Is the withdrawal method the way forward for contraception?


If you’re 16 and reading this and your mum sees and I look like the most irresponsible person in the world ever, then I’m sorry. I’m especially sorry if you get grounded or whatever kids these days are doing.

Growing up, the withdrawal method was up there with injecting heroin, bunking off lessons and shoplifting. You didn’t do it unless you were seriously badass and wanted to get into trouble and didn’t give two shits if your parents found out. In fact, in my year group there was something quite cool about going to the doctors to go on the pill. It meant you were grown-up and sophisticated and mature, obvs.

Most of us, one by one, during years 10 and 11, got boyfriends who we actually saw outside school (OH MY FUCKING GOD, HOW EXCITING) and sort of felt like maybe we should be jumping on this whole sex and losing our virginities bandwagon.

I was part of a friendship group mostly made up of high achievers, top set girls, who, and nobody punch me in the face when I say this – were pretty popular. But we were sensible and wouldn’t have dreamed of having sex or losing our virginities without being on the pill. Without doing it properly, without being seen as mature and sensible and totally ready for it should any adults find out.

I don’t even remember going, and as I’m writing this I’ve just realised I’ve been sexually active for nearly a decade. So that’s good and doesn’t make me feel incredibly old and menopausal at all. Fuck. But, like the majority of my pals, I was put on Microgynon, a pill, which, isn’t always so kind on the body – or the mind.

I wrote a post a little while back about how contraception and, essentially adding extra hormones into my body, has never sat well with me. Not only do I hate the idea of putting chemicals into my body, even if it is for the sake of putting off having a baby before I’m 192 per cent ready, I despise the way they toy with my emotions and my mind and my sanity and I hate how, despite the fact there are so many types of contraception today, it feels like we have such little choice.

We were the generation of teenagers who were handed out contraceptive pills in their masses. We took them steadily for years. We relied on them. We didn’t think about what they were doing to us, aside from stopping said unwanted pregnancy. And now, now it feels like there’s been a bit of a rebellion.

It was around the time I finished university and the lost years that followed it, that I noticed that my friends were first starting to go on ‘breaks’ from the pill, starting to discuss articles they’d seen in Femail about how the pill could give us 17875368 varieties of cancer, and starting to think maybe controlling our bodies with these tiny little white circles wasn’t actually the way forward – that there must be another, healthier option.

Two friends opted for the coil. One said she almost passed out whilst it was getting inserted, another compared it to how she imagines labour pains to be.

A few stayed on the pill. Because why not? It’s so easy to just stick with what you know.

And everyone else? They ditched full-time contraception all together.

OK, so there’s a handful of us relying on the condom. But it’s just awkward isn’t it? It’s not awkward if you’re in the middle of some sort of drunk one night stand because hey you DEFINITELY do not want this guy’s baby or his Chlamydia and HIV and everything else that comes from his likely infested penis, but when you’re in a long-term relationship? It just feels wrong.

It feels wrong to just stop in the middle of everything to whack on a condom. In fact, it makes you feel like you’re doing something dirty, like you don’t trust each other, like you ARE having casual relations with an almost-stranger.

So yeah, 2014 was the year I found out over 50 per cent of my gal pals rely on the withdrawal method, for real.

It’s one of the oldest contraception methods and it’s got a pretty bad rap, which is probably something to do with the fact it has failue rates of up to 28 per cent. Although TBF, condoms have a failure rate of up to 18 per cent and the pill 8 per cent – but all this is according to Wikipedia, so whatevs.

We are actively choosing to risk having a baby at a less than ideal time rather than risk the side effects and inconvenience of NHS-approved contraception.

One friend admitted recently that it’s because if we’d have fallen pregnant at 16 it would have been seriously difficult for us and definitely the wrong time, whereas if we fall pregnant at 25 it’s not the end of the world. Sure, it’s not the plan, but we have jobs now, we have homes, stable partners, we have a way of making it work.

I haven’t spoken to any actual old grown-ups before writing this, so I can’t confirm what the generation before us did, but I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that a hefty chunk of us were born thanks to the withdrawal method going a bit wrong.

I can’t tell if I’m terrified and wanting to rush round to everyone with a basket full of condoms, or excited that I’m not the only one who feels like there’s limited choices when it comes to contraception. Oh, and triple excited that I’ll be receiving FUCK, I’M PREGNANT texts and invites to baby showers in their plenty over the next couple of years.

But on a serious note, someone recently told me that they heard on the work grapevine (they work sort of loosely in the contraception industry), that contraceptive pills won’t be available in the UK in a decade, that they will phase them out due to the links with cancer and other illnesses. Which just makes me wonder what will happen to the future of protected sex and what will be available when we come to have babies who turn into horny teenagers.

I’m sticking to my packet of Durex for the time being. ✌️


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