How to Talk to Your Doctor About Birth Control
March 17 2022 | Written by Rhea Kumar (She/Her), in collaboration with Reya Health
Do you have a partner in your life that you would like to include in these discussions? Head over to Reya’s blog, where they did a deep dive into how to talk to your partner about birth control!
So you’re sitting in the physician’s waiting room. You’ve been contemplating going on the pill for a while, but what does it even mean really? The internet is abounding with guides, tips and questions to prep you - but let’s consider this to be the definitive guide to talking about all things birth control with your doctor.
But before we even get to the doctor’s office, let’s take a step back. Evaluate your lifestyle from an objective lens, so that you understand your needs and can express them to your doctor and they can better guide you to a birth control solution that suits your lifestyle.
- Are you sexually active?
- Are you comfortable with hormonal birth control?
- Do you prefer natural methods?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have high blood pressure?
- Do you have a medical condition like PCOS, endometriosis, etc?
- On a scale from 1-10 how severe are your PMS symptoms? Do you have other symptoms such as acne, cramps, etc. that you’d like to manage?
To help guide you, we ran a poll to ask our community why they first chose to go on birth control. Here are some of their answers:
Now, let’s get to your doctor, (or OB/GYN, or a professional at a health clinic) - the point is, always make sure that you’re seeking the help from someone you trust, and with whom you can have an honest, comfortable conversation with. Sex and birth control are considered uncomfortable topics to some, and it’s not easy to be candid and discuss our needs and wants.
Next, write down any questions you have! It’s fair to say that when it comes to birth control options, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. In the flurry and confusion of discussing birth control, it’s easy to nod and agree to just about everything that comes out of your doctor’s mouth- but this is the time to take matters into your own hands and to ask whatever comes to mind.
There are many reasons why you would want to explore birth control besides the prevention of pregnancy.
Both combination and progestin-only pills reduce menstrual cramps, lighten periods, and lower the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus). In addition, birth control may also help to manage conditions like endometriosis because birth control works by reducing estrogen, which in turn slows down the growth of endometrial tissue.
It can also help to prevent or lessen:
- Bone thinning
- Ovarian cysts
- Endometrial and ovarian cancers
- Infection in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus
- Iron deficiency (anemia)
After asking our community, 70% agreed that their doctor did not give them enough information about the birth control they went on, so let’s change that trend! 69% agreed that their doctors didn’t even explain all their options to them.
So, be sure to take the time to research what types of birth control are out there and what you may want to know about them, so that you have a definitive list to bring to your doctor.
We’ve also listed some questions below that you might be forgetting to ask yourself as you do your research.
Should I be using a hormonal or non-hormonal type of birth control? (Have I tried natural birth control…should I?)
If prevention of pregnancy is your main concern, there’s always the natural birth control route, which has its own set of pros and cons that we won’t dig too far into, but just note that this method of BC requires a menstruator to monitor and record different fertility signals during her menstrual cycle to work out when she’s likely to get pregnant.
However, this method may take up to 6 cycles to fully learn the method, as it depends on how well you’re able to track your cycle. It can be 99% effective if done properly, but if you decide to have sex during the time you get pregnant, contraception is key.
Not for you? Let’s get to the pills!
Birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin and they differ based on different amounts of doses of each. Doctors usually prescribe specific pills to different people based on how much of each hormone they feel their body needs. There are also non-hormonal methods available — these include spermicide, condoms and the copper IUD.
If you’re confused and want to better assess your situation before heading to the doctor’s office, our friends over at Reya offer a hormonal v. non-hormonal quiz on their website!
What is the failure rate of birth control?
- IUD fail rate- 0.8%
- Hormonal implant - 0.1%
- Injection - 4%
- Combined oral contraceptive - 7%
- Progestin only pill - 7%
- Diaphragm - 17%
- Ring- 7%
- Patch -7%
What side effects can I expect?
As with all medication, there are some side effects to birth control, however, most go away after 2 or 3 months. Most common side effects include spotting or bleeding between periods, sore breasts, nausea, and headaches.
What happens if I miss a day of taking my pill?
- Take the last pill you missed now, even if this means taking 2 pills in the span of a day
- Carry on taking the rest of the pack as normal
- Take your 7 day pill-free break as normal, only if you’re on an everyday (ED) pill, take your dummy (inactive) pill
If you think you’re ready to chat with a health professional, Reya offers a member portal that gives exclusive access to content, including how to chat to your doctor. See? Asking these questions isn't so scary if you’re even a little prepared for it. But don’t let this guide limit your curiosity and concerns about what specific birth control can work with your specific lifestyle.
P.s. now that you’re ready to talk to your doctor, do you have a partner in your life that you would like to include in these discussions? Head over to Reya’s blog, where they did a deep dive into how to talk to your partner about birth control!