What is the right birth control for me?
March 21, 2007 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Help me find the best form of birth control for me!

I am a 16 (going on 17) year old student, sexually active and terribly confused! Since the beginning, my partner and I have always used condoms. After a pregnancy scare (broken condom), I started reading up on other forms of contraception that I could undertake.

My question is this: What form of birth control do you think is most suitable for me? As a teenage student, it would be preferable that this form of BC have little or no impact on my daily routine. It would also be good if the BC was relatively inexpensive.

Any anecdotes/issues with any form of birth control are welcome!

(Just as a note, I am leaning towards an IUD. However, I have read that it is not recommended for teenage females.)
posted by Mrs PuGZ to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nuva ring.
posted by rbs at 6:32 PM on March 21, 2007

Trinessa: generic orthotricycline is $8 a month with my insurance. It has served me well for 4 years. No weight gain or pregnancies. ::shrug::
posted by amileighs at 6:35 PM on March 21, 2007

I would suggest a trip or phone call to your nearest Planned Parenthood; this is pretty much their central mission, and they are pretty good about providing affordable and honest sexual health and birth control information.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 PM on March 21, 2007

buy some lube and tell your boyfriend to switch to thicker condoms and/or to be more careful -- if they're not too old or badly preserved (ie, if he keeps them in his wallet -- stresses the material out -- or in his car -- too hot) they mostly break because of human error (basically, it didn't fit right) or lack of lubricant.

good luck and relax

(condoms are pretty cheap & I'm sure you can find some anti-AIDS charity that gives them away for free)
posted by matteo at 6:38 PM on March 21, 2007

I don't think we can really answer this. We aren't your doctor(s). We don't know if you have clotting disorders or you smoke or any other contraindication to hormonal BC. If you are sexually active you should be seeing a gyn anyway.

However, between planned parenthoods, medical center women's clinics, and insurance, hormonal BC is pretty damn cheap. Generic pills especially so. Taking a pill daily is barely a second in a daily routine - many women I know keep their pack with their toothbrush, for example.

I do not know any gyn who would give you an IUD - I had to beg for mine at 23 because I had a bizarre, sudden reaction to hormones, and only got it because of a good personal relationship with my doctor.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:42 PM on March 21, 2007

I'm your age and had good luck with the patch (Ortho Evra). Other than issues with the patch tending to creep around a bit, it was easy. I didn't have many side effects, and since I've gone off it my periods have been lighter and (I think) less frequent. I liked not having to remember to take a pill everyday.

However, what works for me may or may not work for you. See: any existing AskMe thread about birth control. Be willing to try different things. Also, if something still has a lot of side effects after three months, drop it and try again. Trust me, it's not worth it sticking with something that doesn't work (bad experience with depo provera). Good luck!
posted by MadamM at 6:47 PM on March 21, 2007

Take the pill and keep it to yourself. Make the bf use condoms. The pill keeps you from getting preggers. The condoms help keep you from getting VD.
posted by caddis at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2007 [4 favorites]

I've found that just the normal pill is fine. Take it once a day and you're good. Just don't let the pharmacy give you Tri-Previfem, it's crap that doesn't work. I'm 3 months in and I'm breaking through it already. There are certain generics that just suck.

Most healthcare people wouldn't recommend and IUD for someone your age unless it was a last option. There's a chance it can cause sterility, and even if you don't think you want kids right now, you may change that thought ten years down the line.

Deprovera is a shot of bc that will make you bitchy as all hell. My friend was on it after she got pregnant, she was much more sane before she did that.

Don't forget to talk to your gyno about what you want, any good one will be able to help you choose one to best fit you.

Good luck!
posted by Attackpanda at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2007

Sadly, ixnay on the IUD; because of the (small) risk of uterine perforation, it is generally only given to women who have completed their families or can convince a healthcare practitioner that they are mature enough to have decided they don't want any children.

Basically, since you still need to use condoms, you need a good back-up method.

The diaphragm or cervical cap is cheap, cheap, cheap with virtually no ongoing costs besides spermicide.

Obviously, the pill is also an option but you do have to remember to take it daily and hormonal birth control is problematic for a lot of women. I would not suggest long-term HBC like Depo if you've never been on HBC before; it can be a rough ride.

The Nuvaring is a good middle ground; you don't have to remember it every day, and if you have a bad reaction, you can just take it out. The sexual health clinic near you can tell you the cost or if they have a sliding scale for it.

IANAD, etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:49 PM on March 21, 2007

The pill has really no impact on your daily routine. I promise. I'm not sure why you would go with any other form (unless there are some health issues.)

