There are only 23 contraceptives left on the market

Sorry I’ve been away for a while. I wasn’t planning on continuing this blog but I’ve been resurrected due to recent, disturbing news: according to POPCOM, there are only 23 contraceptives left on the market. CNN also reports that “This might be your last year to access birth control”. What does this mean for us?

What are the options left? How do we deal with this? I’ve been trying to figure it out. Off the top of my head:

More on this as it develops. Let’s hope the Supreme Court resolves this. I’ll be over at childfreefilipina@gmail.com if anyone needs me.

ECP supplementary FAQs, or, “Things I am not”

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Taking off once again from ECP Update: Nordette is Phased Out, Here are Your Alternatives, today we shall deal with two FAQs: “Am I pregnant?” and “When can I take a pregnancy test?”

But before that, I just want to say for the record that I’m a local childfree blogger and earth-bound goddess, not:

  • A psychologist
  • A psychiatrist
  • An actual medical professional
  • Your mother
  • The fetus whisperer

While I can virtually hold your hand and respond to your comments and e-mails, you guys, your anxiety is off the charts sometimes so you ask questions that in no way I can actually answer. In all seriousness if you do need a psychologist, check this out. Also, if you need a fetus whisperer to figure out if you’re pregnant, sorry, even an earth-bound goddess/ the internet has limited powers.

ECP Supplementary FAQs!

Are you pregnant?

I honestly can’t know this. And if you took ECP, here’s the thing: We can’t know if it worked until you get your period or take a pregnancy test. Sorry! There are a lot of factors that go into this such as:

  • Where you are in your cycle
  • What contraceptives you took
  • How often you’ve taken ECP
  • When the last time you took ECP was

So there’s really just no way of knowing immediately after taking ECP that it worked. You’re probably fretting about the withdrawal bleeding… That’s another FAQ, actually.

Can your withdrawal bleeding coincide with your real period?

I don’t think so.

  • Withdrawal bleeding: your body coming off the shock hormones. The ECP prevents you from ovulating, thus screwing up your cycle. You’re definitely not shedding uterine lining at this point. Also note that some people don’t get withdrawal bleeding. It depends on how your body processes these things.
  • Actual period: You’re shedding your uterine lining. Withdrawal bleeding is actually a part of menstrual suppression so I’d be inclined to say that the answer to this FAQ is no.

For more on this, please read about birth control pills and how they work.

When can I take a pregnancy test?

  • The day you miss your period
  • Three weeks after unprotected intercourse
  • Source if you need to read more about this

Please read the other FAQs in the ECP post clearly before commenting. I think I covered most things already. If there’s a question I haven’t covered, feel free to tell me! Thanks and stay safe.

The Cost of Raising Children in the Philippines

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Sorry if you’re looking for an actuarial study, there isn’t one yet. I just thought it would be a fun exercise to see how much it would cost to raise one child over 18 years. (Of course in my idea of the world, the child leaves the home at 18.) I’ll give you my estimates as a clueless childfree person, then you can tell me how far off the mark I am.

  • Pregnancy and childbirth: 100,000 PHP
  • First 5 years (doctors, vaccines, diapers, formula milk, etc): 10,000/month x 12 months x 5 years = 600,000 PHP
  • Tuition fee under K-12: 40,000 x 12 years = 480,000 PHP
  • College tuition (UP Bracket A estimate): 60,000/year x 4 years (you hope) = 240,000 PHP
  • Living expenses for 13 years: 5,000/month x 12 months x 16 years = 780,000 PHP

Total Cost: 2,200,000 PHP

The average number of children in the Philippines is 3.06 children born/woman (2014 est.), so that’s 6,600,000 PHP.

And that’s just the children. There’s also mortgages, your own expenses, trips, medical expenses, and so on.

I’m sure the following things are going through your mind:

  • That doesn’t matter if you have a good job.
  • That doesn’t matter if you marry a stable person.
  • That doesn’t matter because children are a reward in themselves.

In which case, good for you! You’re ready to have children and you’re going to have a wonderful life with them! You can go on and read this article on why it’s awesome to raise children in the PH.

But please don’t give childfree people these arguments.

