5 Things to Consider When Looking for Your Next Birth Control
This article was first published in December, 2021.
About four years ago, I was hospitalized because I had a debilitating reaction to birth control. Prior to this, I had tried about FIVE other birth control options, all of which left me feeling uncomfortable and totally unlike myself. The worst part of this story is that I’m not the only one. 75% of birth control users describe their experience with contraceptives negatively. Many of us birth control users feel unprepared and unsupported while trying to navigate birth control, and I am tired of it.
I launched Reya in hopes to build the solution I wished I had access to throughout my own birth control journey. Reya is a digital platform that provides personalized information and support to birth control users, navigating the world of contraceptives. Everything from matching our members to the right birth control option (hormonal and/or non-hormonal), tracking any side effects, to providing support all throughout their journey - I want Reya to be your birth control best friend.
How do I figure out which Birth Control is best For Me?
I get this question a lot, and I plan to tell you the secret, but first I want to say that everyone’s experience with birth control is different and that’s great! The uniqueness of our health journeys is something to celebrate and encourage. This also means that what works for me, probably may not work for you and vice versa. It’s important to base decisions on information that is specific to your personal situation and this guide can help.
And don’t worry, helping choose the best birth control option is what REYA is designed to do - gather information and make an informed suggestion, guiding you every stop of the way.
5 Things to Think About When Choosing Your Next Birth Control:
This is a heavy hitter. One that’s best to get a thorough understanding of ahead of your contraceptive planning. The general premise is that some people are not well suited to contraceptives that contain hormones - synthetic estrogen in particular. It’s unsafe for you to take birth control that contains estrogen if you have migraines with aura, have a history of or at high risk for blood clots, are breastfeeding, and if you have a disease listed under the contraindication list (something Reya or your doctor can help pinpoint). If you said yes to any of these, then that rules out any method that contains estrogen. For your own safety! Usually, you can still use hormonal birth control that contains progestin (hormonal IUD like the Mirena for instance) or any non-hormonal option (condoms have been around for centuries for a reason!).
Your Past Experience With Birth Control
This is huge and often overlooked. . I encourage you to think back to all of the birth control methods you’ve used and see if you can place the brand names of them (your pharmacy would have this on file if you forget). If they were hormonal options like the pill, vaginal ring, or IUD, take a look at the active ingredients. Specifically, it’s great to look at the dose of the hormones and the name of the progestin. This is helpful info to have because you can learn which options you should avoid going forward if you had a poor experience with a previous method. For example, if you’ve tried a pill and you experienced a side effect you weren’t stoked on (weight gain, acne, spotting, to name a few) you can look for other options that don’t use the same combo of hormones as that one.
To go a step further, you can use this information to note which level of hormones (low, standard, or high dose) is best suited for you. As well as which progestin could be most compatible with your body. This takes a little more knowledge and understanding and something beyond what I can get to in this blog. Again, Reya and/or a medical professional can help with this.
Okay, so much to cover here! Believe it or not, what you want is a huge indicator of which birth control method is right for you. Here are some things to ask yourself:
- If you are using birth control for pregnancy prevention and you want to have a child at some point, when would you like to start trying? If it’s within the next year or two maybe a “short-term/conventional” option like the pill, ring or patch is a good idea. Or even single use methods like the internal and external condom. If you aren’t planning on getting pregnant for a couple of years at least then long term methods are great options. Think IUD and implant which are effective for 3 years plus.
- Do you want to be able to start and stop birth control on your own? Some people prefer to have this control, other people prefer not to have to think about it on a daily basis. If you answered yes to this question, options like the pill, ring, patch, diaphragm or single use options like condoms are good ideas. Otherwise IUDs or implants require one medical procedure and then they do the rest!
- Do you want to use hormonal or non-hormonal birth control? Using hormonal contraceptives means that the synthetic hormones in the birth control interrupt your menstrual cycle in order to prevent pregnancy. These options are very effective at preventing pregnancy and can help manage other things like acne or painful periods. Non-hormonal options generally are barrier methods that prevent sperm from getting to an egg like condoms, diaphragm or the sponge. Or fertility awareness method or FAM, is when you track your ovulation and avoid sex or take extra precaution during your fertile window. Non-hormonal options do not interfere with your biological menstrual cycle. People have their own preferences on this one, and it’s a bit of a spicy topic in the media these days. For me, I finally have a pill option that really works for my body and I like it a lot. In the past year, I have been tracking my ovulation to understand my cycle a little better. I will probably return to the pill I like at some point, whether it’s due to lifestyle changes, relationships, etc! I encourage you to figure out what works for you and know that it can change as you change.
- How important is it that your birth control protects against STIs? Contraception and STI prevention? Talk about a sexy duo! These options are your internal and external condoms. They can be used with other options too; like the pill, IUD or fertility awareness method but condoms are the only option out there that protect against STIs.
Other things you will want to ask yourself that I’ll spare the gorey details of are:
- How important is it to keep your use of birth control private?
- How important is affordability to you?
- How important is it that your birth control is “easy to use” or takes minimal effort to manage?
- How do you feel about an object being placed in your body like your uterus or arm for an extended period of time?
- How do you feel about medical procedures?
- How do you feel about placing something inside your own vagina?
- How often do you want to get your period or your “placebo period”?
Your lifestyle is closely linked to your preferences but it still deserves a separate section. Some things to think about are if you’re someone with an irregular schedule and might forget to take a pill at the same time everyday (no shame, of course). Maybe you don’t want kids at all - long term or permanent options could be the solution for you (IUD, implant, sterilization or vasectomies).
Why You’re Going on Birth Control In The First Place
This may seem a little abstract, but hear me out! Your goal with using birth control plays a big role in which option would work best for you. Of course pregnancy prevention is a common factor. How important is that though? This may influence which method you want anything from the FAM method to an IUD or sterilization. Maybe you’re dealing with endometriosis or PCOS, to which hormonal birth control can help alleviate your symptoms. This is super helpful for some people while they focus on other areas of their life. Other goals that you might have with birth control are STI prevention (condoms), acne management (some pills can help with this), or having regular periods (ex. pill, vaginal ring, patch).
If you get one thing from all of this, it should be that birth control is all about YOU. It isn’t, and should not be treated like a one-size-fits-all solution. When we have these conversations ahead of time we can understand where we’re coming from and find an option that fits within that and works for us. Not against us. Birth control is a proactive measure we can take for our health. It should not make us feel uncomfortable.
Reya can help. We’re here to listen and to support you through this decision making process. Our system will match you to the right birth control option for you, help you track and monitor any side effects, and enable you to feel confident with your birth control!
If you have any questions, want to chat or are curious about anything we talked about here, please reach out! Our team is always available on Instagram @reyahealth or through our website www.reyahealth.ca