Contraception advice: how to get the right kind

Eleonore Bridier Advice, Blog, Contraception

Many of us rely on our doctor for prescriptions, sick day certificates and telling us whether we’ve got a cold or flu. But your GP is also able to help you make decisions about your health. This includes things like giving contraception advice and helping you decide the right contraception for your body.

Rather than going in blind though, it can help you get the most out of your consultation to highlight any relevant concerns or considerations that you want to discuss around the topic of contraception. So here’s our conversation guide to help cover the bases when you’re talking to your doctor about your contraception options.

What contraception have you used in the past?

Perhaps you’ve used contraception before, but stopped that method because of adverse side effects. It’s important to tell your doctor about what you were on and what issues you had that you’d like to avoid. This could include things like cramps, spotting, wild mood swings or weight gain. Lifestyle issues are a perfectly legitimate reason to switch to a different method and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to raise concerns about remembering to take a pill every day. The more information your doctor has, the better they’ll be able to advise you on what might work best for you.

What’s your lifestyle like?

Certain lifestyle factors can dictate which birth control you should avoid. Things like smoking, sexual activities and even frequent air travel can all factor into what contraception your doctor might recommend. So if your doctor starts asking about your sex life or how often you travel for work, don’t worry, there’s a really good reason for it!

What are your periods and PMS like?

Your period can tell your doctor a lot about what’s going on with your body. For instance, pain in your pelvic area, super long periods and periods with a whole heap of stress or sadness, can all be symptoms for different health issues. Different types of contraception can either alleviate or exacerbate these symptoms.
Many of these conditions can be treated, or the symptoms minimised with the use of specific hormonal birth control (as long as your symptoms aren’t caused by a health issue that prevents you from using certain contraception).

Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?

Certain conditions are incompatible with some methods of birth control, so if you don’t think your doctor has a complete medical history for you, give them one. This can include certain medical conditions that you have a family history of, but might not have experienced yourself.
Things like a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer are worth mentioning.

What medications are you on, and are you prone to conditions that require antibiotics?

It’s uncommon for hormonal contraceptives to interact with medication, vitamins and supplements. Even most antibiotics won’t impact the efficacy. But it’s always better to be safe than pregnant if you’re not ready; so make sure you give your doctor a comprehensive list of all the medication, drugs and supplements that you take regularly.

Contraceptive advice and The Pill

What to do if something goes wrong with your contraception

Modern medicine and science is pretty amazing, but nothing is absolutely foolproof. If you feel like something isn’t working the way it should, or if you’re experiencing side effects that coincide with the uptake of contraception, don’t hesitate to have a conversation with your prescribing doctor.
Your contraception shouldn’t be causing you enough pain or discomfort that you miss work. It shouldn’t be making you so depressed that you can’t get out of bed. Contraception is meant to be a modern convenience, and if it’s not making your life more convenient, then it’s not the right one for you.

How to tell your doctor you’re unhappy with your contraception

Your prescribing doctor is there to ensure that you’re the healthiest you can be; your health is their number one priority. If you’re unhappy with your chosen contraception, don’t be afraid to talk about changing it. Explain what side effects you’re experiencing and your doctor should work with you to try and find an alternative. You are not asking too much to have your concerns taken seriously.

What to do if your doctor refuses to change or remove your contraception

Doctors are human beings, and because of this they come with their own unique set of opinions and biases. Sadly, some doctors have been known to think that women are exaggerating or even lying about the pain they’re in or the health issues they’re experiencing.

If your doctor is refusing to remove a contraceptive implant or IUD that you no longer want, it’s time to get a new doctor.
If your doctor won’t prescribe contraception that you’re requesting because they think you’re too young or don’t know what you want, it’s time to find a new doctor.
If your doctor isn’t listening or responding to you telling them about symptoms you’re experiencing, it’s time to find a new doctor.
They might have been your family GP for the last 25 years, but if they’re not putting your wellbeing first, then they’re not doing their job.

The last word

Don’t be afraid of seeking second opinions. If you have issues with contraception and your current doctor isn’t helping you, seek out a service provider that specialises in contraception or women’s health. Believe it or not, whilst contraception is a part of many people’s daily lives for most of their fertile years, in Australia it is still a very specialised area of healthcare – especially if you’re looking beyond The Pill.

For specialised family planning and contraception advice contact Marie Stopes.