As a childfree person living on an average salary, it does matter. It matters very much. Because these are very real costs that impact on every aspect of life and freedom. I can’t live on sentimentality and “family values,” I have things I need to do and places I need to be. That very low estimate of 6+ million can help me achieve so many of my own goals. Basically, what I’m saying given these costs is, I’ll leave the childbearing and child-rearing up to you guys! 🙂

Birth Control and Childfreedom on Reddit

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Reddit was my favorite place on the internet, at least, before the whole Ellen Pao drama happened. But it’s still a valuable resource no matter who manages it, because it’s a huge site with millions of subscribers and constantly updated content, and as the saying goes, “If it exists, there’s a subreddit for it.”

Reddit has been of great help to me in dealing with tokophobia and trichotillomania, two things I’ve been struggling with for quite some time. For the record, I don’t think tokophobia needs to be treated like a disease of some sort, as the fear of pregnancy and childbirth is completely rational. For me, it’s just a matter of understanding people who have it and accepting them for who they are. Not everyone is made out of the same cookie cutter after all. Now on to reddit!

How to Use reddit

  1. Make an account — it’s free. LPT: the wittier your username, the better.
  2. If you chose to provide your e-mail address, verify it. This lets you post and comment more often.
  3. Start posting and voting!

r/birthcontrol

This blog isn’t my actual job and sometimes I take too long to respond. If you have questions about birth control, post it here. I usually get a reply in a matter of minutes. Keep in mind that majority of users are North American and Western European, so you have to specify where you live in case your question involves access. There’s also a ton of stuff in there about various forms of birth control so it’s a very educational read every time. Before asking, use the search bar to check if someone’s already asked a similar question.

r/childfree

This is where we post stories of our lives as childfree individuals. Don’t be swayed by the negative people on here, most members are calm and understanding. I usually post about BINGOs I get, and how strange it is to be a childfree person living in Manila. There’s also a ton of related subs that you can browse.

Other Subs You Can Browse

  1. r/TheGirlSurvivalGuide and r/TwoXChromosomes for all your lady issues
  2. r/askmen the male counterpart of twox
  3. r/Relationships and r/relationshipadvice in case you’re also dealing with issues in that department
  4. r/Tokophobia but unfortunately it’s still set to private
  5. r/sterilization for people like me who are hellbent on getting it done
  6. r/Philippines for your country-specific questions
  7. r/offmychest for anything else you want to, well, get off your chest!

You can also make your own subs if you think you can moderate a type of content you can’t find yet.

Dear Childfree Filipina, can I get birth control pills without a prescription?

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This question has been asked so many times in so many places that it deserves its own post. So here’s a definitive answer that I will link back to henceforth.

Important note before you proceed: I have gotten reddit feedback that this is a “horrible two-faced article,” and that it says “let’s break the rules whenever you can like our politicians,” but let me ask you this: do you think someone would get a pill without a prescription just for fun? That someone would risk physical and emotional harm just because? That they, like politicians, will somehow profit from this? No. I will tell you right now that that’s not how it works. Contraception is not a want, it is a real medical need. A woman needs the pill for one reason or another, and there are real barriers to getting a prescription. Sometimes your OB-GYNE won’t prescribe you one because they disagree with contraception. Sometimes your religious convictions, or the religious convictions of those around you, prevent you from seeking professional help. Sometimes women can’t even afford to have the consultation. That’s the reality in this country and we have to deal with it head on. My point is, it’s not my place to judge, and it isn’t your place either. People ask, I give the information. I caution as much as I can, then I leave the choice up to them. Now, on to the answer!

Yes you need a prescription to get the pills.

But you can also get one without a prescription.

Let me explain.

Technically, you need a prescription because that would be the responsible thing to do. Go to an OB-GYNE, get a check up, a pap smear maybe, a TVS, discuss your contraceptive options, then get a prescription for the type of pill that suits you best. That’s the ideal scenario. I encourage you to get a prescription. Birth control is a drug, and you need professional guidance. It’s also better to have someone to talk to about side effects if there are any. Read this post to have a better idea of what you’re getting into.

However, if for some reason you can’t go to an OB-GYNE, you can still get one. The following advice is especially intended for those who need the pills as emergency contraception (ECP), not for those who need it as regular birth control. Remember, from time of unprotected contact or failed barrier contraceptive, a woman has only 120 hours to take the ECP, with the chances of it being effective decreasing by the minute.

