Birth control is right up there as one of the most important conversations you’ll have with your doctor when it comes to your sexual health. And the best time to have that conversation is before you actually start having sex. Here, Dr. Katharine O'Connell White, the Director of the Family Planning Fellowship at Boston University is sharing her advice on making that convo—whenever you have it—as useful as possible.
1. If confidentiality is a concern, you have options.
As we've covered before, your health care provider is required to keep your confidentiality. However, the note that is sent home from your insurance will state the general reason for your visit, so if you schedule a visit just to talk about birth control options, it will say that. (Where as, if you talk about birth control options during your “annual check up,” the insurance note will just say annual check up.) “If you’re concerned about your privacy when scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician or a gynecologist, places like Planned Parenthood provide a lot of birth control options and are the masters of confidentiality,” Says Dr. Kate. “There you can pay out of pocket so that nothing is reported on your parent’s insurance, and birth control options are offered on a sliding scale.
2. Think of this as your time to fact check.
There is a ton of info floating around about different methods of birth control that isn’t exactly accurate. One of the worst offenders here is the information about side effects—they’re often completely overblown. And even if you know someone you had a horrible experience on one type of contraception, that doesn’t mean that you will too. “A good provider will counsel you about what side effects are common as well as the chances that the side effect will happen to you,” Says Dr. Kate. “Ask questions, tell them about the things that make you nervous, what you’ve heard about different methods, and what your expectations are.”
3. Get info even if you’re a guy!
Just because you’re a guy it doesn’t mean you should sit out of the birth control process all together! “Studies show that guys play a huge role in birth control,” Says Dr. Kate. “If you’re worried about a certain method affecting sex, or your girlfriend’s mood, or are discouraging about her birth control method, guess what? She’s not as likely to use it and then you’re at risk for an unplanned pregnancy.” Dr. Kate recommends taking an active role in her birth control choice by going with her to her appointment, if she’s okay with you going. You can give her some alone time with the doctor, and then come in at the end to ask any questions you may have. Says Dr. Kate, “This way it may feel more like a partnership when it comes to contraception, even though she’s the one using it.”
4. Know that health care providers aren’t always right.
Yes, docs know A LOT. But that doesn’t mean they’re always right. Something that a lot of health care providers get wrong in terms of birth control is the fact that teens can very safely use IUDs. Some docs still mistakenly think that you have to have given birth in order to use one, but that is not the case. “If you think doctor is wrong, don’t hesitate to tell them,” Says Dr. Kate. “Tell them where you read or heard something different, or even send them the link to an article from a reputable organization, or print one out to bring with you.”
5. At the end of the day, know your birth control is YOUR choice.
Your health care provider can tell you a lot about different methods of contraception. What they can’t tell you is which one is best for you. What they also can’t do is make you stay on a method you’re trying out that you don’t like. While it’s true that most side effects will go away after a couples of months, if you’re not happy with a method you don’t have to keep using it. “In the end it is your body, and you have to live in it,” Says Dr. Kate. “Even if your doc counsels you to stick it out with a new method that’s giving you trouble, if you’re miserable, demand to find a new method. Even if that means taking out an IUD or implant. You’re the boss when it comes to your body.”
Want even more prep for a convo? The National Coalition for Sexual Health has created a guide with some great sexual health questions you might want to ask your doc. And we've got 5 tips for talking to your doctor about sex.