birth control stories birth control methods collage

7 Women Share When and Why They Started Using Birth Control

Pregnancy prevention isn’t the only reason.

A high-schooler on the verge of losing her virginity walks into a Planned Parenthood hoping to avoid teen motherhood. It’s a tale as old as—well, anyone born in 1977, when birth control was legalized for minors. But some women start using birth control (or start using it again after a hiatus) later in life, and pregnancy prevention isn’t the only reason. According to one survey, for example, 70 percent of young women on the Pill take it for the potential non-contraceptive health benefits, like lighter periods and clearer skin, and most women use condoms when they’re looking to prevent pregnancy and STIs. Here, seven women share their birth control stories

“My skin was ready for birth control before I was ready for sex.”

“When I was 16 or 17, my pediatrician prescribed a combination birth control pill. I was definitely not having sex yet, but my skin was really bad, and it was making me super self-conscious. I begged to go on the Pill because I had to be on birth control in order to start Accutane—which has been linked to birth defects if a woman gets pregnant while taking it—and because the Pill itself was known to help with acne. (Also, I was terrified of getting pregnant. Every single blister in the Accutane blister pack had a big “no-pregnancy” symbol on it.) I remember my pediatrician seeming concerned about putting me on birth control pills at that age. I think it was mainly because my mom hadn’t taken me to the gynecologist yet. And probably some patriarchal overtones; looking back now, it was kind of messed up. My parents and pediatrician reluctantly agreed after I said, ‘Look at this face … do you really think I’m having sex?!’” —Lisa Jones, San Diego, California

“I chose birth control so I wouldn’t have to choose abortion again.”

“I grew up in a small town back when Internet connections were still dial-up and cell phones looked like suitcases, and a lot of high-schoolers passed the time by hooking up and having sex. When I was 15, I started sleeping with my then-boyfriend. My good friend and I were fearful of getting pregnant, so we made appointments together at the local Planned Parenthood. We’d heard from other friends that the appointment and the birth control were free—and they were. Fast-forward to my early 20s: I was dating a guy who was significantly older. He thought birth control was ‘unnatural’ and convinced me to go off it, saying he would be careful. One abortion later, he was gone—and birth control was back.” —Jenna O’Connell, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“I need birth control because my husband’s vasectomy won’t cure my cramps.”

“In high school, I would get cramps so bad, I had to sleep them off in the nurse’s office. I went on the Pill when I was a junior, and it helped a ton. I stayed on it until I decided in my early 30s that I wanted to try to get pregnant. I had my son at 33, and a few weeks later, I got my period. With my doctor’s guidance—and because I didn’t want to take a daily pill or pick up a monthly prescription—I started looking into long-acting reversible contraceptives (or LARCs) and went with an IUD. That was five years ago. Even though my husband has a vasectomy, I’m keeping my IUD in because I don’t want cramps again, and I don’t want to have to deal with a period.” —Jill Blake, Portland, Oregon

“Birth control eased me out of medically induced menopause.”

“I used birth control consistently pretty much from college until I started trying to get pregnant six or so years later, when I was 28. I got pregnant basically right away. My husband and I were surprised—we had thought we should start trying early in case it took a long time—and just out of grad school. Our son, Rowan, was born prematurely eight months later. Then I started having really intense cramps and pain and developed a mass on my C-section scar. Finally, my GP ordered imaging and found bilateral masses on my ovaries. They thought they’d need to perform a hysterectomy, but the surgeon was able to remove all the tissue without removing my uterus, which was amazing. After that I was on an estrogen-lowering medication that put me into medically induced menopause. It was crazy—hot flashes, thin skin, dryness, moodiness, fuzzy brain. My hips and breasts changed. After six months, I went off the medication and onto a super-low-dose birth control Pill that I’ve been on ever since. In theory, I could still get pregnant, but after adopting our two daughters two years ago, our family is complete.” —Erin Fogg, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

“Birth control helped my mood swings when herbal remedies didn’t.”

“Three months ago, I started hormonal birth control again after not being on it for maybe 15 years. I’m 46, and hormone fluctuations had started to affect my marriage, my mood—all of it! They were just destroying me. I was angry, moody, and not sleeping. I had tried herbal remedies and tons of vitamins and seeing zero effects. Finally, my OB-GYN was like, ‘None of that stuff has any proven efficacy. You may as well try hormonal birth control, which could offer some relief.’ I’m in my second week of my third month, and my moods already seem better.” —Laura Granston, Tenafly, New Jersey

“It took birth control to get my wildly erratic period in check.”

“I’ve tried a lot of birth control. At 18, I started taking the Pill so I could have sex without having babies. (Condoms didn’t seem like enough.) At 20, I switched to the Ring because taking pills was kind of a drag. Then I got a copper IUD when I was 25 because it seemed easy. But I bled a lot, so I switched to a hormonal IUD when I was 28. I was still getting a lot of periods, sometimes two a month, which meant that every two weeks I was either PMS-ing or on my period, and that’s just a bummer. I have the most stubborn periods on the face of this planet. Plus, I was getting mild migraines every other weekend. After doing an ultrasound to rule out other problems, like fibroids, my doctor put me on the Pill. I skip the placebo week. It’s been about nine months, and it’s helped a lot with my periods. It’s reduced the headaches too, though I still get one every once in a while.” —Maggie Pruitt, Wenatchee, Washington 

“I switched to ‘set it and forget it’ birth control after an accidental pregnancy.”

“My mom put me on the Pill for my skin when I was 15. But I also think she and my dad were worried that I would start having sex, though that was never explicitly stated. The problem was, I wasn’t responsible in any aspect, and I was always forgetting to take my pills. Surprise, surprise: At 22, I got pregnant. I decided to get a surgical abortion, and I asked the doctor to implant an IUD while I was sedated. That was eight years ago. Now I’m 30, engaged—and hoping to get pregnant soon.”—Eleanor Harris, San Diego, California

For more information on choosing the best birth control option for you, visit Planned Parenthood at

Juno DeMelo is a health, wellness, and beauty journalist who taps into a broad network of experts to write in-depth service articles for leading publications, including Glamour, The New York Times, Bon Appétit, The New Yorker, Runner’s World, and O, The Oprah Magazine.