Walk up to the pharmacy and say you need a pack of Trust. Or Lady. Whichever. If they ask you for a prescription, say you don’t have it with you, but that you’ve been using it for years. Wear mature clothing if you look young. If you have something approximating a wedding ring, wear it. Don’t act nervous or flustered, be completely confident like you’re just buying Biogesic. If you can get your hands on an empty pill pack to use as evidence that you’ve been using it, bring it. Approach male clerks for best results — they’re less likely to ask questions. Go to Mercury Drug or Generics Pharmacy, not Watsons. Most of the time, they’ll believe you and give you the pill. I’ve only been asked to show my prescription maybe thrice since 2012. If they don’t sell it to you, move on to the next one. Repeat until you have the pills.

Again, unless there are special circumstances like the need for ECP, I encourage you to go to an OB-GYNE. If you can’t or don’t want to then I’d rather give you the information on how to get the pills than end up with an unplanned pregnancy. None of us would need to be creative like this if we had ready access to reproductive health devices and a social system that encouraged rather than shamed young people who take responsibility towards their reproductive health. I recognize that it’s not your fault this country has a stupid attitude towards reproductive health, and wish you good luck on your course of action.

ECP Update: Nordette is Phased Out, Here are Your Alternatives

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09/28/2016: Updating this post to say that Nordette is back on the market! Hurray!

I got word that Nordette has been phased out. Fret not, here’s a list of alternatives!

Here’s the list of alternatives, in case you can’t get Nordette.

Take 2 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 2 more pills 12 hours later: Femenal, Nordiol

Take 4 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 4 more pills 12 hours later: Charlize, Lady, Rigevidon 21 + 7, Seif, Trust Pills

Source: The Emergency Contraception Website

As I’ve been feeling like people aren’t reading Emergency Contraception 101 before commenting on this post, I’ve taken the liberty of pasting the content below and updating the FAQs. READ the FAQs before asking, because of the most of the questions I’m still getting are already answered there. Thank you and be safe!

Emergency Contraception 101

So you had unprotected intercourse. You shouldn’t have, but you did. And now here we are! Fret not, you can fix this. You can use emergency contraception, a.k.a Plan B or the Morning After pill.

Here’s What You Do

  1. Ensure that it has only been 120 hours since your last unprotected intercourse. The closer you are to the zero hour, the better.
  2. Buy a pack of Nordette birth control pills. They usually come in a 21-pill pack and the active ingredients are ethinyl­ estradiol (30 mcg) and levonor­gestrel (150 mcg). If you’re in the Philippines, Mercury Drugstore has this for less than 200 PHP. If you can’t get Nordette, see list of alternatives at the top of the page.
  3. Take 4 active pills at once.
  4. Wait 12 hours, document your side effects just in case.
  5. Take 4 more active pills.
  6. Get yourself to an OB-GYNE sometime this week to discuss more stable birth control methods because this is not healthy.

Rules, Actual Rules (New Section!)

  1. Take it in at most 120 hours. See FAQ item 1.
  2. If you vomit within three hours after taking a dose, retake. See FAQ item 10.
  3. Do NOT have unprotected intercourse in the week after taking ECP. See FAQ item 16.

Notes on Pills

  1. If the pack you got has 28 pills instead of 21, that’s fine. Each pack has 21 active pills and 7 placebo or reminder pills. Take the active pills.
  2. The active ingredient you’re really going for is the levonorgestrel, not the ethinyl estradiol.
  3. Technically, any pill that gives you a total of 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel (0.75 mg doses 12 hours apart) will do.

Notes on Asking Me Questions

  1. READ THE FAQs.
  2. READ THE FAQs.
  3. READ THE FAQs.
  4. READ THE FAQs.
  5. READ THE FAQs.
  6. READ THE FAQs.
  7. READ THE FAQs.
  8. If you must send me a message, e-mail me at childfreefilipina [at] gmail.com because I don’t get to check this account at all.
  9. READ THE FAQs. Seriously, if you send me a message asking me about something already in the FAQs, I will respond with READ THE FAQs.
  10. READ THE FAQs.

