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What to Ask the Doctor

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Birth Control

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Updated January 21, 2011

Let’s face it, many of us find it difficult to talk to a doctor about birth control. You may be thinking, what should I ask the doctor when trying to choose the best birth control options for me? It may be helpful to know that many people find it embarrassing to discuss birth control options and sexual practices with a doctor, but it is vital to your sexual health to have this conversation. If you want to ask the doctor about birth control, but are feeling a bit unsure about how to begin, here is a list of some helpful doctor advice.

1. Be Honest

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do when you talk to the doctor is be completely honest. You should tell the truth about your sexual practices and your sexual history. Your birth control method should fit into your lifestyle and match your sexual preferences. For example, a person in a monogamous relationship and having sex frequently may desire a different birth control option than a college student who is seeing several guys. Also, be honest about your expectations and limitations. If you know yourself well enough to realize that you will probably forget to take a pill everyday, this is not the best method for you. Only you know this about yourself – your doctor doesn’t!

It is essential that you are also honest about your medical history. Make sure you tell the doctor about any medical issues that you may have (like high blood pressure or migraines) as well as issues that may run in your family. Certain birth control options (like hormonal contraception) may be more risky to take if you have specific medical conditions – if you do not tell the doctor the truth about this, you may be putting yourself at risk if you do end up using certain contraceptive methods.

2. Do Your Research

More than ever before, there are many birth control options available. The sexual choices you make (including the type of birth control you use) are your responsibility. Empower yourself to make educated decisions. Before you visit the doctor, research birth control options that may appeal to you (use reputable and credible sources). Make sure you know factual information rather than birth control myths. The more you know about birth control, the more informed the decision you will make.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

Do not assume that the doctor will present you with all your birth control options. Unfortunately, this is a reality in today’s medical world. Doctors are busy, or they may show preference or allegiance to certain pharmaceutical companies/products. Some doctors expect that you will be doing your own research and will not be relying as much on them for information. Research studies also show how doctors may feel uncomfortable talking about various birth control methods (like IUDs, for example). If a doctor doesn’t feel comfortable discussing a contraceptive option (or talking about birth control, in general), you may not have all of your options presented to you.

4. Ask the Doctor

Once you have done your research, don’t be afraid to ask the doctor about the various birth control options that you are thinking about. If the NuvaRing sounds appealing to you, ask the doctor about his/her thoughts about this method – don’t wait for the doctor to bring it up to you. If you read an article about a specific birth control pill that sounds like it may fit into your lifestyle (for example, you like the idea that Seasonique makes it so you only have four periods a year, or Femcon Fe is chewable), ask the doctor about more specific information about it. This way (coupled with your medical history), you can make the best educated decision about whether or not a specific birth control option is the best fit for you.

5. Questions Are Good

If you have birth control questions or are unsure about a specific contraceptive option, you will be less likely to use it consistently. Before you visit the doctor, write down all of your questions. These questions can be about a birth control method that you are currently using (perhaps you heard about some lawsuit that is making you a bit uneasy), or your questions can be about a new method (Does Depo Provera cause weight gain?). Make sure you ask the doctor all of your questions and do not leave his/her office until all of your birth control questions have been answered. Don’t let the doctor rush you or give you quick answers. Keep asking your questions until you are satisfied with the answers. Also, make sure to ask the doctor about what to do incase your birth control fails. Find out about emergency contraception options and time frames ahead of time -- this can help to prevent some panic if this does happen in the future.

6. Using Birth Control

Again, using birth control correctly is YOUR responsibility. Once you and your doctor have decided upon a birth control method, it is up to you to make sure you understand how to use it safely and effectively. All prescription contraceptives come with a prescribing leaflet that explains all about the contraceptive, how to use it, when to start it, how effective it is, etc. If you have decided upon a method that your doctor inserts (Mirena IUD, ParaGard IUD, Depo Provera, Implanon), you can visit the manufacturer’s website to download a copy of the prescribing information... you can also do this with any birth control pill, Ortho Evra patch, and NuvaRing (if you lose the pamphlet or for some reason, do not receive one). This is another time to ask questions -- some examples include:

7. Ask Follow-Up Questions

Don’t be afraid to call the doctor’s office after you get home to ask the doctor more questions. If you do not understand how to use your birth control properly or when to start it, your contraceptive will be less effective. To be most effective, birth control must be used correctly and consistently. Also, if you read something that is making you think that your chosen method is not right (maybe a health issue you forgot about), call and ask the doctor. You need to be your own advocate for your sexual health.

8. Don’t Be Embarrassed

Although this is easier said then done, when its time to ask the doctor about birth control, you need to find a way to fight past any feelings of embarrassment. Your doctor is a trained medical professional who is used to having these types of conversations with patients. If you are too embarrassed to be talking about your sexual practices, this may be an indication that you are not mature enough to be engaging in these types of behaviors. That being said, it does take some courage to open up about intimate details about your life. However, it is probably easier to discuss ways to prevent an unintended pregnancy with your doctor rather than dealing with one after-the-fact. Instead of being embarrassed, try to feel empowered. You are taking the responsibility over your sexual health and trying to obtain all the necessary information to make the most informed decision. The less emotional you are, the more logical you can be. You are advocating for YOUR health and YOUR sexual practices, and you are taking control over YOUR choices!

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