It feels like both years ago and just yesterday, I worked at a community health center in Boston, MA. When the opportunity presented itself to become a certified Family Planning Counselor, I jumped at it! I’ve always had a passion for sexual and reproductive health, especially in respect to communities of Color. There’s an undeniable and painful history in our communities around reproductive rights (ex: forced sterilization, history of gynecology to name a few). For these reasons and more, it’s incredibly important to me that people of Color have access to accurate information and that everyone can participate in consensual sexual activities that are safe and keep their family plans in mind!
Talking to your healthcare provider about birth control options can be confusing and intimidating but it doesn’t have to be! Even for experienced people like me, it’s nice to talk through options and ask more questions — I sure did when I was choosing contraception after pregnancy! Here are a few tips for those who might be interested in having a conversation with their healthcare provider.
1. Consider seeing a Family Planning Counselor or a Nurse Practitioner (NP)
It’s no secret that as each day passes, doctors seem to become more and more pressed for time. If you don’t feel as though you are connecting with your doctor — whether you’re meeting with your primary care physician or your OB/GYN — you can always make an appointment with someone else! It’s important that you don’t feel rushed in making a decision and have the opportunity to talk through all of your options with someone who specializes in sexual and reproductive health. As part of our Family Planning Counselor training, we were instructed to talk through all of the options available with our clients. There are SO many different kinds of birth control — condoms (both internal and external), natural family planning, different kinds of pills, the patch, the ring, a bunch of Intrauterine Devices (IUDs), Depo Provera (the shot), nexplanon (the implant), and MORE! That’s a lot of variety and a lot of options to choose from. Talking through the benefits and drawbacks of each one — which hormones does this option have, if any? How often does it need to be used? Does my insurance cover this? — can be so useful. Jot down your questions on your phone or keep them in mind as you head into your appointment.
2. Choose the method that works best for you. Period.
It might be tempting to choose the method that you have heard the most about or that all your friends are using. Just because something works really well for someone else doesn’t mean it will work well for you! One of the most beautiful things about us humans is how unique we are and our needs, when it comes to birth control, are not always the same as our peers. Is it really easy for you to remember things? Maybe taking a pill every day, changing a patch once a week, or switching out your ring once a month will work for you. Terrible at remembering things and don’t want to “deal” with birth control all the time? Maybe one of the long acting reversible contraceptive methods like an IUD or the implant will work for you. Not a fan of hormones? Maybe you can try the copper IUD, the natural family planning method, or one of the condoms. You get the idea! There are lots of factors that go into making this decision and it’s most important that you choose the method that works the best for you and your lifestyle.
3. Get to know yourself and trust your gut!
Come prepared to your appointment with thoughts about your own personal health. If you’re not paying attention to your body already, now is the time to start! Think about how you’re feeling, how often you are experiencing headaches, whether or not you smoke, what other substances you are taking (medications, mind altering substances, vitamins, etc.), whether or not your periods are heavy, whether or not you experience a lot of cramping, etc. All of these things are important to keep in mind as you are making your decision. Additionally, as you begin using your chosen method, continue to keep these things in mind! Some people keep journals, jot down feelings in notes on their phone, or use an app. No matter how you do it, it’s important to keep track of what you are experiencing. Pay attention to the way that your body is responding to the method that you chose and think about if this is still do-able now that you’re actually putting it into practice. You ultimately are the expert on your body and if something is not working for you it’s important to go back to the drawing board and choose a different option.
What do you all think? What would you add to the list?
What was helpful for you when you made your decision?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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