Side Effects

As usual, it depends on the person. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, withdrawal bleeding, bloating, cramps, and mood swings. This is because of the intense hormonal spike that you induced. So hopefully if you do this, you do it just this once.

FAQs

I am taking off from this post where a ton of readers left their comments.

  1. Is it still effective after 120 hours? Some sources say you can go up to 150 hours. After that I guess it would just be a matter of luck.
  2. Will they ask me for a prescription? Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on the Mercury Drugstore branch attendees. You either go to every branch until someone sells you a pack, or you lie and say you left your prescription at home but you have been using it for a while. Read this.
  3. How many times can I use this method? Ideally, never. It screws with your hormones, and after all those side effects I think you wouldn’t want to do this more than once.
  4. But I bought the pack and it says take one a day for 21 days! Yes, that’s how we normally take the pill. You’re doing the emergency route. Think of it as one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee on a normal day vs. four teaspoons of sugar in a liter of water because you have gastroenteritis.
  5. Will I die? Extremely unlikely, unless you’re really dodgy on the heart. In which case, go to your OB-GYNE!
  6. What if I’m too scared of the side effects you talked about? Well then you’re just going to have to deal with the side effects of being pregnant which, surprise, are exactly the same! With the very small difference that you have to take care of a child for the next 18 years.
  7. If it doesn’t work and I get pregnant, will it affect the baby? No, it’s just hormones. When you take it, you basically have the hormones of four pregnant women in you. Crazy side effects, but won’t cause birth defects.
  8. What if I’m too ashamed to buy the pills? Get one of your more adventurous friends to buy it for you, or just suck it up because if you’re too ashamed to buy pills then good luck dealing with the social stigma of an unintended pregnancy.
  9. What if I’m not experiencing any side effects?! That is some superhuman strength right there I tell you. Just be calm and take a pregnancy test next month.
  10. Do I need to retake it if I vomit? “If you vomit within three hours of taking the ECP, you should see your pharmacist, doctor, or Family Planning clinic for advice and further tablets.” (Pharmacy Live)
  11. Can I take this while on my period? Yeah okay but since you’re already on your period and if you had intercourse just 120 hours ago, your menstrual cycle says you’re safe.
  12. How will I know it worked??? I know you’re worried AF, but besides taking a pregnancy test or waiting for your period, I don’t know. And if the digging I’ve done on the subject on the internet is to be trusted, nobody does either. There are a lot of factors that go into this (where you are in your cycle, what contraceptives you took, etc) so there’s really just no way of knowing immediately after taking ECP that it worked. Go ask reddit if you want more people to weigh in on that, but users there agreed that we just. Don’t. Know. Yes it’s a hassle but I can’t do anything about this. See also: FAQ item 13.
  13. It’s been several days since I took ECP, and now I’m bleeding, and it’s darker and less heavy than my normal period. What is happening? This is the withdrawal bleeding I mentioned earlier. It’s a fake period, and is NOT the start of your actual period. Why does it happen? Because you ingested a ton of hormones and when those hormones leave your body, you go through withdrawal just like with any other drug. With normal pill users, the withdrawal bleed happens on day 24 or day 25. Basically, pill users don’t ever actually menstruate, it’s all fake. Read this if you want to learn the nitty-gritty of pill use. As for your period, you’re going to have to be patient; it may be delayed due to the ECP. Just stay calm. If you want to be absolutely sure, then take a pregnancy test a month after the unprotected intercourse happened.
  14. Can I take more than 8? No. Put that pill pack down, you’re going to be fine.
  15. I haven’t taken any pills before, can I do this? Yes. Also consider going on the pill to avoid more of these episodes.
  16. Can I have unprotected sex right after I do this emergency procedure? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Let’s put it this way… You left the stove on and the house almost burned down. You managed to put out the fire. And you’re going to leave the stove on again? Come on now. “ECPs are only good to protect against one act of unprotected sex. They work by blocking ovulation, but only for a few days, so if you take them and have unprotected sex again afterwards, you’re significantly increasing your risk of a pregnancy. If you have unprotected sex again within a few days of taking the pills, there will be more sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes when the egg is eventually released.” (Bedsider.org 2014)
  17. What do I do with the 13 leftover pills? Keep it in your purse if you think you’ll need it again.
  18. (New!) What happens if I take the second dose after 24 or 32 or whatever not-12-hours? Girl IDK don’t do it, the instructions say 12, do it in 12, k? Tnx.
  19. (New!) When can I start taking pills regularly? After you’ve verified that you’re not pregnant. Go see an OB-GYNE if you can!

