Can Birth Control Help with Gender Dysphoria?
Finding a health care provider who will support transgender and nonbinary people on both their gender and birth control journeys is very important.
Many transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) people experience gender dysphoria, or a severe sense of distress that their body doesn’t match their gender identity. They may also experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression.
A person can lessen or eliminate feelings of dysphoria through talk therapy, hormone therapy, or surgery. They can also make lifestyle changes, like choosing a different name or dressing in clothing that makes them feel more comfortable.
But not everyone may choose or be able to take hormones such as testosterone or undergo surgery. No matter what other care they are or are not receiving, for those who do not identify as female and who have a period, birth control may help. Here’s how, and for free or low-cost access to all the methods of birth control, make an appointment to talk to a provider at your nearest The Right Time health center.
HOW CAN BIRTH CONTROL HELP WITH DYSPHORIA?
Regulating or entirely stopping menstruation can help with feelings of dysphoria. Combined hormonal birth control, like the pill, the patch, or the ring, can be taken continuously to skip or eliminate periods altogether. However, people may experience breakthrough or unpredictable bleeding, especially in the first few months, which can worsen dysphoria for some.
For others, a daily pill may be a reminder of their dysphoria so options such as a hormonal IUD, which once placed can last for up to 7 years, may be a better choice. It’s possible that the shot or the implant may stop menstruation as well but tend to have more unpredictable bleeding.
The estrogen hormones found in some types of birth control will not usually translate into ‘feminine’ changes in the body, but for folks who worry about this there are birth control methods without estrogen, such as the copper Paragard IUD, which also has the benefit of protecting against pregnancy for up to 12 years.
A pregnancy can also trigger dysphoria for some TGNB people, so for those who can get pregnant, birth control will also reduce the chance of getting pregnant. When used correctly, the implant and IUD are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, the shot is 94% effective, and the ring, patch, and pill are all 91% effective. It’s important to remember that transgender men who are on gender affirming hormones and who have penis-in-vagina sex are still at risk for pregnancy even if they are not having periods.
THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT USING BIRTH CONTROL TO CONTROL DYSPHORIA
Research has also shown that for some, particularly for those with a history of trauma, using certain types of birth control and their potential side effects, such as unpredictable bleeding, method placement with a pelvic exam, or taking “female” hormones in birth control daily, may actually worsen feelings of dysphoria. Much like cisgender women, many TGNB may have to use more than one method of birth control before finding the one that works best for them.
Finding a health care provider who will support transgender and nonbinary people on both their gender and birth control journeys is very important. Having an affirming provider (like those at your nearest The Right Time health center) means that they will receive the best care possible, will have someone to help them understand which methods and therapies will work best for them, and ensure that they achieve reproductive well-being.
Updated May 2022
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