- Comedian Whitney Cummings is serious about birth control talk.
- Cummings is encouraging women to have candid conversations about their reproductive health, including birth control.
- Your doctor can help you find the best birth control to suit your medical history, lifestyle, and preferences.
Vagina is something comedian Whitney Cummings isn’t afraid to say during her standup, on her podcast, and in all aspects of her life.
“I just don’t want young girls not being able to identify a pretty important part of their body because no one would say what it is. I think more than ever we need to be pushing back against any kind of shame against women’s bodies, especially in the reproductive area because there’s so much vagueness around it,” Cummings told Healthline.
She added that many women still feel like they have to apologize for saying words like vagina, vulvar, and clit or feel compelled to replace them with an alternative word like “tulip.”
“Everyone is so afraid to talk about it. Everyone is so afraid to get in trouble. In silence, that’s where shady stuff happens, so I’m just going to yell [vagina] from the rooftop until someone pushes me off the roof,” she said.
To help spread her message, she teamed up with ANNOVERA’s “I Un-Apologize” Campaign to encourage women to have candid, direct, self-assured, and honest conversations about their reproductive health, including birth control.
“I’ve struggled my whole life to find a birth control that isn’t a full-time job,” said Cummings.
She’s not alone in her quest.
Dr. Kate White, associate professor of OB/GYN at Boston University School of Medicine and author of Your Sexual Health, said it’s normal to switch birth control methods, even multiple times, over the course of one’s life.
“What works for you at one point, may not be a good match at another time. Think of this as your ‘contraception journey,’ she told Healthline.
After years of trial and error, Cummings now uses ANNOVERA, an annual ring that women can insert into their vagina and leave for a year. It can also be removed at any time to control fertility.
“I’m at a place where I might unfreeze my eggs at some point or have a 9-month opening in my schedule, or grab a soccer player’s sperm and go for it,” Cummings said.
Using humor around serious topics comes natural to her and when it comes to sexual health, she said women always welcome her jokes, despite there being a lot of pain and frustration around the topic.
“I find that women aren’t mad when I joke in this area,” she said.
For her 2016 HBO special, “I’m Your Girlfriend,” she spent 20 minutes breaking down available birth control and how inhumane they are.
“[Like] an IUD. If you said to a man, ‘this is what we’re going to do for birth control; we’re going to take a metal rod and put it up your wiener, then leave it there for six months,’ it’s just sort of pointing out, we’re not there yet,” said Cummings.
In recent years, comedians have been hit with a lot of criticism around making jokes out of serious topics. Rather than being scared to carry on, Cummings said she is pushing back by still addressing controversial topics, but is being more mindful and challenging her craft.
“We just have to be a little more respectful. People are pushing back on racism and sexism; I think that’s fair. I think good comedians think this is an opportunity to be more creative and an opportunity to be more mindful or elevate and play at the top of our intelligence,” she said.
While there are people who use comedy to degrade, insult and harm others, she said they can’t be allowed to silence comedians who want to use humor as a positive tool.
“When we say the things we’re not supposed to say, jokes have a very kind of cathartic feel…it’s medicine, it’s healing, it’s fun,” said Cummings. “When I sit around with my girlfriends and we’re talking about birth control, we’re dying laughing.”
Choosing a birth control method can be overwhelming.
“There are so many methods of birth control available, more than most people realize. And most people can choose from all of them. So, if you’ve had lousy experiences with birth control in the past, talk with your gyno — the right method is out there somewhere for you,” said White.
She said to think of birth control methods by the way you access them — how you get them, and how much control you have overusing them. She breaks the categories down this way:
- Methods you can start and stop on your own without a doctor’s visit or prescription, include condoms, spermicide, withdrawal, fertility awareness methods, and plan B emergency contraception (EC).
- Methods you need a prescription to start using, but can stop on your own, include pills, patch, ring, injection when you give it to yourself, Phexxi, diaphragm, and ella EC.
- Methods you need a visit to start using but can stop on your own are the injection (when given by a nurse) and the IUD, if you’re comfortable removing it yourself.
- The implant requires an office visit to start and stop its use.
“Pills and condoms are the most used methods of reversible birth control, but they’re not right for everyone,” White said.
Dr. Maura Quinlan, obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwestern Medicine, said the best kind of contraception for any woman is the one she will use.
“If I talk about IUDs, there are women who say ‘I just can’t do it because it weirds me out to think about something in my uterus’ then I say ‘great, let’s talk about another method.’ So be honest with yourself and consider what you will most likely use,” she told Healthline.
While your doctor will help you figure out what is safest for you, Quinlan said be open about your medical history and current conditions. For instance, while many women can use annual rings, she said there are a few who are not good candidates.
“Because they have estrogen and progesterone women shouldn’t use them if they have any contraindication to estrogen like history with blood clots, migraines with aura—a migraine where they see visual changes before the onset of head pain. So, it’s important to double-check with providers to make sure there’s nothing that would not make it unsafe,” she said.
After safety concerns are addressed, White suggests asking yourself the following questions to help narrow down your choices:
- Do I want to see monthly bleeding or would I rather skip bleeding altogether?
- Am I okay with spotting in between my periods or would that be a nightmare?
- Do I need birth control to help with menstrual cramps or acne?
- Do I need to keep my birth control private from my partner, parents, or roommates?
- Do I need the most effective method?
- Do I want birth control that I only have to use when I’m having sex with a sperm-producing partner or do I want a method where I can “set it and forget it”?
- Do I want a method that can also reduce my risk of STIs?
- Do I want my fertility to come back immediately after I stop using it?
Additionally, Quinlan notes your religion may also play a part in your choice.
“Scientifically we say a pregnancy hasn’t started until it’s implanted in the uterus and growing, but if your religious tradition says life began when that sperm and egg get together then that person of that religious tradition wouldn’t support using plan B,” she said. “[In this case,] I’d say ‘let’s think about what contraception fits with that.’”
Cummings said to ask your doctor lots of questions and allow yourself to try different methods until you find a good fit.
“You don’t have to settle. There’s lots of options out there,” said Cummings. “There’s kind of nothing more crucial in life than what birth control you’re on because it dictates so much of how your time is used, how you feel, and how comfortable you feel enjoying your relationship.”