Other Methods

  • You can try to procure the real Plan B, just make sure that you’re getting it from a supplier you can trust. This supplier quotes it at 3000 – 3500 PHP.
  • I have heard that Vitamin C can be used as an emergency contraceptive but I do not endorse it. I don’t know anyone who’s done this.
  • You can get a copper IUD inserted by your OB-GYNE within 120 hours and it will also work as emergency contraception. Cost is 2500 PHP and up, and you can keep using it for the next 12 years. According to the US CDC, it’s 99.92% effective. Read this if you’re considering it. Not for the squeamish!

My New Favorite Blog: The NotMom!

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The NotMom is American by nature and global in scope, spotlighting the unique perspectives and legacies of women without children regardless of cause. As we say, “by choice or by chance”. “NotMom” describes women who have never delivered a baby and may also resonate with women who have never given birth but care for stepchildren, relatives, adopted or foster children, as well as women whose only child has died.

I love this blog because it’s so positive and inclusive. Of course, great writing style doesn’t hurt! Check out The Not Mom here.

” Remaining childless can be wise and meaningful. The pope should know”

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This Guardian article by Gaby Hinsliff talks about the struggle between the childfree and the Catholic Church.

Here are two of my favorite quotes. On social stigma:

For some that will have been a positive choice, for others painfully not so; and for a third group it’s perhaps somewhere in the middle – a difficult consequence of choices made but not regretted, a fork in the road not taken. But although it’s something millions experience, not having children still carries a wholly unfair stigma for both sexes, an unspoken sense that you owe the world an explanation.

And on people worried about the increasing number of childfree individuals:

Childlessness should worry us where it’s involuntary, or where it serves – as in the upper echelons of the City, or at the height of recessions – as a canary down the mine: a telltale sign of working environments so relentless or social conditions so tough that having children feels impossible.

Everywhere else, frankly, it’s no one else’s business.

Extremely well-written. Definitely a must-read. Thank you, Gaby Hinsliff!

“A Letter To Childfree People: You Pretty Much Get It”

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This article by Aubrey Hirsch is very insightful.

Once again we have a parent weighing in on the childfree choice, and once again we find understanding and support instead of anger and negativity.

The truth is, my being a mother doesn’t make me any better at or more capable of love than any other feeling person. My son is not some mythical creature that broke my stony heart wide open. He’s not this ray of light that magically gave my pathetic life meaning or transformed me into some amazing new person with extra overhead room in the cardiac area.

My kid is just another person in my life that I love. Like a sister, like a grandfather, like a best friend.

You know what that’s like. I know you do. Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t.

Thank you Aubrey Hirsch. And thank you too to everyone, CF and not, who commented on that Toast article, because most of you were civil and informative.

“To My Friend Who Chooses To Be Childfree”

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Came across this amazingly positive article, “To My Friend Who Chooses To Be Childfree“, by Swati Chauhan in The Huffington Post India.

I also wanted to tell you how much I admire your vision and clarity of thought. Coming from a country that worships motherhood and reserves a large proportion of its respect for women on the basis of their fertility and child-bearing capacity, it takes more than just good thinking or strong beliefs to make such a decision work. It takes courage.

It’s a very nice change for a CF person to be referred to as courageous and visionary. With all the negative feedback we get, articles like this are one in a million.

Why is it so difficult to accept that some people are just not made to become parents, some are just good doctors, talented painters, great writers or adventurous travellers. I am sure we need more people in all these categories. You see, we need everything except unwanted babies!

Hallelujah!

Why the world would want another unwanted, uncared for child is beyond my comprehension. Wouldn’t it be better if we left the choice to the couple involved and instead concentrated on the little angels that we have already been blessed with? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the welfare of the existing children in this country before we ask another woman when she is planning to have a baby?

Thank you Swati Chauhan, you are now one of my most favorite people on earth. Hopefully someday more people will be as understanding as you.