “In general, I think it’s best to not put artificial things in your body unless you’re at a point where it is necessary for your lifestyle.”

The side effects of birth control are not only known to be temporary, on the surface effects, but they even expand as far as cancer risk and to Quanstrom, it is not worth the risk.

“I do not think it is something people should make a decision on casually and lightly, and not take into consideration the other risk factors like hormone imbalances, maybe cancer, weight gain, mood destabilization. There is a lot of other side effects that need to be considered and you need to weigh your pros and cons with that,” Quanstrom said.