Q: I’m nowhere near Hampshire, but I found this blog and I really respect the non-judgmental information you’re providing people, so I figured you might answer my question even if I’m miles away (no rush).
I’m debating having sex for the first time, but I need to find the right birth control. I don’t really want to tell my parents (especially not my dad), so I was going to try going to Planned Parenthood. I am leaning towards the pill, but I know that it messes with hormone levels and has side-effects. What are the most common ones? What are the differences between brands? I would like to know my options before I try anything. I’d also like to know how long I should wait to have sex after starting birth control.
A: There are many things to consider before choosing to have sex for the first time, including but not limited to birth control options. Congratulations on thinking about these things ahead of time! Go Ask Alice!, an excellent online sexual health resource, has an excellent, comprehensive article that covers many different factors to consider before choosing to have sex. If after you do decide that it’s the right time for you and your partner to have sex, it’s essential that you take the proper precautions to protect your sexual health. Steps you can take to help protect you and your partner(s) include but are not limited to regular STD/STI testing, using barrier methods, and as you know, birth control methods.
Even if you’re on birth control, you still need to protect against the transmission of STD’s and STI’s. You can help protect yourself and your partner by doing two things: (1) using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams, and (2) have you and your partner(s) get tested regularly.
From your description, it seems like you have access to a local Planned Parenthood, which is great news. Planned Parenthood offers confidential testing, barrier methods, as well as birth control. If you do not have access to a Planned Parenthood or other reproductive healthcare clinics, your physician can prescribe birth control as well as test you for STD/STI’s, and barrier methods are available at drug stores and online.
As for contraceptive methods, there exists a plethora of options to choose from; oral contraceptives, or “the pill,” are but one method to help prevent pregnancy. Additionally, there is a wide variety of different brands of birth control brands (100 and counting!) and new brands are introduced every day. Because of the variety of options, we cannot pretend to offer a comprehensive overview of this many different brands of oral contraceptives. To familiarize yourself with the variety of options, WebMD has a helpful comparison of the different categories of oral contraceptives, the different brands, and the different possible side effects.
When starting birth control, it is impossible to know beforehand which brand of pill is going to work best for you. The efficacy and side effects of any given pill is determined by a variety of factors, and the same pill may affect two different people in radically different ways. Your healthcare provider can help you narrow down these options and help you find the pill that is most suitable for you and has the least negative side effects. However, it is important to note that most people try a few different brands of birth control before finding one that works best for them. Additionally, it may take a for your cycle to readjust and your hormone levels to settle into place before you can tell if the pill is working for you, or if you want to try a different brand. The provider who prescribes you the pill will be able to guide you through this decision-making process.
To choose which options are best for you, discuss your situation with Planned Parenthood and/or your health care provider, so that your health history, circumstances, and financial situation may be taken into consideration. There is no need to worry about your parents finding out: if you are a minor in the United States, you have rights to confidential reproductive health care. Unless you give consent, your health care provider cannot disclose your medical records to anybody, including your parents (except in the case of abortion, depending on your state’s laws). Planned Parenthood and other health centers are very familiar with concerns about confidentiality. If your parents provide your health insurance and/or will pay for your medical bills and you fear that they will find out after you receive services, talk to your provider about ways to ensure confidentiality, like providing a private contact information and paying in cash.