How can we either get around the side effects of my birth control OR get past the trials and tribulations of condoms?
August 3, 2008 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Two-parter question about birth control. We need to either figure out how to make my hormonal BC more comfortable OR improve our condom experience. More details within.

I'm about to give up on hormonal birth control entirely. I can deal with most of the side effects, but the dryness is becoming increasingly unbearable. Sex is starting to hurt more than it's fun. But! I'm giving myself the rest of this month's prescription (I'm on the NuvaRing at present but have tried other methods before) to figure out how to make this more bearable because we'd rather not go back to condoms. No amount or variety of lube seems to be helping with the hormonal BC. So, question part 1: Are there any other ways of decreasing the dryness? Anything you've tried besides lube that helped you personally?

If we can't make this work, we're going back to condoms, which brings me to part two of my question. I know there are quite a few posts on here about condoms, but I'd specifically like a suggestion for effective condoms that are *easy to put on* for larger-than-average guys. I've read that Hot Rod condoms, for instance, have applicator strips, but I don't know anything else about Hot Rod condoms, frankly. They seem like a bit of a novelty act. It's just that when we used condoms regularly, we'd sometimes go through two or three of them before he'd get one to stay on comfortably, and the whole process frustrates him. Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)

I'd keep trying the HBC. I went through four different pills before I found one that didn't dry me up. I'd also try oil-based lubes. They aren't sold as much anymore because they mess up condoms, but they feel more natural to me.
posted by idle at 6:08 PM on August 3, 2008

Can't speak to dryness, but definitely another suggestion for trying different kinds of HBC before you give up on it completely, since they all cause different symptoms in different people. For what it's worth, I'm on Balziva now and it's great for me. Your mileage is almost certainly to vary. It's just a matter of finding the right pill for you. Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 6:13 PM on August 3, 2008

I'd specifically like a suggestion for effective condoms that are *easy to put on* for larger-than-average guys.

I had lots of difficulty with regular condoms, but found Trojan Magnums to be comfortable and easy. They seem to be widely available at CVS and such.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:14 PM on August 3, 2008

Well, I shouldn't really say comfortable. Comfortable relative to other condoms I've tried, at least.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2008

What about an IUD?
posted by Skwirl at 6:29 PM on August 3, 2008

Have you thought about an IUD or IUS? (an IUS is better for younger women, especially if prone to menstruel cramps).

I had many similar problems with hormonal birth control (pills killed my sex drive, 3 month injections made sex dry and painful, as well as causing depression), but I have been using an IUS for about 2-3 years now, and I've never been happier (with my birth control, at least - life is a more complicated matter). The IUS (what I have) does often have a small hormonal release (progesterone, I believe), enough to eliminate any cramping (and most of my period, which was a total bonus), but not enough to have any ill effects. (An IUD without any hormone can worsen cramps). The system is suposed to last for five years, but can be removed if you wish to have children before then. I don't know how much it would cost out of pocket, as I had NHS coverage at the time, and prices would be different in every place. Obviously, neither IUS or IUD provide any protection from STDs, and in fact can be a problem if you are exposed to STDs, but for monogamous women they can be excellent. Actually, I find the language on the website I linked to actually a little fear mongering - I got my IUS through a reputable birth control and sexual health clinic in Britain, and most of the problems with IUDs and IUSs are based on early, but famous, failures from decades ago - they are widely recommended in Britain for women in monogamous relationships, even those who have not had children.

In my quest to avoid hormonal birth control (and condoms as well, actually - I think I may be allergic to latex), I have also used a diaphram, which was pretty good and very effective when used properly (you do need the spermacidal jelly, and you need the extra thick designed for diaphrams stuff). The down side is that a) you don't need to interrupt sex, but you do have to plan ahead, and b) the diaphram may cover your g-spot if you have one, thus reducing the pleasure of vaginal sex.
posted by jb at 6:37 PM on August 3, 2008

Are you also taking an antihistamine on a regular basis? Medications like Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec, etc. work to "dry you up" and the effect seems to be systemic for some people. Could that be the culprit?

Also, are you drinking enough water? Maybe increasing the amount of water you drink can help this situation.
posted by FergieBelle at 6:38 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most pharmacies (here in australia) sell vaginal moisturisers. I've used them in the past for the occasional dryness issue. They're usually marketed to post-menopausal women, but I've found them to work quite well.
posted by ysabet at 6:41 PM on August 3, 2008

I've had good luck with Yasmin BC + O'My lubricant. I was dealing with similar discomfort and nothing seemed to work until I tried O'My; now I wouldn't go without it. Ever.
posted by villain extraordinaire at 7:17 PM on August 3, 2008

jb (and OP, if you were interested): American, getting an IUS (Mirena) through Planned Parenthood without government assistance or insurance, incurred a cost of $705 for the combined prerequisite pap smear and insertion of the IUS, and then $80 two months on for a re-check appointment.

Just to give a very recent example, for an idea of what you're looking at without insurance in the U.S., through PP.
posted by po at 8:32 PM on August 3, 2008

Once you're done with this month's Nuvaring, give Depo Provera a shot, so to speak. It's the most magical birth control ever. No side effects, except for no period, which is fabulous, and no issues with dryness. I was on it for 9 years and loved it. LOVED it.
posted by pieoverdone at 8:45 PM on August 3, 2008

Gah, I feel your pain! I had this the WORST with Yaz. Tried everything I could think including a dozen lubes too. But when I complained to my GYN she looked at me like I was crazy. In reality its an extremely common side effect. Everyone says birth control mimics pregnancy but I feel it's closer to menopause, because it often sets your hormones much lower than they would be naturally.

