Birth control is generally marketed and designed for heterosexuals, but they’re not the only ones using it. We reached out to lesbians for their birth control experiences and advice.
“I wasn't going to let my periods get in the way of my education”
I've been on the pill for years, now. My menstrual cramps used to be unbearably painful. I missed school sometimes, or had to leave in the middle of class—because I couldn't focus on anything but how much it hurt. I wasn't going to let my periods get in the way of my education, so I started using hormonal birth control as a way to regulate and manage my periods. I still get cramps, but they're nothing compared to what they used to be. Using the pill doesn't relate strongly to my lesbian identity. It's a medical decision I made to make my life easier.
My experience, on the whole, has been incredibly positive. Where my period pains used to wake me up in the small hours of the morning, I can now sleep soundly, and I never have to miss class due to cramps any more. If I hadn't started taking birth control, I'd have had a much harder time getting through school and college. Now I'm at university and grateful to be able to go about my day without cramps making everything impossible.
If you're thinking about using it for period management, but are nervous due to the stigma, I'd like to reassure you; it's perfectly okay to want to have better control over your period. You aren't doing anything wrong, and I wish you the best. I hope it's as effective for you as it has been for me.
—Anonymous, lesbian, cisgender female, 19, UK
“My acne has cleared considerably”
I’ve been taking combined birth control pills for the last four months, to control a hormonal imbalance that causes severe cystic acne. It’s been an awesome experience so far. A few cramps while my body adjusted, but otherwise it’s been great. My acne has cleared considerably and I have less new breakouts. For other lesbians thinking about taking birth control: Make sure it’s prescribed and don’t be afraid to use it for other purposes even though you’re not having sex with men.
—Anonymous, lesbian, cis woman, 22, Accra, Ghana
“I have changed pill brands simply because not all worked for me”
I take the pill for hormonal balance and period regulation. My experience has been okay, I have changed pill brands simply because not all worked for me. My advice to others? Be mindful that sometimes the side effects aren't worth it, don’t be afraid to change types.
—Anonymous, lesbian, nonbinary, 19, Malta
“Birth control helped with my gender dysphoria”
My choice of birth control has some connection to my sexuality and gender. I used to identify as bisexual and started using birth control while I was dating a cis man. I have since broken up with this man (2-3 years ago), and more recently (within the last few months) I came to the conclusion that I'm a lesbian but still have my birth control. I also identify as nonbinary and I know many people hate menstruating, but I think the fact that birth control stopped/lightened my periods helped with my gender dysphoria slightly, though I have other sources of dysphoria the birth control hasn't helped.
I used the implant (Implanon) in the past but it interacted with my mood stabilizer and caused a non-stop period for about 2 months. I went to the doctor and found out the drug interaction was the issue and got the implant removed. I got the Mirena IUD about a half year later, which did not interfere with the mood stabilizer. Overall it’s been an okay experience. It prevented pregnancy, and it seems to help somewhat with mood stability and helps a lot with my IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) for whatever reason. I also like that I have a much lighter period. The only real downside is that I get mild acne and I have some spotting.
—Anonymous, lesbian, nonbinary, 25, Wisconsin, USA
“My periods have really smoothed out”
I’m on the birth control pill, not just to prevent pregnancy but also to reduce really heavy periods. I’m nonbinary, and my period can make me kind of dysphoric. My experience with birth control has been fine, and my periods have really smoothed out in terms of how heavy they used to be.
—Anonymous, lesbian, nonbinary (female aligned), 21, Florida, USA
“Before starting the pill I wouldn’t get my period for six months at a time”
I’ve been on the pill for four years, to correct hormone imbalances. Before starting the pill I wouldn’t get my period for six months at a time. I used to have higher testosterone, and my voice has actually changed since starting the pill. I identify as a woman and was AFAB (assigned female at birth), but my lower voice kind of fucked with the way I felt as a woman. Having a more feminine voice makes me feel better.
I once had to go months at a time without it because I couldn't find a doctor to re-up my prescription. Also, I've moved between three different states since I started. In two, my prescription cost $10-20. In New York, I get it for free. I haven't changed yet, but have been thinking about the hormonal IUD.
—Anonymous, lesbian, woman, 21, New York, USA
“My experience with birth control has been complicated”
I’ve been on the pill since before I figured out I was a lesbian. I don’t use birth control to avoid pregnancy, but to avoid having periods, and to help my skin. My experience with birth control has been complicated. It’s been a lot of trial and error, which isn’t super fun. I’ve changed about 6-7 times in 5 years. It’s hard on the body. If you’re thinking about going on birth control: Do it if you feel it’s right, but be ready for a process. Find what’s right for you, and don’t settle for anything less. It’s your body, treat it well!
—Anonymous, lesbian, woman, 20, Wisconsin, USA
“Find a good doctor. It will make all the difference!”
I’ve been taking Levlen (combined oral contraceptive) for around four months. My periods are very upsetting and disruptive and I'm hoping to stop them entirely (with the blessing of my doctor). Even though my relationship can't get me pregnant anyway, I do like the security of knowing nothing unforseen can happen. I'm not sure if there’s a connection between my gender and choice of birth control. I do consider myself non-binary, but I don't know if my aversion to periods has anything to do with it.
I used to take the Depo-Provera shot. Having to rely on getting it from local Planned Parenthood places was uncomfortable, and I gained a lot of weight. I'm still seeing how the Levlen goes, but I'm hopeful. Find a good doctor. It will make all the difference! For every awful doctor there is a good, supportive one out there waiting for you.
—Anonymous, lesbian, agender, 25, New Zealand
“Birth control doesn’t have to be related to your sexuality”
I take the combined pill to treat acne. My experience has been mostly good. I had problems with headaches for a while but they’ve stopped now and the pill has cleared my acne. My advice? If you think birth control is right for you, go for it! It doesn’t have to be related to your sexuality.
—Katie, lesbian, female, 16, Yorkshire, UK
Read more about birth control, STIs, safer sex, and the best things about dating someone who also has a period.
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