Talking about your sexual health is never easy, no matter who you’re discussing it with. Navigating the many different birth control options out there is no breeze either, so being able to talk candidly with your doctor or other primary care provider is key.
Remember, your doctor is on your side. These subjects may feel personal, but this is their area of expertise. The more comfortable you feel talking about birth control issues, the more help your doctor will be able to provide.
If you’re concerned about having productive birth control conversations with your doctor, here are some things you can do to make it easier:
1. Explore Your Options
Maybe you know exactly what you want, maybe you’re looking for medical advice, or maybe you’re trying to start birth control for the very first time. Before you walk into your doctor’s office, do some research on the numerous birth control methods available. Being informed can give your confidence levels a boost.
Because the sheer number of options can be overwhelming, don’t be afraid to start with the basics. What are the most common methods of birth control? What are the potential side effects of each method? Some options can give you shorter, lighter periods, while others can help clear up acne. Some need to be taken daily while others can last for up to 5 years.
Try and get an idea of what you want out of your birth control beforehand. Write down your goals above and beyond pregnancy prevention. Arm yourself with information before you visit the doctor; the more you know, the better your outcome will be.
2. Be Honest About Your Sex Life
Your doctor’s advice will only be as good as the information you give them. It’s never easy to open up to someone about your sex life, but it’s important to remember that your doctor wants to help, not judge.
Answer their questions honestly. Let them know if you’re ever broaching a subject that makes you uncomfortable. All doctors have had patients reluctant to discuss their medical history, so they’ll know how best to accomodate you.
If you’re having long-term difficulty opening up to your doctor about these issues, maybe it’s time to find a new medical provider. Your doctor simply may not be the right one for you, and that’s OK; it’s important to find someone you’re comfortable with.
3. Address Your Health Issues
Birth control can interact with a number of pre-existing health conditions, so be sure your medical history is at hand and up-to-date before every discussion with your doctor.
Blood pressure, STDs, bleeding issues, heart conditions, family cancer history, migraines, and more can all figure into the equation. Smoking habits and body weight can also play a big factor in what birth control you’re prescribed, so make sure that information is up-to-date as well.
Don’t forget to address mental health issues with your provider as well. Studies have shown a link between depression and hormone-based contraception, so those at risk may want to discuss that with their doctor.
4. Talk About Your Reproductive Plans
Doctors will prescribe different methods of birth control based on if and when you plan on becoming pregnant. Using birth control does not decrease your ability to get pregnant when you’re ready, but some methods require a longer downtime before attempting to conceive. Getting off of birth control pills, for example, is relatively simple, while it takes a small medical procedure to remove an IUD
If you’re looking for a contraception method to use after delivery of a baby, talk to your doctor before the event. Timing to restart contraception after having a baby and whether you’re breastfeeding factor into your options. Oral contraceptives containing estrogen should be avoided while breastfeeding. The hormone can interfere with the milk supply, but pill options containing only progestin are safe for breastfeeding moms.
5. Discuss Use and Follow Up
Don’t forget to talk to your healthcare provider about correctly using the birth control method you choose. Some birth control methods require daily, monthly, or cyclical upkeep, so be sure to get all the information you need from the doctor.
You also need to know when to check back in. For example, if you choose a birth control shot, you’ll need a medical professional to readminister it every 13 weeks. Discuss what you should do if you experience any side effects from the contraception you choose. With some doctors, you’ll need to wait until your next scheduled appointment while online providers may be able to get you in contact with a professional immediately.
6. Chat About Your Budget
No matter what contraception option you choose, it’s going to cost money. Tell your doctor about your health insurance. Most private insurance will cover some amount of birth control, but the variation can be large. Know the specifics.
If you don’t have health insurance, talk about your monthly budget. Birth control can vary significantly in price, and your doctor can help you find an option suitable for your budget. Some options that are more expensive upfront last for months or years, so consider the fiscal implications of a monthly option versus a long-term one.
Choosing the right birth control method is a highly personal decision, but having accurate information is vital to making the best choice. Being able to have frank conversations with your healthcare provider is the first step towards getting the prescriptions you need.