I take my pill when I brush my teeth in the morning... I have friends who take it at night if it makes them nauseous.

The pill does wonders for your period when it comes to cramps and mood swings.

You can get the pill for almost free at any Planned Parenthood...and really it's about $30 a month with most insurances if you want to go to your ob/gyn and take it.

While I may be opening a whole 'nother can of worms...the pill is easy to hide from parents who aren't thrilled with the fact that you're having sex....I'm just saying...
posted by dearest at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2007

Nuva Ring is great, but not recommended, as it needs to be kept cool until use. I can see it now:

Mrs. Mrs. PuGZ: Hon, what's this next to the grape juice and mustard?
Mrs. PuGZ: Oh, um, nothing. I was holding it for a friend. I swear! They don't have a refrigerator!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:52 PM on March 21, 2007

IANAD. Unless there's some health reason why you shouldn't take the pill, I'd recommend that. If the formulation you're on is causing unpleasant side-effects, it's easy to switch to a different one (different levels of hormones). Most other forms of hormonal bc are harder to switch midstream.

Don't replace condoms with the pill. Use both. The pill only protects you against pregnancy (and imperfectly - it's the best protection if you take it correctly, but is not 100%).

If you decide against birth control for whatever reason, talk to your doctor about getting the morning after pill right away, and just keep it on hand for those broken condom moments. That always seems to happen at times when it's hard to get to a pharmacy or clinic/hospital. Get instructions for using it correctly and keep them with it so you don't have to find the information again when the time comes. (Note the MAP is not an abortion pill - it prevents implantation like the pill does - so if you're pro-life you can still take it.)

If you smoke and decide to go on the pill, stop smoking.
posted by joannemerriam at 7:04 PM on March 21, 2007

Do not expect to have to pay for any of your supplies. Whatever you choose will probably be free through state agencies because you are young. Most likely, the doctor will offer the pill, the ring, or the patch and tell you to "wait" to think about anything else. Avoid the shot--you can quickly get off the other options, but the shot is with you until it's out of your system.
posted by sian at 7:05 PM on March 21, 2007

Contraceptive sponges, while not cheap, are reliable, non-hormonal, and allow for flexibility and spontaneity. They can be inserted well before intercourse, and can be used for multiple acts of intercourse over a 24-hour period.

However, if you're happy with condoms, you might want to go down to your local Planned Parenthood and buy some Plan B to have on hand in the event you have a condom break again. (And are you using Trojans? That's the only brand of condom that I've ever had break, and anecdotal evidence from friends seems to confirm that they do tend to break more than other brands.)

In fact, you should go down to Planned Parenthood to discuss all your birth control options with an expert. There are benefits and drawbacks to every method; they will be able to give you information on a lot of the methods already presented here, and they can help you sort out what is the best option for you and your lifestyle.
posted by stefanie at 7:15 PM on March 21, 2007

I've been on DEPO Provera for a while. It is amazing for me, because you only have to get a shot every three months, so it's nice if you want to keep it discrete - no pills, etc. lying around. However, it is only suitable as an ONLY birth control method in a committed relationship when both you and your partner are free of infections. Otherwise, you still have to use a condom.

Also, almost 50% of women stop menstruating on this method. It is normal, and I found it to be a blessing. Yet it freaks out a lot of people.

DEPO is also not for you, if you want to have kids within the next two years.
posted by esolo at 7:38 PM on March 21, 2007

I also am on Depo Provera and have been since I was 19 (so for three years now.) As esolo said, condoms still required if there are any doubts about sexual health, but I too have found the lack of periods to be a blessing. I couldn't imagine going back, ugh. However, as sian said, this may not be the best option for you as one of its main benefits, only having to get it every 3 months, also means that if it has any bad effects on you, you're stuck with them for 3 months. I've heard a lot of horror stories about horrible depression as a side effect, but I've personally never experienced it.

Also, I get it for free from Planned Parenthood and just make a donation of about $60 every time because I can afford to, but it certainly wouldn't be required or even expected of you.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:59 PM on March 21, 2007

Go with Nuva ring. I was on Depo for four years, and it caused severe osteoporosis in my hip (I found out when I was in a nutrition study at my university and they did a bone scan as part of the study). I know that many women don't experience side effects, but they do happen.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:29 PM on March 21, 2007

I haven't heard that Nuva Ring needs to be refrigerated, except in the months of the year when it gets up to about the temperature inside the human body. If you live in a pretty warm place, this may be a consideration, but generally a cool dry place is fine...or so I hear.

