Shame, Humiliation, Limited Access: 10 Stories of Women and Their Birth Control

Welcome to The V, our weeklong series devoted to all things sex and reproductive health. This is a safe space free from "taboos," because there's no reason anyone should feel awkward talking about their bodies. That said, we'll be clearing up any misinformation on the subject, starting with this huge misnomer: The "V" in this case doesn't refer to the vagina, but the vulva, which is the anatomically correct term for external female genitalia (including the opening of the vagina). Stay tuned all week for need-to-know guides on birth control, tips for taking your orgasm to the next level, real-life stories about endometriosis, and everything in between.

The subject of birth control is a convoluted one—the complexities made even more apparent after reaching out to different women for this piece. As someone who's never interacted with hormonal birth control before, I found myself without an understanding of what it's really like to go get it for the first time, to feel those telltale, awful symptoms, and to hang your head in shame during a lecture from a doctor unsympathetic to your needs. For a medication so ubiquitous with growing up, why, I ask you, is the information still so mysterious? And while we're asking questions, how is it possible that almost every single one of the women featured below has had a negative experience either with the drug itself or the adults manipulating their decisions about it?

It's about time we discuss women's sexual health in a real, raw, and constructive way. Starting with our first experiences with birth control and the subsequent embarrassment, shame, and mixed messaging that ensues. Below, find eight women who have chosen to share their own stories. They span the gamut in age, location, and birth control method, but one thing is constant in all of their narratives: not enough information.