Feminism | Posted by Aurora on 01/4/2011

I Got an IUD at 16

birth control

birth control

I am sitting in a gynecologist’s waiting room next to my mother. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to one, and I don’t feel very welcome. Pregnant women and other patients all sit quietly, reading their magazines. Or pretending to. Every few moments, they look up from their reading material to give me a disapproving glance. I shift uncomfortably. I can tell they are judging me, and my mother too, for bringing me there.

Maybe I should tell you how I got there.

I got my first kiss a few weeks before I turned 16. I got my first serious boyfriend as well. It wasn’t that I’d never been asked out, just that I never really cared enough to take anyone up on the offer. I preferred reading to dating, as lame as everyone else thought it was.

The decision to lose my virginity was entirely my own. My boyfriend hadn’t even brought it up before I told him I wanted to. I decided not tell my parents about it because my father wouldn’t approve, and I would rather set myself on fire than talk about sex with my mother, who I didn’t really get along with anyways.

But one day I had to. There had been a condom break and I was too young to get Plan B on my own. Girls under 17 need a prescription by law, an arbitrary guideline with no basis in medical fact. I had to ask my mother for help.

I thought she was going to be furious, but she took it well. She went to the pharmacy and got it herself. I think the pharmacist knew what was going on, but like the women in the waiting room, he didn’t do anything but glare disapprovingly. After a lot of consideration, my mom decided she wasn’t going to tell my dad, who would only make me break up with my boyfriend and ground me for the next 50 years. She told me that she didn’t want me to have the same problems with sex she did. She had grown up in a very conservative Catholic Portuguese family, and her mother didn’t understand how babies were made or know about birth control until after her 5th child.

The Plan B worked. I got my period the day after. But my mom and I agreed: I needed backup birth control. She took me to the doctor, who I asked about getting birth control after fighting off my embarrassment. She said that she couldn’t get me any, but she referred me to a gynecologist, and told me she was glad I wanted to protect myself.

The gynecologist herself was not as judgmental as the women in the waiting room, and she was the one who suggested the IUD to me. It is very effective, she said, and it didn’t have hormones, which I wanted to avoid. “Isn’t that just for women who already have children?” I asked. But it’s not really, that was yet another arbitrary guideline.

I faced a lot of judgment because of my decision. My best girl friend, a fundamentalist Christian, was initially disappointed, though she came around. My father, who eventually found out, didn’t take it well at all (but that’s a whole different story). And of course the whole school found out I had sex, despite my best efforts to keep it a secret. Even my gynecologist was a little bothered, and I felt the need to defend myself to her– I got good grades, I’d never done drugs, the last time I’d drank was the Communion wine when I was seven– but I wondered if it really mattered. It was not her place to judge me, though I was reassured when she told me that as long as I was in a long term relationship, it didn’t matter to her. I felt bad for the girls who weren’t in one, but I didn’t say anything.

I don’t regret my decision. I’ve become much closer to my mother – these days I tell her everything. I feel that since I got the IUD I’ve come into my own. I don’t care what others think of me anymore and I’m much stronger. Now every time I’m stared at in the waiting room, or at school, I’m not bothered by it.

After all, it’s none of their business, is it?

For more information on birth control options check out Planned Parenthood’s website.

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  • Alec A @ at 11:14 am, January 4th, 2011

    What an excellent post! Thanks for sharing!

    Americans have so many puritanical hang-ups about sex. Good for you for seeking help with your situation. I think that mothers are generally very understanding with this sort of thing – they want what you think is best for you nine out of ten times.

  • lulux @ at 11:18 am, January 4th, 2011

    Very, very nice indeed. I am still a virgin, but I search a lot about birth control and how to prevent myself from STD, just in case when sex eventually happens.
    I am from Brazil, and it is sad to know there is still a lot of prejudice when it comes to sex. Most of my friends have regular sex lives and I am not bothered at all with it. I mean, it’s just sex. And they are not reckless, they wear protection.
    Sometimes I just forget how much prejudice there still is out there. My friends and I are so cool about sex and gay people that when I hear about cases like this it just brings me down.
    So sad people prefer to remain ignorant than to accept the world as it is.

  • Athena W @ at 12:06 pm, January 4th, 2011

    I’m actually kind of shocked that even your ob/gyn was slightly “bothered” with your decision yet fine with birth control as long as you were in a long term relationship. As long as you’re doing what is necessary to keep yourself healthy and safe no doctor (and no person in general) has any right to imply judgement of your character as a person based on your sexual relationships.

    I lost my virginity by my own decision at 16 as well, started on birth control at 17 and live in a relatively conservative area, so I understand the pressure on both sides. You’re absolutely, one hundred percent correct though, it’s none of their business.

