Now that you know all about the different birth control methods–how can you figure out which one is right for you?
Here at Bare Marriage, I try to pick a big topic to tackle every Wednesday each month, and this month has been our birth control month. We’ve talked about all the different birth control methods; the pros and cons of The Pill; how to use the fertility awareness method; even how to make sure birth control is a shared responsibility.
One of the people who has done a lot of research for me on this is Joanna Sawatsky, who works behind the scenes with me on the blog. And I’ve asked her to write the wrap up for the series that sums up our thinking. So here’s Joanna!
I’ve written before on the blog about the fact that I have a Masters in Public Health.
In public health, we talk a lot about risk. I spent so many classes calculating risk of X disease after Y exposure, or discussing risk communication strategies, or trying to explain risks to undergraduate students at the university. And here’s what I learned: life is about managing risk. It’s inevitable.
Birth control is pretty much a big risk management exercise, and we’ve talked about that all month.
We decided to close off with a few final thoughts about how you and your spouse can practically choose the birth control method that’s right for you.
We’ve talked a lot in this series about the risks a couple has to manage in choosing a birth control method – from the risk of an unplanned pregnancy, to the risks of putting hormones into your body, and so on. Also, you’re trying to manage the work inherent in taking birth control. Remembering to take your temperature, chart your cycle, and so on.
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Here’s the truth about birth control: if you are a person who uses it perfectly–which means both correctly and consistently–it will almost certainly work.
So if you’ve chosen condoms, you have to use them every time. Or if you’re doing a fertility awareness method, you have to track your cycle using cervical mucous, basal body temperature, etc. consistently, and then you have to either abstain or use barrier methods during the fertile period.
The question, really, isn’t whether a given birth control method will or won’t work. They all will work in the vast majority of cases, if used correctly.
Instead the question is: are you the kind of person who can use the method you choose correctly?
Okay, fine. But, more basically, how do you figure out whether you are the kind of person who can use a birth control method correctly?
Is your husband ready to take the dip in pleasure inherent in using condoms every time? (And, remember to check out the post that Sheila wrote about how husbands shouldn’t be selfish when it comes to birth control!)
Are you willing to deal with the risks inherent in hormonal birth control? (There’s another post about The Pill to look at!)
If you’re willing to use hormonal birth control, are you a person who can take your medicine at the same time every day? If not, there are certain formulations of the pill you shouldn’t take. If you travel a lot and are frequently on different time zones, or may forget a pill or run out of a prescription and you don’t have a family doctor to refill it (a serious problem for many in Canada) will you be stuck? And if you’re a person who has a lot of vomiting and diarrhea, the pill might not be a good idea, as you may not have adequate opportunity to actually absorb the pill.
Are you willing to chart your cycle using cervical fluid and/or basal body temperature? And are you willing to abstain from sex or use barrier methods during your fertile period? If not, fertility awareness methods or natural family planning might not be the right fit for you. And remember–charting means seriously charting. You do have to keep records in an app, but you can’t just rely on the app’s past data to tell you what to do now. You need to be diligent about it.
Are you willing to deal with effectiveness at preventing pregnancy that’s under 90% with perfect use in a year? If not, pulling out (which isn’t birth control to begin with, technically) or diaphragms aren’t the right fit.
None of these methods of birth control is without work and none is guaranteed to work.
Marriage has many seasons, and some seasons require delaying pregnancy. Even the Catholic church, which is very conservative on contraception, recognizes the necessity of preventing pregnancy in a variety of circumstances. The method you use to prevent pregnancy may change based on the season of marriage you’re in. Many people, for instance, choose an IUD in their late 30s after they’ve had kids and want something that they don’t have to worry about. Others choose vasectomies later. And so it’s really important that you be communicating with your spouse as you move through life together.
If you need to, book a date night to chat through all of the options and the pros and cons of each.
What we’ve tried to do during this series is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision about birth control, and to help show you ways to dig deeper, should you be interested in doing so.
God made sex to be AWESOME!
