5 important questions to consider asking when thinking about contraception

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Sexual and reproductive health are an important part of overall wellness, yet some women may hesitate to bring up concerns with their doctors due to embarrassment or confusion. Expressing your needs in conversations with your doctor regarding contraception is important and can help you feel empowered on your family planning journey — whether or not that includes having kids.

In 2011, approximately 45% of all pregnancies in the U.S. were unintended, and unintended pregnancies (UIPs) disproportionately impact women aged 18-24, women of color, and women from low economic backgrounds. According to data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2006-2010, of the 967 pregnancies among Hispanic and Latina women, 48% of them were unintended

“During appointments, the conversation with your doctor should be a two-way discussion — your doctor may ask you questions about yourself, and it’s important that you ask any questions you have to help you make informed decisions,” said Dr. Erica Montes, a board-certified OB/GYN and founder of The Modern Mujer Health Blog.

Having access to contraceptive information is an important first step in helping you prioritize your own reproductive health. According to 2008 data from the Guttmacher Institute, 18% of women at risk for UIPs who use contraceptives inconsistently accounted for 41% of UIPs.

Here are some questions that you may want to consider while preparing for a birth control conversation with a doctor:

Has the world around me impacted my approach to family planning?

As a result of the pandemic, women, including Hispanic and Latina women, may be thinking about their sexual and reproductive health needs differently. According to a 2020 Guttmacher survey, 48% of the total surveyed Hispanic and Latina women said that they wanted to have children later or wanted fewer children due to COVID-19.

You may want to take time to consider if your family planning goals have shifted over the past year.

What are the most important things about birth control to me?

When considering your options, you may want to think about what you are looking for with your contraception, like safety profile, effectiveness, availability, cost, frequency of administration, and if and when you want a child, among other things.

It’s important to discuss this with a doctor. Some women find it helpful to write down their specific thoughts and questions to reference during their appointment, so they don’t forget or overlook anything.

What are the different types of birth control available?

There are a number of contraceptive options to consider including short-acting (such as pills, patches, rings, injections), long-acting (such as IUDs or implants), and permanent options (such as sterilization). According to the 2018 survey of Family Planning and Women’s Lives, out of the 48% of Hispanic and Latina women at risk of UIPs, nearly two in three Hispanic and Latina women report always using birth control, but one in five reports never using it.

What are short-acting, long-acting, and permanent contraceptive methods?

These methods prevent pregnancy by interfering with ovulation and/or fertilization of the egg. When it comes to birth control, there are multiple methods you can choose from. Some forms of birth control contain hormones while others do not.

Short-acting contraceptives include pills, patches, rings, and injections. They can be taken orally, placed on your skin, inserted into your vagina, or taken in the form of a shot from a health care provider. Short-term options can be taken daily, weekly, monthly, or every three months. You can stop using these methods at any time.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs), include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. They are placed inside your body either in your uterus or arm by a health care provider and can be used for multiple years depending on the type of LARC. You can stop using these methods at any time and the removal should be performed by a doctor or health care provider.

Permanent options include sterilization. They are a permanent method of birth control in which the fallopian tubes are blocked or removed via surgery. In tubal ligation, the fallopian tubes are closed off. In salpingectomy, the fallopian tubes are removed. This prevents the egg from moving down the fallopian tube and keeps the sperm from reaching the egg. These procedures are not easily reversible.

Choosing birth control is personal and it is important to talk with your doctor about which birth control option is right for you, keeping in mind your life stage or personal health background.

How can I learn more about my options?

Many women discuss family planning at their annual wellness visit or OB/GYN appointment. However, you should be able to contact your doctor to discuss birth control questions and concerns as they arise. Family planning discussions can typically occur in person or virtually through telehealth appointments on the phone or video.

As women evaluate what’s next in their lives, it’s important that they are educated on their options so that they can make informed decisions and choose the contraceptive method appropriate for them.

“I encourage women to speak with their provider about all methods, such as short-acting, long-acting, or permanent options, and to decide together the best method for her,” said Dr. Montes.

Speak with your doctor or visit www.WhatsNextForHer.com to learn more.