I believe most men would want to take a more active role in preventing pregnancies (Photo: Getty)

I sat in the gynecologist office clutching my stomach. It had been six months since I’d had the copper coil fitted, and three days since I had been in so much pain that I collapsed while walking the dog.

The first three weeks after it was inserted, I bled so much I was surprised that my heart had anything left to work with. In the months following, the bleeding subsided to once every other day, but I continued to have stabbing pains in my abdomen that I tried my best to ignore.

I was crying from the pain, and from the emotional relief of being sat in front of someone who could make it stop. ‘Let’s take a look,’ the doctor reassured me, ‘But before I can take it out, there’s something you must do for me.’

‘Anything’, I begged.

‘You need to stop crying. It makes me uncomfortable when I see women cry.’

Great. My gynecologist is sexist, I thought. But before I suggested he consider a different career path, it dawned on me that he isn’t alone. The contraceptive industry is institutionally sexist.

With the exception of the vasectomy, which is now sadly being phased out of the NHS, men do not have to undergo any minor surgical procedures, hormone-altering treatments or months of agony in order to enjoy sex without the risk of conception. Yet, for women, it is the accepted norm.

From the age of 14 I have been on various contraceptive pills. The first hormonal pill I was prescribed made me so depressed I contemplated suicide. Yet when I went to my family GP, instead of taking me off them straight away, he suggested a different brand. I remained depressed.

Starting the pill was like a rite of passage in our school. The girls in sixth form used to take it in front of everyone in the common room with a can of diet coke as if to announce ‘I’m having sex. I am a grown up’.

Any contraceptive will be 100% effective if the woman taking it is in so much pain, or is bleeding so much that she no longer wants to have sex (Photo: Getty)

I wasn’t having sex. Not at that point anyway. But I had terrible periods and my GP seemed to think that the pill would help. It did help. My periods became lighter and more regular, but the effect it had on my overall health was so damaging I had to be prescribed anti-depressants as a chaser.

The effectiveness of a contraceptive is calculated using the Pearl Index. It measures, in a clinical trial setting, how many women out of 100 get pregnant whilst using a particular contraceptive method. It was developed in 1933, and continues to be the main statistical measure used in sexual health, 85 years later.

What the Pearl Index doesn’t take into consideration is the side effects of theses drugs, implants or IUDs. It doesn’t measure how much pain the subject is in, how often or how heavy she bleeds, or the impact of hormones on her mental health.

Any contraceptive will be 100% effective if the woman taking it is in so much pain, or is bleeding so much that she no longer wants to have sex.

I realise why the sexual health dice are weighted in favour of men. It takes two to tango, but only one to give birth. However, in 2018 it still baffles me that the only contraceptive option for men is the condom. And let’s face it, women take just as much responsibility over that too.

Condoms are the best form of protection against STI’s, but for those in stable, long-term relationships, our contraceptive options need to be improved, and there need to be more options for men.

A friend told me that her one night stand refused to wear a condom and instead offered to pay for her to get the morning after pill, believing himself a gentleman for having done so.

It’s not as though there is no potential for a male alternative. You may be aware of the news story that broke a couple of years ago about a medical trial for a male contraception. It was abandoned mid-trial because of concerns over side effects, including: mood changes, muscle pain and acne. Symptoms most women on the pill already experience, and yet we are expected to soldier on.

A few years ago I met a doctor who had developed a male pill which has been proven effective in his early trial phases. The reason it isn’t on the market today? Pharmaceutical investors didn’t think it’d ‘catch on’, so they didn’t fund it.

I disagree with the investors. I believe most men would want to take a more active role in preventing pregnancies, it’s just something that society hasn’t forced them to think about yet.

Nothing enrages me more than the stories I hear from my girlfriends of their sexual partners who have shied away from using condoms, claiming that it doesn’t ‘feel good’.

Well neither does an abortion. Or life on the pill, or the months after having a piece of copper shoved into your cervix.

A friend told me about the time she had to persuade a one night stand to wear a condom (that she provided FYI) while they were having sex. Afterwards it transpired that he had removed it during the act without telling her. The next morning he offered to pay for her to get the morning after pill, believing himself a gentleman for having done so.

Women have a long history of being silenced, or disbelieved when it comes to their health. It wasn’t too long ago that we were being sectioned for ‘hysteria’ over a bad case of PMS. To this day, many friends of mine have repeatedly complained to their GP of unusual abdomen pain, only to be told that it’s just ‘women’s problems’, and that it’s ‘normal’.

It’s not normal. There needs to be a culture shift. We must stop telling ourselves that the crippling side effects of contraceptives are acceptable because if we don’t take action, nothing will change.

We know when something doesn’t feel right, and we should report issues to our doctor. We must also put pressure on the manufacturer of the pills and devices we put into our bodies. They are providing a product that we are paying for after all.

Once my doctor had gotten over his fear of tears, he removed the copper coil from my uterus. The pain stopped immediately. When I asked him why I had such a terrible experience with it, he simply shrugged ‘it just doesn’t work for some women’. But more needs to be done to understand why.

The onus shouldn’t be on women to keep trying different methods until they simply give up and are forced to accept the least painful side effects.

We have been quiet for too long. If you are having issues with your contraception, speak to your GP, speak to your local sexual health nurse or family planning clinic, speak to your friends, mums, sisters about their experiences. Speak to your partner.

The more we open up about our experiences, the more we learn and the more we can change.

It took me six months before I asked for help. Never again.

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