I’ll never forget the first time I went to the doctor to ask about contraception. I was mortified to find my appointment was with a male doctor who looked exactly like my dad. I just wanted the floor to swallow me whole when I started explaining the reason for my visit.
Talking about contraception and sex with someone you hardly know isn’t always easy. But the trick is to remember they’ve seen it all and heard it all a million times before. It’s their job, and for them it’s completely normal; even if it feels like the most awkward thing on the planet for you.
So my advice, before you step into the doctor’s surgery, is this: Like any situation, go in knowing what you want to get out of it. So have a think – why do you want contraception? Is it to enjoy sex without worrying about pregnancy, or is there a medical reason such as severe period pain, PMS or problematic skin?
For Annabel*, 23, she wanted fewer periods:
“I was going travelling for 6 months and I wanted to be period free while I was away. We discussed several options including the implant, which we decided was the best choice for me. I got it 12 months before going away in case I had any problems – but so far so good!”
There are many different types of contraception, so you should be able to find one that meets your needs. But it can be hard to know where to start. Talking to friends is helpful, but if you have any worries about side effects, or want to explore a non-hormonal method, ask your doctor about all options and any concerns you may have.
Lily*, 25, wanted the most effective method of contraception for her. Some of her friends were on the coil and she wanted to know more. “My doctor explained how the coil worked, which was reassuring. I also remembered to ask how and when it would be removed, which they explained really well. I left feeling like I had made the right decision for me.”
My top tips for a positive chat with your doctor.
- Don’t be embarrassed – this is a conversation that all doctors have hundreds of times every week.
- Ask for a doctor you’re comfortable with – either your usual GP or a female doctor if it feels easier.
- Plan ahead – what do you want from your contraception? Is there a particular option you would like to discuss?
- Don’t rush a decision – if you get all the info from your doctor but you’re still not sure, take it away, have a think and arrange another appointment.
- Know your contraception inside out – once you’ve chosen, make sure you have all the information you need in order to make sure you use it correctly.
Having an open conversation around contraception will help you feel informed and in control, which is exactly how it should be. Us girls are lucky to have so many options and we should be proud of our awesome bodies, not embarrassed. I only wish someone had told me all of this before I came face to face with my father’s lookalike in my doctor’s surgery…
*Names have been changed.