But if you’re wondering what birth control method we’d suggest as the To Love, Honor, and Vacuum team: we really like condoms.
If you can manage to use fertility awareness methods, so much the better (then you don’t have to use condoms all the time!). But condoms come with a really high effectiveness rate, no health risks, zero waiting period to go for a baby if and when it’s time to stop, they are completely reversible, and have no risk of a conceived embryo failing to implant because of a hostile uterine environment. But that method might not be the right one FOR YOU. So read up on all the different birth control methods. Don’t just jump on one without asking: Am I willing to accept the risks? AND Am I the type of person who can consistently use this?
And then YOU make that decision. I hope this series has helped!
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Let me know in the comments: Is there a birth control method that you’ve found hard to stick to and do effectively? Or have you changed your mind during this series? Let’s talk!
Hi Joanna – just havin a little fun today – totally not picking on your writting cuz I knew what you meant but I beleive you wrote condoms are reversable. Yes they are! LOL. Good luck with that!
So my husband and I only tried condoms at the beginning of our marriage. Our biggest issue and why we don’t use them, is that he would not be able to stay hard. It was as soon as we would put it on it would constrict the blood flow and he would go soft. Are there different sizes? Is this a normal issue? We also tried a kind that had lube on it or something and he said that tingled and didn’t help him stay hard either. Do they just take a lot of practice? We would not be opposed to using them but it was very unromantic and made me feel like something was wrong with me and insecure, which made my husband feel bad in return, so we stopped using them and never have since.
There are different sizes and your description does make me wonder if he had one on that was too small. Nowadays there are many different sizes, which you can look into.
On the other hand, in my experience it can take my husband longer to reach orgasm with a condom on as it does reduce some feeling.
I am interested to hear what other users think! But I think trying larger condom sizes would be worth a shot.
My experience with condoms was the same. But it’s probably not blood flow restriction that’s the problem. Size can be a problem if he has a large erection, but there are large sized condoms. Trojan Magnum is one.
The real problem with maintaining an erection with a condom is loss of sensation. When I was a young man, that was not as much of a problem as later on, but it was a real problem. Most men lose and regain their erections several times during sex, but if the sensation loss is too much, he may have a real difficult time with it. It’s not just about his pleasure, or lack of it. Some men may find it impossible to have intercourse with a condom. As I got older this was my situation.
I know many won’t consider vasectomy, but when we were done having children for sure (we were older parents), I had a vasectomy. It took all the pressure off both of us and made for a better love life.
Okay, this is looking at it from a slightly different point of view, but going with what you’re saying–one of the benefits for the woman when a guy uses a condom is that, at least when he’s younger, he’s often able to last longer, for kinda the same reasons. 🙂 But I hear what you’re saying.
I did have a friend who used condoms for the first time in 20 years recently because they hadn’t needed them for birth control, but now he was on chemo and they needed them to protect her. And they couldn’t believe how much condoms have changed! Much thinner, much more sensation than before. Definitely a different ball game.
Yeah, you likely just had the wrong size! It definitely should not restrict blood flow! And there are lots of different sizes.
I got 2 thoughts. 1 is an outside chance it is just a libido killer becasue it is like stopping to insert a diaphragm. Could be a mental block of sorts. Maybe trying to change the mood about the entire thing could help. The other is a possible alergy to latex? These are outside the box thoughts and I would think Joanna would have better insight on this.
I love how you broke down the particulars of choosing a method that a couple can stick to. When I decided to ditch the pill, I got a diaphragm instead. I remember my mother telling me then that she knew a couple who got pregnant while on the diaphragm—because they left it in the night-table drawer that one time. Well, yeah! Lol. I was great about using it every single time, and it worked perfectly with even this Fertile Myrtle.
Meanwhile, we personally disliked condoms—because skin-to-skin was very important to us in our experience of pleasure and intimacy.
Still, to each his own! It’s a matter, as you say, of balancing your goals, the risks, and your own willingness and ability to follow through.
Thanks, J! I recommended the diaphragm too to someone close to me, but when she went to the doctor, the doctor scared her so much about the chance of pregnancy that she just couldn’t do it. It sounds like a good option to me, too.
