A young woman searches for a doctor who will let her be in control of her own body
When Christa Poindexter graduated from high school in 2008, she knew that giving birth to children was something that she did not want for her future.
“I remember talking to my first gynecologist, well before I was sexually active, and explaining that I was interested in permanent birth control for when I became sexually active,” she explains. “The doctors look at you like you are crazy.”
For Christa and many other women, this conversation is still difficult to have with medical professionals in the south, predominately in what is considered the “Bible Belt” region. The double standard still exists that, even in your twenties, you are old enough to choose to commit to a child for the rest of your life, but not old enough to decide that you never want to give birth to children.
Four years later, Christa brought it up to her doctor again. She explained that she planned on adopting children when she was ready, something that is desperately needed across the country. Again, her doctor refused to offer any form of permanent birth control.
“She explained that she would not perform the procedure unless her patient was 30 years old or had two to three children, and she preferred three children. It was a shocking thing to me,” Christa says.
This topic became the first that Christa brought up when she visited a new doctor. Even when she moved to more progressive areas, like Philadelphia, she was met with resistance.
“In Philadelphia, a doctor told me she did not want to dismiss it, but that I was simply too young. She told me that it wasn’t that she wanted me to have children, but my age was not what her practice would allow,” she adds. “When I asked if she knew someone who would do it, she said I should try a different form of birth control.”
This suggestion, although perfectly valid for women who seek temporary birth control, was simply not right for Christa. During her first three months on any form of birth control pills, she experienced severe side effects from headaches to hair loss. When she explained these to her first doctor, she suggested a non-hormonal IUD. Until that time, Christa had never experienced cramps with her monthly cycle. Once she had the IUD, her cramps became worse, and her cycle lasted 18 days.
Christa then switched to a hormonal IUD and began having headaches, back aches, and extreme cramps. She experienced weight gain and emotional turmoil. For years, she struggled with each temporary solution offered to her in place of the permanent one she desired. Then, she moved across the country.
When she met with her doctor in California, at age 26, she inquired about a permanent procedure once more. This time, after acknowledging that Christa was young, she followed it up with the truth that rises above a woman’s age or marital status: Christa owns her own body. She should be able to make decisions like this one for herself.
They agreed to a procedure called Tubal Ligation. This can mean different things for different people, but for Christa it meant that her fallopian tubes were removed. She met with the doctor and surgeon thirty days prior to the surgery for an evaluation that made sure she understood what the procedure meant and that she was not forced. By law, her doctor had to go through every single form of birth control verbally as an option. Once Christa refused all of them, they could schedule her surgery.
“All of the changes that I’ve experienced are positive. My monthly cycle is back to normal. I am happier, not moody and crying all the time. My hair isn’t falling out, and I don’t have any weird body changes. I’ve lost weight. It’s all positive for me,” she explains. “I have no scars. They walked me right through it. I have no pain or soreness.”
Christa does say that some women could have scars, and it is important to remember that, like birth control pills or IUDs, side effects can be different for everyone. People who are interested in this procedure should have full discussions with their doctors about options and potential side effects to make the best decision. Of course, based on your age, you may be having that discussion with more than one doctor. Above all, be the best health advocate you can for yourself. It never hurts to get opinions from a few different medical professionals to weigh your options.
You may also want to look at your insurance coverage before scheduling a permanent birth control procedure.
“When I selected my insurance plan with my employer, I noticed that most of them covered sterilization. It was interesting to me to see that they also believed an individual owns their own body, and they wanted to give options for coverage based on that. The surgery was very expensive, but my insurance covered all of it except my copay since I was in the hospital,” Christa says.
Since her procedure, Christa has received both criticism and congratulations. From her critics, Christa is often told the same things her original doctors said almost ten years ago. She is young. She may regret this one day.
Some even revert to talking about how much they love their own children, which is an odd argument to hear from someone else in the context of Christa’s body.
“Of course they love their own children,” she says. “I’m not telling them they shouldn’t, or that I won’t love the children I adopt one day.”
Because, when it all comes down to it, the public outcry that goes into whether a woman can choose permanent birth control seems to far surpass the energy that goes into helping children in foster care or in need of adoption. Christa, who has volunteered through various organizations to help these children, has seen this problem first hand.
“I work with various age groups, and it has made me feel close to them. I don’t have to go through the challenge of birth, that could be detrimental to my health and the health of a baby,” she explains. “At the end of the day, there are children out there already who need love, and I can provide that for them without going through childbirth.”
Written by Hayleigh Worgan