Guest Blog, by Reya Health
How to Find the Right Birth Control Option
Finding the right birth control can be difficult. We’ve all been there, everyone has a story or has at least heard of a birth control horror story. I certainly have one. It took me five years of trying multiple options until I found one that I liked. All the while experiencing side effects and changes in my body that I was not down with. Skin breakouts, chronic UTIs, ovarian cysts, mood and sexual desire changes to name a few. Relatable?
But why does this happen? With 75% of birth control users describing their experience with contraceptives negatively, you would think we’d have it figured out by now. I can only imagine if birth control was a cis male matter they’d have personalized non-hormonal gummy bears you take once a month and abortion access would be like a drive-thru McDonald’s.
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 makes navigating birth control easy and empowering for people with periods. Reya’s digital platform and smart algorithms utilize in depth member profiles to match people with birth control solutions and help them manage any side effects or symptoms. Reya is your birth control best friend!
What is the best birth control?
Short answer: It depends! (eye-roll - I get it). But seriously, hear me out. 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.
Long Answer: This guide :)
Step 1: Check Your Medical History
Chat to a doctor about this because medical history is one of the most important steps. 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 and your doctor can help identify). This is for your own safety! Usually, you can still use hormonal birth control that contains progestin such as the hormonal IUD or any non-hormonal option.
Step 2: Analyze Your Past Experience With Birth Control
This might be my personal favourite step because it often doesn’t make it into the traditional contraceptive counselling conversation and I love teaching people the value in this step. It really can make all the difference.
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. Let me explain with a story. For about a year I used this one birth control pill option and overtime I realized that I just wasn’t have a fulfilling sex life anymore. I never found myself to be in the mood to initiate (which to be fair, was very unlike me) and if I did it was because I was so emotionally distraught for no reason at all I craved any type of human touch and interaction. Not very healthy as I’m sure you can imagine. Knowing what I know now, that pill method contained a type of progestin that is known to interfere with a person’s libido. Like… come on. Now when choosing a pill method I know to avoid that type of progestin.
You can do the same! If you’ve tried a birth control option (this is not just limited to the pill) and you experienced a side effect you weren’t stoked on you can look for other options that don’t use the same combo of hormones as that one. This information can also be used to note which level of hormones (low, standard, or high dose) is best for you. AND which progestin could be most compatible with your body. Wow. This is good stuff. Reya can help with this.
Step 3: Understand your Preferences
Another one of my favourite steps!
What you want is one of the best indicators of which birth control will be the best for you. Seems stupidly simple doesn’t it? Yet, sadly we are not always asked some of these basic questions when we ask our doctor about options. I’ll give you the trade secrets:
- 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?
- Do you want to be able to start and stop birth control on your own?
- Do you want to use hormonal or non-hormonal birth control?
- How important is it that your birth control protects against STIs?
- 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 answers to these questions will indicate if your option should be hormonal or non-hormonal, the type of method (pill, IUD, condoms, ring, implant, Fertility Awareness Method, etc) and the style of use (for instance, continuing to take your active pills and skipping your placebo bleed when using an oral contraceptive pill).
Let’s provide more context with a fun little personal story.
I have a few birth control methods that I like and I know that work for me. I have a go-to pill and a couple of non-hormonal methods that I love. I sometimes switch between which options I use as my preferences and lifestyle changes (we will get more into lifestyle later). Switching is totally okay to do, as long as it’s not every month or so. That’s just confusing for your body. But for the past year I’ve gone off the pill I like and I’m using Fertility Awareness Method and barrier options. This is because STI prevention is important to me while with different partners and I’ve been in queer relationships where pregnancy prevention is less of a concern. I also wanted to explore bio-hacking with my menstrual cycle and to do this fully, I need to be off hormonal birth control (maybe we will do another blog just on this). Preferences change and they can change back! I will probably go back to the pill I know I’m comfortable with at some point too.
Step 4: Take a Look at Your Lifestyle
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). Or pregnancy prevention isn’t a concern but other things are like we’ll chat about in Step 5.
Step 5: Ask Yourself Why You Are Going On Birth Control In The First Place
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).
Long story short: 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