When it comes to sex, I'm as vanilla as they come. I couldn't really talk about sex with some of my friends, who often had multiple partners or regularly got invited to BDSM balls. Sure, as a bisexual woman in her twenties, my sexual experiences weren't all hetero-missionary, especially with the women I dated in the past. With my current boyfriend, Jonathan*, however, it was nice to establish a routine that we never found boring, and to agree on using not just one, but three contraception methods at all times: Wearing a condom, pulling out, and agreeing to have sex with me only on my infertile days (according to the calendar method).
Jonathan always practiced safe sex, even in his past relationship. I added the calendar method in to be safer, and it's worked for us for the past two years. One day, we decided that maybe he didn't have to pull out, just for one night, so we could both experience what it would feel like. We've had friends who don't even pull out and use a condom anymore (usually relying completely on other forms of birth control) so it didn't seem so risky to us at that moment. We also regularly get the most expensive branded condoms available at local convenience stores, and they've never ripped on us before.
My life pretty much flashed before my eyes at that moment, and I was not ready for our conservative Catholic parents to find out that we were going to have a pre-marital baby on the way.
Until he didn't pull out, and the condom did rip. My life pretty much flashed before my eyes at that moment, and I was not ready for our conservative Catholic parents to find out that we were going to have a pre-marital baby on the way.
Although the RH Bill has been around for some time now, we still have limited access to contraception methods, and the morning-after pill is one of them.
The first thing I did? I cried. Because I had to. Letting the panic run its course was what always helped me think straight, and I automatically thought that I had to get on emergency contraception right away. Although the RH Bill has been around for some time now, we still have limited access to contraception methods, and Emergency Contraception, aka the morning-after pill, is one of them. I checked Mercury Drug and Watson's branches to see if the morning-after pill was available. These drug stores both don't stock it (and my OB-GYN later confirmed that the morning-after pill is not available in the Philippines), so I had to make do with an improvised dosage of continuous birth control pills.
In an ideal situation, I would've gone to an OB-GYN first. Consulting a professional before resorting to emergency birth control methods is the best way to deal with a pregnancy scare. But because my mom never brought me to an OB and I didn't know if we could find one right away whom I could trust, I was too scared to simply consult anyone we could find in nearby clinics. This isn't the first pregnancy scare I've had, and I did take Nordette a few years ago, which was recommended by a friend of mine who went through the same thing. Because it worked for me back then, I decided to rely on something similar.
As my partner, he understood that birth control was his responsibility too.
Jonathan and I bought Trust pills, which contain levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol. These are the same hormones present in Nordette, which has been apparently phased out of local drug stores for some time now. I took four pills first, and took four more after 12 hours. According to NPS.org.au, these hormones are supposed to do three things:
- Stop any egg I had in my body from maturing.
- Change my cervical mucus' consistency, making it difficult for sperm to enter an egg.
- Make the uterine lining less suitable for implantation.
I expected to feel some side effects; dizziness and nausea being some of them. Taking the pills was step one, and dealing with everything that happened after was something else entirely. Jonathan and I had to talk about the possibility of the pills not working. As my partner, he understood that birth control was his responsibility too. He asked me if I wanted to get an abortion, just in case (I didn't want to, ever) and how we would tell our parents together. We even computed our combined assets to see if we could accommodate an unexpected child (surprisingly, we could). By going through the hard stuff now, it was a lot easier for us to constantly update each other through the process. This was important for me as I had to deal with nausea over the next couple of days.
Five days later, I started bleeding heavily. This didn't happen to me during my previous experience with Nordette—and because nothing out of the ordinary happened then, I didn't feel like consulting an OB-GYN. But with the bleeding I experienced this time around, right then and there, I decided that I needed to see a doctor to have it checked. Of course, I told Jonathan right away, and we quickly asked help from our friends to find a trusted OB-GYN we could consult. It was important for us to find a doctor who not only knew what she was doing, but who wouldn't judge us for taking contraception.
One of our friends just graduated from med school, and recommended one of her professors. We saw her a day after I observed the bleeding, and she told us that the bleeding was actually a second period, brought about by the sudden surge in hormones triggered by taking the pills. She wrote us a prescription for a transvaginal ultrasound (TVS), which would determine if I needed to take a pregnancy test or not. She even encouraged us to go on continuous birth control pills, so my body could adjust to the hormones properly. Luckily, my TVS results showed a thin uterine lining, and my doctor said it was impossible for me to be pregnant.
Seeing a doctor can be scary, but being completely, truly informed about the changes in your body is a step towards a sense of agency.
I'm aware of how privileged I am, still. I had a steady group of friends I could talk to about this, as well as a pretty feminist team at work who didn't judge me for taking afternoons off to get my check-ups done. Even though I'm not regularized at work yet and my medical expenses weren't covered, I still had a supportive partner who split the cost with me—he paid for my check-ups while I paid for the TVS. There are millions of women out there who have to go through dealing with a pregnancy scare alone, without the support of a partner or the means to pay for emergency birth control. Feminist organizations like GABRIELA and the Likhaan Center for Women's Health provide proper counseling for women in need of birth control, regardless of their financial status.
Having talked to a trustworthy and experienced OB-GYN, I now realize that there are some things I wish I had done differently.
Seeing a doctor can be scary, but being completely, truly informed about the changes in your body is a step towards a sense of agency. No one should hold dominion over your body, but it's your responsibility to ensure that the freedom you exercise won't affect the body that allowed you to experience so much.
Having talked to a trustworthy and experienced OB-GYN, I now realize that there are some things I wish I had done differently. Instead of taking emergency birth control, I should have sought her out first, so all my next steps would be monitored and approved by a professional. Even in a conservative country like the Philippines, there are doctors you can turn to who won't slut-shame you for having sex, who are willing to inform you properly about all the birth control options at your disposal. The choices you make involving your reproductive health are truly consensual if you choose them with the guidance of someone completely informed.
*Name has been changed for privacy.