How to Talk to Your Parents About Birth Control for the First Time

Taking control of your health can be a challenge, especially if you’re still under the care of your parents. If you’re not yet 18 or are still on their health insurance plan, talking about birth control with your parents for the first time can be challenging. 

No matter how close you are with your parents, talking about birth control can be uncomfortable. It can definitely feel weird and a little embarrassing at first, but having the conversation is worthwhile if you are interested in starting any form of birth control. Many people inherently associate birth control with sex, but the truth is that it can be used for much more than just contraception.

There are so many different types of birth control to choose from, and each has its unique pros and cons. It’s worth having a short, uncomfortable conversation with your parents to decide which BC may be best for your health, as well as figuring out the best ways to obtain it.

Types of birth control

Birth control can mainly be divided into two main categories - types that must be prescribed and/or implanted in a medical setting, and types that can be purchased over the counter at a drugstore.

Contraceptives like condoms and spermicides are available over the counter and in drugstores. You do not have to be a specific age to purchase them, and you do not need a parent or guardian’s permission. 

Prescribed birth control methods such as the pill, IUDs, the patch, the bar, and the ring most often contain hormones to help prevent pregnancy and regulate periods, which means that you must consult a medical professional before taking them. That being said, primary care providers, OB-GYNs, and medical professionals at licensed medical practices (including on-campus health centers) can write prescriptions for these types of birth control. 

While using a non-prescription birth control method like condoms can be effective at preventing STDs, they’re not completely effective at preventing pregnancy. In fact, condoms can be as low as 85% effective, especially when used incorrectly. Using a prescribed birth control method in addition to non-prescription methods like condoms provides an extra layer of protection against unplanned pregnancy if the non-prescription method fails.

However, if you are interested in starting birth control and need to go through your parents, it’s time to have that slightly uncomfortable conversation. Here’s how you can prepare yourself to have an effective and healthy discussion with your parents.

Related: Here's How to Navigate the On-Campus OBGYN

Be honest, even if it’s weird

When it comes to talking about birth control, strive to be as open and honest as possible. If you’re looking to use birth control as a contraceptive, it may be awkward to discuss, but it’s important to be upfront about it with your parents rather than trying to hide it. If you’re looking to use birth control as a means to relieve menstrual cramping, help with acne, or for any other reasons, it’s important to be clear about that too. 

At the end of the day, birth control is a medication you will be taking every day or will have inside your body and this new step should not be taken lightly. Honesty and communication throughout this process are important to ensure not only your safety but to also make sure that all aspects of your health are considered.

Talk about health insurance

Birth control and health insurance can be complicated. If you are under 18 and are interested in birth control, you will most likely need a parent’s permission and/or will have more obstacles in terms of taking legal charge of your own healthcare. As a minor, your parents still have access to your medical records and are likely the primary contact for your medical provider.

If you are over 18 and are living with your parents, are on their health insurance plan, or have some other obligation to them, there are other complications to consider. While you no longer have to get their legal permission or have to discuss medical decisions with them, they may still have access to medical records (though this can often be remedied by submitting written notice to your doctor that you are revoking that permission), could be charged deductibles, etc., and this could lead to different kinds of trouble if you don’t disclose your plans to them. Organizations like Planned Parenthood are very helpful in that they can help provide information about the different birth control methods that may work for you as well as providing you with a place outside of your primary physician’s office that can prescribe what you may need.

Prepare for awkward moments – and embrace them

When you want to talk about birth control with your parents, there are a few fairly predictable questions that may come up that could be a little uncomfortable if they catch you by surprise. However, by anticipating your parents’ questions and doing what you can to prepare yourself ahead of time, you will feel more confident in easing the inevitable tension. 

First, try not to anticipate an argument—instead, focus on approaching the conversation calmly. Being logical and having an adult conversation with your parents will show your maturity and that you are taking this medical decision seriously. Keeping your cool throughout the conversation is important to show your parents that this responsibility is not something you are taking lightly.

Know why you want to be on birth control and do your research accordingly ahead of time. It might sound obvious, but it is crucial that you know why birth control is important to you and your health and that you can communicate those reasons to your parents. Are you looking to take advantage of the side effects? Are you considering starting a sexual relationship and want to protect yourself? Are you looking to regulate your periods? Whatever your reason may be, it is crucial that you can communicate that reason effectively. 

Related: Understanding IUDs: Is It the Right Birth Control For You?

It’s also wise to anticipate an uncomfortable response, especially if you catch your parents off-guard. Remember that just because you’re been thinking about and preparing for this conversation, that doesn’t mean that your parents have done the same. More likely than not, you could surprise them by talking about birth control, especially if it’s not something that has ever been discussed among your family. Allow them the opportunity to think and process when you speak with them, and give them the opportunity to ask you questions. If they ask you about whether or not you’re sexually active, be honest with them – if it is safe to do so. If they ask questions about your partner(s) or relationships, do your best to be honest with them while still maintaining healthy boundaries. Even if you are a minor, it is important to try and maintain a healthy relationship with your parents – which means they don’t need to know every single detail of your life. What’s important in this conversation is providing them with the context they need in order to better support you.

Try to go into this conversation with a positive mindset. There is a chance you won’t need any of the above tips and the conversation will be smooth sailing from start to finish. Have some faith in your parents and their capacity to understand and listen to your thoughts and reasons. At the end of the day, parents are just people, too. They need to process, listen, and react the same way we all do, and acknowledging that (even if it’s just in your own head) can be some of the best preparation you can do for yourself before starting to talk.