How to Talk to Your Doctor About Birth Control

The best type of contraception for you depends on your medical history, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Choosing among the many options starts with talking to your doctor about different types of birth control and each method's pros and cons.

From coming to your appointment with questions to following up with your doctor after you begin using the birth control you've selected, be open and honest about your needs and concerns. The following tips on talking to your doctor about birth control can help.

Research and Review Your Options

There are so many different birth control options, both hormonal and non-hormonal. While your doctor may review them all with you, it's helpful to do some research beforehand. This can help you prepare questions and get a sense of which you might want to consider.

For example, 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 regarding these methods.

You can start your research right here at Verywell Health.

Write Down Questions Beforehand

Before you visit the doctor, it's a good idea to write down any questions you may have.

Here are some common questions patients ask:

  • Is birth control safe for me to take? What are the possible side effects?
  • Is one method a better option for me than another? Why?
  • Besides preventing pregnancy, what are some other advantages of taking birth control? (e.g., regulating your menstrual cycle, treating acne)
  • What is the failure rate for birth control?

If you already have some particular types of birth control in mind, you might also ask about them specifically. For example:

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about various birth control methods. There is no better way to debunk these myths than to talk to your doctor.

Detail Your Medical History

During your appointment, be sure to tell your doctor whether you have any medical conditions, like high blood pressure, migraines, or a history of blood clots. This is because a particular class of birth control may be contraindicated if you have certain diagnoses.

For example, estrogen-containing contraceptives (such as the pill, vaginal ring, or skin patch) are not recommended for women who experience migraine with aura due to the increased risk of stroke.

On the flip side, progestin-only methods—such as the mini-pill, or the Mirena or Skyla IUD—are not contraindicated in women with migraine (with or without aura).

It's also important to tell your doctor all the medications you are taking, including supplements and vitamins, as they may interact with certain forms of birth control.

Lastly, tell your doctor if you smoke. Women who take the birth control pill, smoke, and are age 35 or older have a higher risk of developing a blood clot.

Discuss Sexual History and Habits

Besides your medical history, know that you and your doctor will discuss your sexual health and lifestyle habits during your appointment.

Topics that will be addressed include:

Your doctor will also want to know about your future pregnancy intentions and any past pregnancies.

Be Honest

One of the most important things you can do is be open and honest.

If you are feeling anxious or hesitant, try to remind yourself that your doctor is there to help you, not judge you. Talking to women about gynecological conditions, birth control, sex, pregnancy, and so on is what doctors do.

By being truthful about your sexual practices and history, your doctor will be able to recommend the best and safest birth control method for you.

It's also important to be honest about your expectations and limitations.

Let's say you know yourself well enough to realize that you will probably forget to take a medication every day. Be upfront and tell your doctor this.

In this case, your doctor may recommend non-pill options like the skin patch, vaginal ring, shot, arm implant, or an IUD.

Inquire About Use and Follow-Up

Once you and your doctor have decided on a birth control method, make sure you understand how to use it safely and effectively.

The good news is that 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 has to give or place (shot, implant, or IUD), your doctor may provide you with a pamphlet. Alternatively, you can visit the manufacturer’s website to download a copy of the prescribing information.

All of that said, never hesitate to reach out to your physician. Perhaps you are developing some side effects that you would like to discuss with your doctor, or you are not sure if you are using your birth control properly.

These are all reasonable inquiries, especially when first starting on birth control or when trying out a new method. Likely, your doctor or their nurse will put your mind at ease and help you move forward with a plan in place.

Be sure to ask your doctor about follow-up, as well. While you may not need to see your doctor for a year with the birth control pill, other forms of birth control may require closer follow-up.

For example, with Depo-Provera, you will need to return to your doctor every 13 weeks for a repeat shot.

A Word From Verywell

Some women find a birth control method that suits them on their first try, while others need to try several methods before finding a fit. In addition, the birth control you use in your 20s may not be the same that you might want to use in your 40s. Talk openly with your doctor and work together to protect yourself, stay well, and feel confident about your choice.

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Article Sources
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  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2020) Progestin-Only Hormonal Birth Control: Pill and Injection.