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Friday, November 25, 2005

Questions about birth control

Dr. Amy,

I recently started dating a guy who had had sex before, however, I have not. My mother wants me to go on birth control just in case. I don't plan on having sex for a while. I want to go on birth control to be safe but I get uncomfortable easily. I was just wondering what questions to expect from the OB/GYN if I do ddecide to go through with it. Also, I was wondering if birth control would hurt my chances of getting pregnant in the future. I am only 18 and would like to have children of my own someday. What kind of birth control is the healthiest for you?

Thank you for listening,

Dear H,

It is an excellent idea to think about birth control even before you become sexually active.

Birth control does not interfere with fertility. The only exception to this is the IUD. If you get an infection while using an IUD, it could cause damage to your fallopian tubes. That's why an IUD should only be used by women who have completed their families, and should not be used by women who have not yet had children.

Of course, permanent birth control, like getting your tubes tied, is meant to be permanent.

Most methods of birth control fall into one of three categories:

1. barrier methods like condoms or the diaphragm that prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.
2. hormonal methods like the Pill or Depo Provera (the shot) that prevent ovulation (releasing an egg).
3. the IUD and the morning after pill which prevent conception or implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus.

Each method has different benefits and risks.

Hormonal methods are the most effective. The Pill is 99% effective when taken faithfully. Depo Provera is even more effective. These methods are extremely popular because of effectiveness and ease of use. However, hormones can cause side effects for some women, and other women may not be able to use hormonal birth control because of other medical conditions.

Barrier methods can be very effective when used faithfully. Condoms, especially when used with foam, can be over 90% effective. In addition, condoms protect against most sexually transmitted diseases.

The IUD is only for women who have completed their families and the morning after pill is only for emergency contraception. The morning after pill is taken after you have unprotected intercourse and is only 75% effective.

The choice of birth control method depends on a lot of personal factors. There is no "best" method for everyone. Talk to your doctor about all methods and think carefully about what method you would be able to stick to. No method of birth control will work unless you use it faithfully.



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