FWIW I had slightly less issues with OrthoTri-Cyclen LO... but ultimately I went off the pill. If you are both tested, monogamous, responsible, etc... try charting you cycles. By charting, you can get off HBC and even skip condoms, except for about a week during your fertile cycle. If you want to be very careful I'd use a diaphragm+condom (I hear lambskin works for many sizes?) during that time. Charting is really easy to do, teaches you a lot about your body, and if your boyfriend is the evolved type, it's very empowering for him too because can visually "see" when things are safe or not. IF this is an option for you, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is basically the bible on the subject.

Either way, the best natural remedies (besides l-o-t-s of oral sex : ) I can think of are the basic women's herbs: dong quai, raspberry leaf, maybe even red clover for extra phytoestrogens. Maybe some Maca powder to balance your endocrine/hormone system. Something like Replens is good too for keeping the tissues moisturized. Oh! also try some Gatorade about an hour before sexytime.
posted by for_serious at 9:14 PM on August 3, 2008

Actually, Depo Provera can have side effects, especially if you are already having dryness. I was on Depo, and that was my worst experience (same symptoms as you are having now), but my sister-in-law had no ill side effects. As everyone above has said, different hormonal birth controls have different effects on different people; Depo might have no effect for you. Unfortunately, I don't know if they have a way of knowing who is going to be affected or not - at least with a pill, you can stop almost immediately, whereas if you try Depo and it's bad, it's three months before it's out of your system.

po - ouch, on the cost - I was very lucky to be in Britain at the time. That said, if you can afford it, it does replace 5 years worth of birth control pills.

Dear original poster: I think you and your partner will need to talk about whether you are willing/able to keep trying other hormonal birth controls. There are lots of pluses to them (cost, effectiveness, etc), which is why they are so popular. But if you decide to not do hormonal birth control, there are many alternatives. I used a diaphram for several years before I got an IUS, and it was good and no pregnancy scares let along failures (maybe I'm actually infertile, or maybe it's just more effective than people think); I have known people who simply use condoms.
posted by jb at 9:17 PM on August 3, 2008

one more thing! I hear Damiana tea is the shizz for this but have yet to try it...
posted by for_serious at 9:20 PM on August 3, 2008

Durex Avanti condoms may work for you. They are non-latex, and therefore transfer heat a lot better. They are also slightly larger, which may or may not be enough for your man. You will never want to use a latex condom again.

I had to go off HBC for a variety of reasons recently. I was not really enthused about 'going back to condoms' as you say, but the Avanti really makes it worth your while.

Draw back: price- about 50% more expensive than latex, with fewer condoms per pack. If you're as fed up with HBC as I was, you probably won't even notice/care.

Alternatively, have you tried a silicone-based lube?
posted by sunshinesky at 11:17 PM on August 3, 2008

Avanti condoms are great because they can be used with oil based lubes, which last longer. By virtue of being polyurethane, they can withstand the harmful effects of oil. I do not use oil based lubes because I found an amazing water based one called "Probe". Horrible name, but works wonders.

The Mirena IUS that I currently enjoy using was gotten through Planned Parenthood without insurance. It cost me 300 dollars total. I got a discount by being broke. The Paragard IUD costs slightly less, and is non-hormonal (plus it lasts 10 years instead of five). You might consider the Paragard if you have no bad problems with your period. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have had a child prior to using an IUD.

The Depo Provera shot (aka "The Shot") has been proven to potentially cause some serious long term issues. It should really only be used when all other options are exhausted.

Please feel free to MeMail me if you have any other questions.
posted by nursegracer at 11:47 PM on August 3, 2008

The Avanti condoms are great and more comfortable for average sized men, but for larger men, I've heard that they are terribly difficult to put on and much, much tighter than normal condoms. I personally prefer the Avanti because it feels more natural, but I wouldn't recommend them for someone looking for a larger condom.

Trojan Magnums have been what's recommended to me by larger men and their partners.

As for lube: I love Liquid Silk - the only drawback is that it tastes awful.

Oh, another anecdote about Depo: I was on it for six years and loved it. I had issues with the pill triggering depressive symptoms, and the Nuva Ring was just plain uncomfortable for me. Depo was the best method of BC I found. Unfortunately (for me) my doctor recommended I go off of it because it can, over time, decrease bone density.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:27 AM on August 4, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Thanks, guys, for all your help! I'm not really looking at alternative methods of birth control at this time, though. Believe me, I've considered or tried just about everything! At the moment, I really just need a few suggestions with the two methods mentioned in my post: the ring or condoms.

If anyone needs any clarification, I've set up a throwaway address of Thanks again!
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 AM on August 4, 2008

follow-up from a user who would prefer to be anonymous>
I'm a bit on the large side aswell, and a new world was revealed to me when I tried the durex Comfort XL condoms — they seem to be called XXL in the US. Condoms aren't supposed to choke and strangle you! You're supposed to feel your partner, not the condom!

Other large-size condoms didn't fit me as well and were either too snug or slipped off, so you definitely should try more than one brand/type. I simply ordered a couple of small packages from a web site. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 AM on August 4, 2008

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