Planning Your Birth Control & Why
Hello Darlings, A few months back I wrote on making goals and realizing them. It was at a point in my life when I have just launched my social media agency alongside an investor and have come to terms that being few years away from 30 was no joke. Having just turned 28 and tired of hearing the ever common phase of "30s are the new 20s" I continue to embrace the importance of planning. Ladies, 30s are not the new 20s! The beauty and privilege of maturing is also a matter of embracing each life stage and planning for future.
One of the most important decisions in a woman’s life in childbirth. From a choice of wanting a child to considering the timing. While I definitely want to have a family and children, some of my friends and peers don't. A choice that every woman has the right to make but most importantly to plan for. Personally, I like to make my decisions based on research and birth control is one of the most important ones.
In order to learn more about birth control and making the right choice I spoke to Dr. Christine Palmay who focuses on preventative medicine and women's health care. Here's what she had to say:
Marta: It is becoming more common for pharmacists to ask whether you are interested in the generic brand of the birth control pill or the brand as it is supposed to produce the same outcome. Is this true for all types of birth control?
Dr. Palmay: This is a heated question. I am not a fan of generics and am concerned about the variability in chemical composition when compared to the branded drug. When cost is not an issue, I always recommend acquiring the branded form of the medication.
Marta: Some doctors recommend women to get frequent PAP smears while taking birth control, while others aren’t told to do so. Should women be going every so often?
Dr. Palmay: Guidelines vary province to province and have nothing to do whether a patient is on birth control. In Ontario women with a normal pap history are covered for paps every 3 years. If a woman has an abnormal pap history, then she is eligible for a pap on a yearly basis.
Marta: Women go on birth control for many personal reasons such as being in a steady relationship. Is going on and off birth control harmful to one’s body?
Dr. Palmay: efficacyMany of my patients have admitted to stopping their birth control for weeks at a time because they either ran out of medications, forgot to restart a pack of pills/reinsert a ring or simply wanted time off. It is important to remember that any hormonal form of birth control generally takes three months to stabilize. During this time period, side effects such as breakthrough bleeding or nausea may occur. Most significantly, the efficacy of any birth control option in preventing pregnancy decreases with inconsistent use. I do not recommend starting and stopping.
Marta: Every kind of birth control is known to produce some sort of side effect, such as weight gain or loss, mood swings, or difference in their skin, how do you know what works best for you without having to experiment through trial and error as each woman reacts to each differently?
Dr. Palmay: Speak to your family doctor regarding your goals. Unfortunately no formula exists so it often takes a “few tries” to find the right fit – be your own advocate! Also be aware of all the options that exist. My goal as a physician is to ensure that my patients are informed about all their choices prior to making a good decision. Canadians have unprecedented choices in birth control options, which can make things confusing. Most patients in Canada use the combined birth control pill, however are likely not aware that the pills is not the most effective form of pregnancy factors. Due to missed pills, taking pills late and other extraneous factors that may decrease compliance. Consider other non-daily options such as a patch, ring or IUD and ask your primary care physician about the effectiveness of each. You will be surprised!
Marta: After a certain amount of time, such as ten years, should a woman consider to stop taking it even if she does not have any plans on parenthood?
Dr. Palmay: No exact time frame exists. At a certain point, a patient’s risk factors may change (e.g. if she starts smoking, her age) and as such, use of birth control should be regularly discussed with your health care provider. As further discussion, the topic infertility is a HUGE concern. As a doctor who has a young female practice, I am constantly asked if being on hormones for a long duration will affect future fertility. Understandably, wanting to have a child is a huge area of concern for a patient population who chooses to conceive later in life, but hormonal birth control does not affect fertility in the least. Speak to your health care provider regarding your fertility questions and to recommend when to stop your birth control prior to attempting to conceive.
Marta: Are there any permanent side effects that a woman may experience?
Dr. Palmay: Hormonal birth control is a medication and as such, comes with risks and side effects to consider. It is essential to note that not all women should be prescribed hormones. Factors such as risk of blood clots, migraines, smoking status and breast cancer risk are all issues that I discuss with my patients during birth control counseling sessions. Women who have contraindications to using hormones need to rely on other options, but they represent a small portion of my patients. Likewise, side effects such as weight gain, nausea and mood fluctuations may occur. Communicate with your health care provider who can make recommendations to switch your birth control choice. Know that one form is not ideal for every woman and side effects can be minimized or prevented by ensuring that you have an individualized match.
Marta: Do any particular diets or medication interfere with the use birth control?
Dr. Palmay: Yes – this is difficult to generalize, but many antibiotics can interfere with the absorption and thus, efficacy of the birth control pill. If you are taking birth control, speak to your family doctor whenever receiving a new prescription.
There's a reason why they say knowledge is power. Whenever making a life changing decision be sure to find out everything that you need to know. The life choices your make are yours to define. Share your goals for the next few years on Instagram or Twitter using #3YearGoals or in the comments below!
Images by Arnold Lan
*in collaboration with Bayer Inc., The views and opinions expressed are my own.