However, my main frustration with the Nuva Ring is that it's new enough that sometimes it seems like nobody really knows what's true about it. I love using it, but when you have questions there just isn't the same body of documentation to consult that I had when I was on the pill.

In any case. If your main concern is not interrupting your daily routine, homes, it's all about the Nuva Ring. So! Easy!
posted by crinklebat at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2007

Yeah, nth the suggestion to go to planned parenthood. They will help you figure out which form of BC is best for you. But consider the nuva ring.
posted by bigmusic at 9:52 PM on March 21, 2007

You should talk to a doctor about your particular situation.

But I do want to correct people saying women who haven't had kids can't get IUDs. That was true in the past, but things are changing, and there are many doctors now who will insert them in nulliparous women. So no one should rule out an IUD just because they haven't had kids, or because they want them in the future.
posted by occhiblu at 10:16 PM on March 21, 2007

really, is he sponge worthy?

I like to think so!

Also, the condoms now are much thicker (not going to go through that again!) - but can VD really just appear out of nowhere? I find the idea that they can just pop into existence strange (and frightening!)
posted by PuGZ at 11:39 PM on March 21, 2007

Indeed they can, but only when you or the Mrs. start sleeping with people who have them. ;-)

(I don't think previous commenter expected the boyfriend to see the question.)

Clearly, if you're 100% ZOMG sure you're both clean, then no, they do not just manifest.

Others on the boards will argue that 100% is an awfully lofty percentage to keep, especially for sexually active teenagers.

Of course, your own relationship's mileage will vary, and you can make that judgement call yourselves.

(I, for one, have had the pleasantry of being with a girl where the 100% rule worked well for us.)
posted by disillusioned at 12:27 AM on March 22, 2007

I have an Implanon implant. The insertion was very quick and painless, and it lasts for three years with zero upkeep (not even the six monthly checkup that I had to do when on the Pill). Some people also have no periods with it, which certainly saves on faffing about with tampons.

It can have all the side effects of the Pill or other hormonal BC, but it's easy for the doc to remove it if things aren't working out.

It works really well for me because I'm not good at remembering to take the Pill, or remembering to pack it when I go away.
posted by emilyw at 2:55 AM on March 22, 2007

I suggest you go to this website, created just for people like you, and ask questions in the forums AND read the birth control section.

I think it's very important to stress out that only condoms are effective for protection against sexually transmitted diseases, so please make sure you and your partner are STD-free by taking a test at Planned Parenthood ASAP, before you choose to go on the pill/ another form of BC, but I'm sure you know that!

Good luck!
posted by Sijeka at 4:03 AM on March 22, 2007

Yes, go to Planned Parenthood OF COURSE or a regular GYN. Don't get your hopes up about great family planning counseling at PP, though - I've found them to be gruff and rushed. I've gotten better family planning advice from a regular GYN. I'm not saying you can't get great counseling at PP, just don't be shocked if you don't. And don't think that means there's nothing better out there.

Re Nuvaring & refridgeration: the ring needs to be maintained at between about 60 and 85 degrees, so you do not need to refridgerate unless it's very hot/very cold in your house. (Just confirmed this with NuvaRing themselves.) In fact, wait, I just realized that means you should NOT store the ring in the fridge - aren't fridges normally a lot cooler than 60 degrees? Oops. Anyway, PP gave me 14 months' worth too - nice to save the hassle of going to the pharmacy every month - in any case, PP would probably do that for you for other birth control too.

Re IUD: My doctor strongly urged me not to get an IUD (no kids yet) because she said the cramps would be debilitating in a woman who has had a full term pregnancy. Also, she would ONLY agree to give me an IUD when I convinced her I was in a very stable, monogamous relationship (years together) because she said if I did get an STD the IUD could contribute to infertility. I'm sure Mrs PuGZ and PuGZ you don't think that either one of you will cheat, but you're not in the most stable time of your life, so you want to be careful about these things.
posted by n'muakolo at 6:00 AM on March 22, 2007

Please discuss all your options in depth with a health care provider. I went on the Pill in college and if I could take that back, I would. I gained 15 lbs. and permanent body changes (breast enlargement/hip spread), and spent two months very tired and nauseated (to the point it was hard to focus on school) as my body adjusted to the hormones. Some women have no reaction, or minimal/positive reaction (acne clears up), as they start taking hormonal birth control (Pill, NuvaRing, patch, Depo) - but some women do, physically, or emotionally (mood swings, depression, low libido), and I find that aspect is usually glossed over when discussing birth control options with young women, because the Pill is easy - just take meds - no fittings or what have you (personally, I went in asking for a diaphragm, and I wish I'd stuck to that).

