Contraception – Where Do I Begin?

Deciding which contraception to use can be intimidating at first. There are so many options when it comes to ensuring that you have safe sex, but it’s important that you find one that works for you and your partner(s), and works WELL. While I’m no doctor – and you should always consult your doctor or gynecologist when choosing a safe form of contraception – I do have some experience with choosing a contraceptive that suits my needs.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Condoms are universally good

While there are some cases where condoms have been known to tear or break, this generally happens when used or removed incorrectly. Condoms are, however, still one of the best forms of contraception as it prevents pregnancy as well as the spread of STIs. It forms a barrier against the spread of bodily fluids so it is especially useful if you have multiple partners, a partner or partners who have an STI, or a new partner. It’s important to remember that penetrative sex is not the only situation in which condoms can and should be used. Oral sex as well as mutual masturbation also involve an exchange of bodily fluids and STIs can be spread this way.

Condoms are easily accessible in most public bathrooms and in South Africa are provided by the government for free. While there are priced condoms like Durex available at pharmacies and supermarkets, the government-issued condoms work just as effectively and are much more affordable if your budget is tight.

2. The pill requires some responsibility

If you are a forgetful person, the birth control pill might not be the best option for you. Many people set alarms to remind themselves to take their pills, but this can still prove to be ineffective if you acknowledge the alarm and forget to take the pill immediately. It happens to most people at least once, but the pill can be quite time sensitive and it’s extremely important to take the pill at the same time every day.

The pill is a great form of contraception for fluid-bonded partners (partners who are clear of STIs and are safe to share fluids), but if you are not in a situation where it is safe to share fluids, the pill is not sufficient to protect against STIs. Pregnancy is only one consequence of unprotected sex.

3. Find a doctor you’re comfortable with

Your doctor will have to know a bit about your sex life to give you the most suitable options for birth control, so it’s important to feel safe to discuss fears and needs. Your doctor might ask about your reproductive health history, your sexual habits (i.e. how many current partners you have) or previous sexual issues such as low libido. Your health and happiness depends on your ability to answer honestly.

If your doctor (for any reason) makes you feel uncomfortable and you are unable to express your needs without judgement or insecurity, try out other doctors until you find one you feel is the right fit.

4. Do a bit of homework before seeing your doctor

Google can be your friend when it comes to researching what is available to you as a choice for contraception. Having a good idea of whether you’re looking for something non-invasive or an option that requires little effort helps your doctor to suggest the best course of action. Being prepared also gives you a better understanding of the basics so that you have more time to think of specific questions you have about certain options. There is no harm in asking these questions after you’ve decided on a contraceptive method, but having the information early could spare you a potentially uncomfortable experience that might have easily been avoided.

5. Be honest with your partner

Many people underestimate the power of communication in relationships, and allow any discomfort or annoyances to fester until the experience is rotten. If your method of contraception (or lack thereof) makes you uncomfortable physically or otherwise, your enjoyment will be impacted negatively. One way to fix this is to honestly say what you’re feeling and discuss other options. For example, the female condom is a popular alternative to the male condom as it still forms a barrier but can be more comfortable or reliable. There are increasingly more options available to people today than ever before, so take your time to find one that makes you happy.

For the safest and most accurate contraceptive advice, consult your doctor or gynecologist, and schedule regular check ups to ensure that you’re in good health.