🎶🎶Abortion is a crime it is a crime it is a crime is a crime abortion is a crime. It is a crime it is a crime is a crime abortion is a crime. It is a crime it is a crime is a crime abortion is a crime🎶🎶 I remember singing along to this tune passionately when I was a child. If you are not familiar with this Nthsenge reggae tune then I don’t know what kind of songs your radio stations air. Anyways, when I was a kid I did not think of the context, I promise you I did not know what abortion meant, the only crime I knew was probably theft because of how prevalent mob justice was then. I can’t quote myself. I will not be discussing the politics of its morality, I will be talking about the female body.
According to the Harvard Health Publishing, abortion is the removal of pregnancy tissue, products of conception or the fetus and placenta (afterbirth) from the uterus. As I continue reading what it is used for, it talks about abortion being used to end unplanned pregnancies, when the fetus is abnormal and the mother’s health is at risk. I don’t know about you but my awareness on abortion was on the news about a fetus being found in Nairobi CBD streets in the morning, tied in a plastic bag. Or my friends telling me stories about their friends who have had to abort because either the condom broke or their Plan B did not work. What I find fascinating about this was that I never connected it to the body, the wellness of the female body.
And this reminded me of other natural body processes that we (females) go through and others that we put ourselves through (this we have our personal reasons to). You know things like periods, I get very angry at my cramps having the audacity to do my body such a disservice. Mind you, at that point I cannot explain what is really going on, I cannot break it down why shedding causes cramps. I get mad at myself because I cannot explain what is going on in my body yet I could know. But this one, this one! Oh sweet one that I put myself through, angers me more because why did I put myself through what I haven’t learn yet. And that one is birth control, friends! Where I grew up, Kenya, I was not exposed to contraceptives at all,well, sex either. But my point is, all I knew was that there is a pill that could help you avoid pregnancies. I had no idea about shots, insertions or patches until I started watching a show called MTV Shuga (shameless plug: If you haven’t watched it come on all episodes are on Youtube, enjoy!) Also, please have in mind that as much as the purpose of birth control is to prevent pregnancy, many women use it for health advantages like regulating their periods, reducing acne and lowering pain caused by endometriosis.
But this one, this one! Oh sweet one that I chose to be in contact with, yet I haven’t learnt enough about. And that is birth control my friends!
Brief intro on contraceptives: they serve the purpose of preventing pregnancy. They come in different forms and have very different effects on the female body. Everyone’s effects vary, I believe it cannot be entirely the same for every woman. I remember when I wanted to start using contraceptives, I was wondering what my mum will have to say about her unmarried daughter using a drug that implies she is having sex (not really the case but if you know you know). Now, I am more concerned about learning the scientific processes that are going on in my own goddamn body. I want to learn the nitty-gritty of how the contraceptive interacts with my body to cause the different effects. I did some research and I am hoping it will feed a person’s curiosity, inform or motivate them to go and know about their insides.
I have chosen to speak about the Depo Shot because that is what I am familiar with. Depo Provera is a contraceptive that is given by injection every 3 months. It contains a progesterone hormone. Its common side effects are spotting/bleeding. weight gain, no more periods and bone loss. I was able to talk to an obstetrician/gynaecologist in order to understand how this contraceptive interacts with the body scientifically. I will be breaking this down in brief parts so the information is easy to carry with and not boring.
Bleeding: The reason for bleeding is because depo provera is a progesterone which keeps the lining of the uterus thin. When the lining is thin, it can bleed automatically. When this happens, the blood can irritate the uterus which causes cramping. Why is it that this irritation causes cramping? There isn’t a clear mechanism, however, when blood accumulates in the uterus from breakthrough bleeding the uterine walls do not like to be expanded and so they start to contract. This can happen when you put anything in the uterus, like an instrument during a gyn procedure or an IUD. How is it then that it can prevent periods yet subject the patient to bleeding? Make it Make sense! It prevents periods because it prevents the hypothalamus from stimulating the ovaries to ovulate. Progesterone also causes a thin lining on the uterus and over time it causes bleeding and spotting because it is more fragile than a thick lining during a normal menstrual cycle.
Acne: Common in other forms of contraceptives too. The provera restricts the gonadotropins which are secreted by the brain to grow a follicle which leads to low estrogen levels. When estrogen is low, sex hormone binding protein will go down, which causes your free androgens to be elevated and can cause acne. In women androgens are produced in the ovary and adrenal glands. They stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce sebum (oil) which can clog pores and cause bacteria to grow, thus causing acne.
Regaining of fertility: After stopping the shot, it could take up to a year to regain fertility. The depo provera prevents the hypothalamus from stimulating the ovaries. After it wears off, it takes time for the prevention to wear off and to start stimulating the ovaries again so that you can ovulate.
Depression and weight gain: Depression is a complex disorder so there is no specific explanation. Progesterone increases appetite so that could increase weight but not everybody gains weight from the shot.
All in all, take care of your body. Your soul might not be willing but that shit is not physical, so when you are going down it could easily evaporate elsewhere. Know what is going on in your body when you can. Be kind to yourself, your body and its physical needs. Have these conversations: talk to your closest friend: another friend. Ask each other these questions. Ladies, carefully think about the reasons you choose to go on birth control, if it is for sexual pleasure talk to your partner. Not that they deserve this information but you deserve to make him aware. Make sure both of you fully understand its interactions with your body and its impacts. If it is for medical purposes, educate yourself on why your body needs that hormone regulation. Own your choices!
Attached are fun quotes I found on the internet on birth control.
One of my favorite moments is when a guy, at that certain point in a relationship, says something desperately hopeful like, ‘Are you on the pill?’ I simply say, ‘No, are you?Roxanne Gay
Patriarchy is women structuring lifelong decisions around men they haven’t met.Maggie Young
“Aren’t you on the pill?” he demands.
“No,” I say, feeling more pissed off with every passing second. “Are you?”Katy Regenery