This is not to say that hormonal birth control isn't a great thing for many women, because it is. But I find many discussions don't seriously mention these things - I never knew it until I went through it. It's good to know and accept these potential effects before you go on it; it was a big shock to me to have my body change like that - and later on find out it wasn't going to change back when I went off the Pill. I have friends that experienced the same body changes, or loss of libido/emotional swings; and friends that had no problems - I have friends that got bad breakouts from taking it, and friends whose acne got better. So you don't know how it will affect YOU personally until you do it.

IMO, long-term monogamous relationship - I'd get a diaphragm. One-time reasonable cost, then periodically top up on spermicide. Hormonal birth control, I'd get a NuvaRing, it's lower-dose than the Pill, and you put it in and forget it for three weeks, basically. Also, condoms aren't great, but they protect against many STDs - and you don't think it can happen to you until it does - think over the loss of disease protection carefully.
posted by Melinika at 7:09 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sadly, ixnay on the IUD; because of the (small) risk of uterine perforation, it is generally only given to women who have completed their families or can convince a healthcare practitioner that they are mature enough to have decided they don't want any children.

Ditto to occhiblu - the above statement is wrong, wrong, wrong.
posted by peep at 8:54 AM on March 22, 2007

Alot of good advice already.

I just want to add to the 'just get on the pill' train. I was in a very similiar situation as you when I started taking birth control and was absolutely convinced that I would never remember to take a pill every day.

Depo Provera was very new at the time and I jumped at it. I was on it for 3 years, in that time I thought that it was the greatest thing ever, although I was ignoring my horrible depression, the 50 lbs I gained (yes I ate well and exercised regularly) and the horrible thing it did to my body. When I finally came off of it, it took several months to get back to normal and my menstrual cycle is still VERY, VERY messed up, it has been 7 years.

My next birth control was the patch, it was the new BC on the block and once again I jumped at it. It was much better other than being unattractive and annoying. Until I realized my skin was having a bad reaction to it. To this day the areas where I wore the patch still break out regularly, and never did before. My doctor took me off of it with a 'yeah, it is new on the market, noone knows much about it.'

So then, of course being stubborn to learn anything I tried out the Nuva Ring, the next hot new birth control. I have spent the last YEAR after stopping it dealing with horrible vaginal infections that seriously affect my sex life, once again I got the 'oh yeah, thats a very common side affect.

Im now on Yaz, a pill, I wear a watch with a daily alarm to ensure I remember every day to take it in my hectic life. I never forget and it has been such a great improvement. Tons of people do really well on those other birth control methods but I suggest going with the one that has been on the market for a very long time. And yes, keep up with the condoms.
posted by trishthedish at 8:58 AM on March 22, 2007

I would recommend the NuvaRing. I've been on it for a little over 6 months now and it has not caused me any grief at all.

It releases a lower dose of estradiol than most oral bc's (15micrograms I think), which supposedly lowers your risk of blood clotting etc. With pills, it's harder to keep a constant level of it in your body to avoid spotting, etc. The ring, however, is constantly releasing a steady dose. No fuss, no muss.

Nuva Ring is great, but not recommended, as it needs to be kept cool until use. I can see it now:

Not true... the instructions of my Nuvaing clearly state that it can be kept anywhere between 2 and 30 degrees celcius.

I should also nth the suggestion to go talk to your gyn/local sexual health clinic. Naturally, they will be able to tell you best what is right for you.

Good luck!
posted by sunshinesky at 11:49 AM on March 22, 2007

Thanks so very much for the advice, all. We'll definitely be forgoing the IUD in favour of something less invasive as the possibility of infertility is never, ever worth risking at such a young age when safer alternatives exist. (I didn't think a sensible GP would give an IUD, anyway.)

We'll go to some form of PP and I may discuss it further with my dad (a GP/trained OB/GYN). Thanks once again!
posted by PuGZ at 12:30 PM on March 22, 2007

n'muakolo writes "the ring needs to be maintained at between about 60 and 85 degrees, so you do not need to refridgerate unless it's very hot/very cold in your house. (Just confirmed this with NuvaRing themselves.) In fact, wait, I just realized that means you should NOT store the ring in the fridge - aren't fridges normally a lot cooler than 60 degrees?"

A working fridge should have an internal temperature of 34F-38F, lower is better up until your lettuce starts to freeze.
posted by Mitheral at 2:05 PM on March 22, 2007

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