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Birth Control: How to Talk to Your OB/GYN

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 19, 2021

Most birth control methods require a prescription. If you plan to use a form of birth control other than condoms, you'll need to see a doctor.

During your appointment, you have a few things to discuss. You'll want to figure out what type of birth control is right for you and what side effects it can cause. But first, you need to get the conversation started.

How to Bring Up Birth Control

Sex and birth control can be hard to talk about, even with a doctor. Choose the doctor you trust most to manage your birth control, whether that's your primary care doctor, your OB/GYN, or a doctor at your local health clinic. Some states require you to get your parents' permission to get birth control if you're under age 18.

If you're not comfortable talking about sex, remember that your visit is confidential. Everything you say is between you and your doctor only.

The conversation will be easier if you come to your appointment prepared. Read up on all the available birth control methods. Think about your goals.

Bring a list of questions like these to ask your doctor:

  • What are my birth control options?
  • How effective is each one?
  • What are the possible risks or side effects?
  • Which one do you recommend for me?
  • Which methods protect me against STDs?

Choosing the Right Method

Several different birth control methods are available, including:

  • Hormonal methods like the pill, implant, patch (Xulane), ring (NuvaRing), or shot (Depo-Provera)
  • Copper and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • Barrier methods like the condom, diaphragm, and contraceptive sponge

You can narrow your choices by thinking about your needs and answering the following questions:

Do you have more than one sexual partner? The female or male condom will protect you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as pregnancy.

Do you want a method you don't have to think about? If you don't want the hassle of taking a pill every day, using a condom or diaphragm each time you have sex, or replacing a patch once a week, choose a long-acting method like the IUD or implant. They'll keep protecting you for 3–10 years with very little effort on your part.

Are you worried about pregnancy? The IUD and implant are more than 99% effective.

Do you want to have uninterrupted sex? Don't choose a method you have to put on or in right before sex, like the condom or sponge.

Do you want to get pregnant in the near future?  The pill, patch, ring, and condom are short-acting and easily reversible.

Do you have a medical condition? Birth control pills are also helpful for treating heavy periods, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and other conditions.

Talk About Side Effects and Risks

Each type of birth control has its own side effects and risks. Generally speaking, hormonal methods like the pill and patch can cause nausea, headaches, sore breasts, and spotting between periods. The copper IUD may cause heavier and more painful periods. The shot can weaken bones.

Some types of birth control may be risky if you have certain medical conditions. Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, patch, and ring are more likely to cause blood clots in women who smoke, are over age 35, or have a history of blood clots and stroke. Doctors don’t recommend IUDs for women with pelvic infections or copper allergies (for the copper type).

Discuss your health history with your doctor to find the safest birth control method for you.

What Can I Afford?

Prices differ based on the type of birth control you choose. The birth control pill can range from $15 to $50 per month. An IUD can cost $1,300 to $1,500 to insert, but it will keep working for a few years.

Under the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans are required to pay the full cost of birth control. Some plans may not cover every brand.

If you don't have insurance or your insurance won't cover the cost of your birth control method, Medicaid or other government programs may be able to help.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Contraception."

Center for Young Women's Health: "Medical Uses of the Birth Control Pill."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Birth Control Options," "Intrauterine Device (IUD)."

FDA: "Birth Control Guide."

Guttmacher Institute: "Minors' Access to Contraceptive Services."

Healthcare.gov: "Birth Control Benefits."

Kaiser Family Foundation: "Medicaid Coverage of Prescription Contraceptives."

Kaiser Permanente: "Your Guide to Birth Control."

Mayo Clinic: "Birth control options: Things to consider," "Birth control patch."

Reproductive Health Access Project: "Non-Prescription Birth Control Methods."

TeensHealth: "How Can I Get on the Pill Without Telling My Parents?"

UC Health: "Questions About Contraception? Ask Your Doctor."

University of Michigan: "Contraception Cost, Insurance and Payment."

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