In Conversation with Reya: Empowerment And Autonomy In The Birth Control Sector
Updated: Nov 15, 2022
Article first featured on HerCampus, written by Sarah Cassidy
We’ve all been there. Sitting anxiously in an OB-GYN office for the first time, unsure of how to advocate for ourselves, and waiting for a doctor to prescribe us a form of birth control. While most of us start to seek out means of contraceptive care in our late teenage years or as we become sexually active, we are often uneducated and uncertain about what is best for our lifestyles and our bodies when the time comes. In my own experience, high school “Sex Ed” only informed us about two kinds of birth control: condoms and abstinence. I didn’t know what “the Pill” was until one day at lunch when a friend explained that she was going on “the Pill” for period cramp relief.
Not only were we not taught about the diverse forms of birth control options, but we are also more or less left to fend for ourselves, deciphering between the different forms, methods, and products out there. How do we, as young women, differentiate between what we want and think is best for ourselves versus what a doctor is telling us? Most of us ended up in the OB-GYN’s office having a pack of pills thrust into our hands, along with the saying “take one at the same time every day”, with no other explanation. For me, most of my knowledge about birth control did not come from my doctor but from my own research into how “the Pill” actually works, along with investigating the various available forms of birth control.
Sadly, the reality of the birth control sector in today’s society is limited in what it provides for women, and rather, it is empty and unreliable in the information that is given. Moreover, not only is our education platform lacking in modern and correct information about birth control but so is our healthcare system. In today’s medical world, there is not enough research, information, data, or resources in the birth control sector. Thus, if there is not enough understanding in the medical field, how can we expect the general population to understand birth control, its effects, and its function?
As women, birth control may affect us all at some point in our lives. Thus, it is extremely important that we have access to effective, reliable, and accessible forms of contraceptive care, along with the necessary medical information we need to understand these products. It is also essential that we understand that birth control is not a “one-size-fits-all”. Each of our bodies is unique in its medical history and makeup, along with varieties of lifestyles and daily routines. What is best for one woman may not work for another. Thus, it is necessary that we find the right kind of birth control for ourselves right away, rather than five years down the line. Oftentimes, it takes women about 2 to 5 years to find the right birth control that fits their lifestyle and body, switching from one kind to the next after experiencing unwanted side effects. In some cases, women have such negative experiences with the wrong type of birth control that they swear it off entirely and rely only on condoms as a form of contraceptive. The numerous negative stories about birth control experiences thus create a very pessimistic and obstructive narrative around the birth control sector, leading many women to avoid it at all costs.
However, we must realize that birth control is not merely “the Pill” or an IUD but a form of healthcare. It is not only used for pregnancy and STI prevention, as condoms are. Birth control is a form of autonomous self-care that women should be able to use and choose for themselves. Thus, shouldn’t we decide what form is suitable for us and our bodies? Shouldn’t we have access to all the information surrounding the birth control sector? And shouldn’t we feel liberated, rather than directed, by choosing the best form of birth control for ourselves? With all these questions, how do we find a solution?
Reya offers an answer. Reya is a telehealth company founded by Dallas Barnes, who felt empowered to provide a holistic birth control matching experience for women, based on the struggles she faced when trying to find the right kind of birth control for herself.
Because birth control is not a “one-size-fits-all”, Reya doesn’t treat it as such. Reya provides a holistic view of the body and an individual’s lifestyle, matching one to birth control options through a thorough analysis of lifestyle, personal preferences, and health. As a digital platform for contraceptive counselling, for $7 a month, Reya members have full access to a detailed questionnaire that will match the user to birth control options that correspond with their lifestyle. Along with the questionnaire, it offers virtual 1-on-1 counselling sessions to discuss the results of the questionnaire, a tracking system to monitor the side effects of the contraceptive, and online support.
While some telehealth companies ask only for your medical history, along with standard health-centred questions, Reya makes it all about the individual, resulting in perfect matches the first or second time. Founded on the premise of individual empowerment and autonomy over one’s body, Reya’s main goal is to aid in advocacy over one’s healthcare and shift the inaccessible narrative surrounding the birth control sector. Reya believes in the power of the individual and one’s ability to make the best decisions for themselves, with the most informative and conclusive information available. With their detailed questionnaire, along with their counselling services, users are not only provided with a comprehensive list of contraceptive options personally matched for their bodies but also a counsellor who is ready to explain each option they were matched with. Unlike other telehealth companies, which give you contraceptive options without an explanation, Reya provides a community of individualized support, available to answer any questions or concerns one might have. In addition, they are aware of the possible side effects that can arise when switching to a new contraceptive option; thus, their tracking system helps the individual monitor their own side effects. However, Reya understands that side effects should not be the norm with the right birth control match. We should not be experiencing negative side effects to our birth control. Thus, tracking side effects helps users identify any problems that may arise, while Reya’s counselling service provides support and an open discussion for the next steps. Reya provides the guidance that helps women navigate the trial phase of a new contraceptive option while assisting in outlining boundaries for their bodies.
Reya’s mantra is all about getting it right the first time. We as women should not be subjected to doctors telling us what to do without any analysis of our individual bodies and lifestyles, nor should we have to live with the negative side effects of wrongly prescribed birth control. Birth control should not be uncomfortable, taboo, or pushed to the side of the medical sector. We should not feel unheard, nor should we as individuals be grouped together into a “standard” to which all birth control options apply. Each one of us deserves autonomous self-care and the ability to advocate for ourselves and our bodies. Birth control is a diverse form of healthcare that should be forefronted in the medical sphere, allowing women to voice their concerns and get the right kind of care the first time. With Reya, all of this is possible. Reya is a step towards personal autonomy and female empowerment, allowing us as women to take control of our lives and bodies in a positive way.
Edited By: Lisa Hou and HerCampus (UofT Chapter)