Great post, Joanna! I was hoping for a little more info on IUD’s in this series – any more info coming? I’m just ignorant of their real-life side effects, and don’t know many friends who have tried them. They sound less hormone-ish than The Pill, but are they? It just doesn’t compute with me that COPPER in my arm can safely affect my estrogen levels; I don’t get it. I reread the overview part of this series, but would love any more specifics and user testimonies you guys have, like you did with The Pill post. Thanks for this awesome series! We’re a Fertility Awareness and condom family for now!
Lots of people do really like IUDs. I’m not terribly in favour given that they can hurt going in and can cause cramping for the next three months, which sounds terrible. The hormone levels are lower (and the copper IUD isn’t done by hormones), but I’m wary of the fact that it may seem to be preventing implantation rather than preventing ovulation. I have seen some studies that suggest that what the cooper IUD does especially is change the uterus so that it’s not conducive to implantation, and I don’t like that idea. I have also known women who have used IUDs and it’s affected their fertility, so I tend to say, if you’re going to use one, at least wait until you’re done having kids!
One of the biggest issues for many people with IUDs is ethical because while other forms of contraception prevent conception, IUDs prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. If one thinks life begins at conception, an IUD is a way of deliberately killing the new life by preventing it from implanting. Ethically speaking, it’s the same as the “morning after pill” in that it is deliberately preventing a new life from developing. All medical concerns aside, that really is the root issue with an IUD.
I’ve honestly read different things on this, and I’ve talked to Christian gynecologists who don’t believe that it prevents implantation, so I’m reluctant to come down hard on that one side. I will say that for me personally, though, the thought that this might be a possibility made IUDs a non-starter.
Hi. I’ve been lurking and enjoying your blog for some time now. I just felt I needed to respond to this. In the year 2000, when I was preparing for marriage, I was prescribed a birth control pill. Simply by reading the package insert that described how it worked (I didn’t use the internet yet in those days) I realized I couldn’t take this pill with my prolife convictions. It had a built in mechanism of preventing a fertilized egg from implanting. I’d encourage others to read about how these things work too.
All hormonal birth control uses progestin. (Someone more learned than me can correct me if I’m wrong, but my searches haven’t uncovered one that doesn’t). And one of the things progestin does is thicken the mucus of the uterus to prevent implantation. Sure, the pill also prevents ovulation…but if breakthrough ovulation occurs, the thickened mucus lining would prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.
So, this ethical concern with the IUD is present with any hormonal method.
I tend to be a live and let live type and am slow to pass judgement on choices folks make. But I’ve been really taken aback by the lack of awareness of these issues when choosing birth control (among my Christian friends).
Add me to the happy diaphragm users. I’m quite fertile and got pregnant immediately both times we wanted to when not using it. So, used correctly it has been very effective. Last statistics I read were 94% effective when used correctly…drops to 86% when not used correctly. The fact that doctors do indeed seem reluctant to recommend them is a shame in my mind…I’m inclined to chalk it up to the desire to prescribe and keep folks coming back for those prescriptions.
Christie, I’ve heard so many great things about diaphragms, too! I was surprised by how negative against the diaphragm many doctors do seem to be. It seems to me like it would be a great alternative, and much better than a condom.
i was on bc in the past and had the mirena iud as well.
what i found is that they made me a crazy person, and the mirena made me crazy depressed and anxious, gave me extremely painful cysts and tanked my progesterone (possibly more than it already was? i will never know).
we go into fertilitycare, but im not consistent enough on that right now, so we use condoms.
the frustrating thing is that we arent told so we dont realize how bc affects our entire bodies in negative ways. is preventing pregnancy a good reason if the other costs are hormone problems, depression, anxiety, blood clots and cysts, … and all that hormone turmoil can certainly ruin our sex life!
so much i wish i had known or had been taught. fertilitycare teaches stuff that girls should be taught in high school about their own bodies. its very frustrating. im glad i can do that for my kids as they get older!