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Is It Time to Change Birth Control?

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Updated June 22, 2011

Is It Time to Change Birth Control?

Hormonal Birth Control Options

Photo © 2011 Dawn Stacey
Question: Is It Time to Change Birth Control?

Deciding on a birth control option is a personal choice. Women often base this decision on effectiveness, lifestyle factors, religious preferences, ease or convenience of use, side effects, and cost.

You may find yourself feeling unhappy with your current method, which is now causing you to wonder, is it time for a change? Feeling satisfied with your birth control option is important: You will be more likely to use it, and use it consistently, if your contraceptive method fits into your lifestyle and you fell comfortable with it.

Yet, research shows that 21% of hormonal birth control users admit they may be settling for a contraceptive that isn't quite right for them; 19% reveal that they are not as satisfied with their method as they thought they would be.

Answer:

Most women who are not satisfied with their contraceptive usually cite physical or psychological side effects as the most common reason for wanting to change birth control options. For example, the No. 1 reason why women decide to stop using Depo Provera is irregular bleeding. One out of 10 women stop using Implanon during the first year because of bleeding changes. One research study found that of 1,303 women, highest satisfaction was reported with sterilization (92% of users), followed by birth control pills (68%), IUDs (59%), natural family planning (43%) and condoms (30%) {no other methods were examined in this study}.

It is interesting to note that if a woman experiences negative subjective side effects of her birth control option (these could include mood changes or other psychological/emotion effects), her sense of confidence in using this method can be altered, and she may no longer feel that it is an effective or safe birth control option for her.

Though the majority of women who use a hormonal birth control option are satisfied with their choice, surveys show that 52% of women reveal that they rarely evaluate how well their contraception fits their lifestyle needs. About 70% of women admit that they would like to change something about their hormonal birth control option – mainly not having to take it every day. Yet, only a third of women who currently use hormonal birth control have considered changing their birth control option in the past year.

Another study of 2,000 women (single and married) reports that 72% of women refuse to settle for anything less than what truly makes them happy in their life; however, when it comes to their contraception use, it seems that women are reluctant to change birth control even if they are unsatisfied. In a time when 78% of women will look for a new job if they are not satisfied with their current employment and 87% of unmarried women would end a relationship if they were not happy with the person they were dating, why is it that 68% of women do not even think about the possibility of wanting to change birth control if they are not happy?

I interviewed actress JoAnna Garcia Swisher (known for her roles on Better With You, Reba, Privileged, Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother) who has chosen to be the spokesperson of Merck’s Let’s Go There campaign. This campaign celebrates women’s “don’t settle” mindset while encouraging them to “get real” and talk to their doctors about their birth control options.

JoAnna explains that she is “extremely passionate about women taking control of their lives and believing in themselves! Growing up the daughter of an OB/GYN, women's health issues have ALWAYS been a priority for me. Contraception is one of the most important health decisions we as women make.” She continues, “it represents the opportunity for women today to plan for their futures tomorrow. And even beyond that it’s about taking control of your life, building an open dialogue with your doctor and making you and your health a priority.”

Being able to use contraception or change birth control options represents empowerment to women. With the invention of the pill (then subsequent hormonal options thereafter), women finally have the ability to control their fertility and take charge of their lives. As Elaine Tyler May points out in her book, America and the Pill, it is women who have been responsible for the success of the pill... from its inventors, to the scores of women who volunteered for the early, risky clinical trials, to all the women who currently use the pill. Women demanded more, and these demands directly led to today’s safer formulations of the pill.

So, if you are dissatisfied and want to change birth control, it is your right to find a contraceptive method that works for you and not settle for one that you're not happy with. When choosing a new method, you should do your research, so you can make an informed decision. JoAnna suggests, “Don't be afraid to ask for what you need! Listen to your instincts! If you have a real conversation with yourself about what you want and need out of your birth control method, you’ll be that much more prepared to have one with your doctor.”

Then, it is important that you speak with your doctor about your feelings and needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about possible birth control options that you are thinking about. When you change birth control, your new method should fit with your lifestyle and meet your individual needs. Together, with your doctor, you need to discuss what feels comfortable to you and what you want from your new birth control method.

JoAnna offers some final thoughts on deciding whether or not to change birth control, “Treat your health the way you treat other areas of your life. [Don’t just keep] going with what you’ve always used. For me it’s been important that my birth control has changed and evolved as my life and needs have. My dad always told me to keep my health top of mind and never settle, and that is certainly the advice I’d give to others. Be proactive. Ladies, take control and make your sexual health a priority.”

The bottom line? If you are dissatisfied, then it is time for a change. Talk to your doctor about changing birth control options. You deserve to feel that the birth control method you are using is the best fit for you, your body and your life!

Sources:

Björn J Oddens. “Women’s satisfaction with birth control: a population survey of physical and psychological effects of oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices, condoms, natural family planning, and sterilization among 1466 women.” Contraception 1999; 59(5): 277-286. Access via private subscription.

“Let’s Go There Survey.” Harris Interactive, March 2011.

Swisher, JoAnna Garcia. Personal interview. 7 June 2011.

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