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, I hope other girls will see this and take positive initiative!

  • Just Margaret @ at 12:08 pm, January 4th, 2011

    Good for you!

    I’m glad to hear that you were able to get past the discomfort of the disapproving looks and were able to get appropriate medical care. I am not shocked, but I am irritated that so many would pass judgment when you were simply being responsible–taking care of yourself, taking charge of your body, and making thoughtful choices. Many women with far more years under their belts could take a page out of your book.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Zoe @ at 12:39 pm, January 4th, 2011

    I’m surprised the women in the office seemed so judgmental to you. I went in for my first gynecologist when I was either 14 or 15 and I don’t remember feeling shamed by the people around me. I have a good gynecologist, though.

    I’m surprised you are allowed to get an IUD at 16. My friend got one at 23 and I was surprised then too. I guess it’s just one of those things that people believe.

  • Alien Guardian @ at 1:42 pm, January 4th, 2011

    I started taking birth control pills when I was 15, because my periods literally never end. I was really surprised at how judgmental and disapproving people, especially women, are about teens who use birth control.
    I’m glad you could overcome their looks and comments better than I could.

  • Amy CT @ at 2:20 pm, January 4th, 2011

    A very thought-provoking post.

    The system of sexual health care for teens that you describe shocks me, though.

    I’m 18 years old and living in the UK – and since the age of 13, had I wanted to, my doctor would have been legally obliged to prescribe me contraception without my parents’ knowledge, unless they thought I was in imminent danger.

    As far as I know, there is no minimum age for buying contraception from a phramacist here, but the same confidentiality rules apply.

    As much as I suppose it could be seen as catalysing teenage sex, I do think this is important. Nothing governments do to stop teenagers having sex will work – so they should offer them decent sexual health care in confidentiality if at all possible.

  • Niamh @ at 8:16 pm, January 4th, 2011

    @Zoe – I thought the same thing! Gynecologist visits are supposed to begin at 16-18.

    Very interesting. I’ve never considered an IUD.

  • AntiSlice @ at 12:02 am, January 6th, 2011

    Excellent post. Wouldn’t it be great if IUDs were common for that age group, when it seems like most girls are not at all interested in disrupting their life that way?

    And @Niamh – I believe it’s 18 or whenever you become sexually active. I didn’t go until I was twenty and my mom strongly encouraged me to. I hadn’t become sexually active though.

  • BruceChris @ at 8:33 pm, January 6th, 2011

    I have a good friend, who got her tubes tied at 23. She had a loong talk with a relative, who was a doctor, who had a loong talk with the ob/gyn, who finally agreed to do it. She has never regretted it.

  • Liza @ at 8:55 pm, January 6th, 2011

    What is an IUD?
    That question shows how great the sex ed at my school is.

  • Alien Guardian @ at 10:02 pm, January 6th, 2011

    Liza: Intra-uterine device.

  • New study on young people and STDs shows how sex negativity is detrimental to your health @ at 10:43 am, January 7th, 2011

    […] in Western Europe because we don’t do enough to encourage teen contraceptive use. It means that a 16-year-old faces disapproval and judgment when she makes the extremely responsible decision to get an effective, long-term form of birth […]

  • MissArrowette @ at 5:28 pm, January 7th, 2011

    I just want to say how incredibly kick-ass and brave I think you are for tackling your sexual health at this age. I hate that it seems like such a huge accomplishment (because shouldn’t this be easier for everyone?) but I know how scary it can be. I went through my own pregnancy scare, but unlike you I wasn’t brave enough (or knowledgeable enough) to tackle it and thank goodness it turned out I wasn’t pregnant. The next time I entered into a relationship, I was was much more on the ball and got myself an IUD (copper, like you) and I’m really grateful I have it.

    I’m glad that you’ve found a confidant in your mother now–I’m afraid that probably won’t ever happen for me. I have to say, though, I’m glad I never felt the same sort of disapproval from the general public OR my GYN.

  • Jenna @ at 2:56 pm, January 8th, 2011

    Nothing really to add here, other than good on you for taking control of your health — and fuck those folks for staring.

    I only wish I could have gotten my IUD at 16 instead of at 24.

  • Lyndsey Wall @ at 1:20 pm, December 14th, 2011

    I really like this story. The only thing I think you have to be careful about when you have IUD is that if something does go wrong and you get an STD it can be worse because you have the IUD. So maybe that’s why it mattered to the gynochologist if you were in a long term relationship. You can have an IUD if you aren’t you just have to remember to use condomns so you don’t get an infection!

  • Lyndsey Wall @ at 1:20 pm, December 14th, 2011

    (I have an IUD that’s how I know this.)

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