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We know shockingly little about many of the conveniences we rely on in modern life.
The cars we drive, the trains we ride, the smartphones into which we type our most sensitive personal data — for most of us, their inner workings are pure mystery.
The same goes for our birth control.
Questions abound about the tiny pills — or patches, or condoms, or intrauterine devices — that we count on to sidestep unwanted pregnancies. I’ve often wondered:
Many women have obsessively Googled questions like these, along with other reproductive health queries. (And if they’re like me, they’ve poured to-the-brim glasses of Trader Joe’s wine after reading one too many contraception-gone-awry horror stories.)
Google no further. The Lily’s video series, “When Used Correctly,” has answers for you.
Our ace video editor, Maya Sugarman, filmed, edited and appears in the series. Here’s the origin story, in her own words:
My peers constantly bring up contraception in conversation. They all care deeply about their reproductive health, but felt a knowledge deficit when it came to contraception. They wanted to learn from trustworthy sources, but many used unapproachable language. Six months ago, we asked you what you wanted to watch. More than 200 of you answered. You want to hear from real people and experts. You’re interested in talking about contraception with your friends. I’m so excited to share “When Used Correctly” with you. I hope it brings you comfort, joy and knowledge. I hope the series makes you feel more in control of your own reproductive health.
Each episode is approximately three minutes. There are seven total — just 21 minutes to binge-watch the bunch. But if you’re short on time, here are key takeaways until you can tune in.
The Internet can be educational. It can also be anxiety-inducing and wildly inaccurate. Scouring websites for health info can fuel cyberchondria, the digital version of hypochondria. Here are two sites you can trust, according to a board certified family nurse practitioner: birth control site Bedsider.org and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How hard is it to get pregnant?
Measuring less than 2 inches, Nexplanon — the birth control implant that’s inserted in your arm — is short, but its life span is lengthy. The hormonal-based implant can ward off pregnancy for up to four years. Meet one woman who has the implant and another who’s considering it.
The Dalkon Shield, an early IUD, was used by more than 2 million women in the United States and throughout the world in the 1970s and 1980s. But the aftereffects were severe: Many of those women got pelvic inflammatory disease, and many died. These days, IUDs are more effective and less invasive.
In 1960, the pill became available for contraceptive use.
What do “Gilmore Girls” and “Seinfeld” have in common? Both cultural touchstones feature scenes that hinge on birth control. In the former, Lorelai fears she might be pregnant after a night with her boyfriend, Luke, that got “primordial.” Despite the show’s focus on women, the episode is vague and skittish when it comes to the specifics of birth control. “Seinfeld,” however, takes the opposite approach. Elaine is forthright about her preferred contraceptive — the sponge — and when the product is pulled from shelves, limiting her supply, she’s unapologetic about gauging whether a guy’s “sponge-worthy.”
Breakups happen. This one happened over birth control. Lisa Bonos, writer and editor of The Washington Post’s Solo-ish, explains why she and a former partner split — and drops some wisdom along the way.
“There’s no pill to keep you safe emotionally, or keep sex free from consequence.”
Series art directed by Amy Cavenaile
Intro animation and illustration by Chris Piascik for The Lily