I am 22, I have been on the contraceptive pill since I first became sexually active at age 15. I have REALLY regular UTIs (I always pee and drink water after sex etc) and have been on antibiotics for that quite alot. I also experience a hightened sex-drive if I go off the pill even for a few weeks. I feel like, even though my GP doesn't even consider it, that my UTIs might be due the contraceptive pill.
Audrey's question continued:
So I'm looking into alternatives. I followed the links on this site about contraception but it looks like my only options are barriers or hormones and that seems like such a drag for me as I'm in a long-term relationship. Please help? WHEN will there be a male contraceptive? WHEN??
UTIs (urinary tract infections) can be such a drag! I am sorry to hear about your recurring UTIs and contraception conundrum.
UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra (where you pee from) and can spread to the bladder. Unfortunately, people with vaginas are far more prone to UTIs than people with penises, due to our shorter urethras and more potential for bacteria to enter and cause an infection.
It sounds like you are familiar with your body and do your best to prevent UTIs, so I am going to talk a little bit about the relationship between UTIs and birth control, other UTI suggestions, and other birth control options.
Some studies have shown that there is a correlation between oral contraceptives and urinary tract infections. Others say that women using birth control are more likely to have sex, and sex is directly related to UTIs, thus being on birth control indirectly leads to more infections. However, a study (as well as a doctor's opinion) doesn't affect your own personal experience. You know your body better than anyone else, and if you believe that your birth control pills might be causing your UTI, then it might be a good idea to change up your birth control method and see if something else may work better for your unique body. Additionally, it might be worth seeing different GP that will consider your concerns and work with you to find a birth control method that works best for your body.
Additionally, being on hormonal birth control can certainly decrease your sex drive: that's very well-documented at this point, even though it doesn't have that effect on everyone, and some users even find they experience an increased desire for sex while using the pill.
Some people feel that a change in libido is not worth being on hormonal birth control, but many others either do not experience any change in their sex drive or find that the benefit of being on a highly effective form of birth control is worth it. For more details on the possibler side effects of the combined hormonal pill, check out Birth Control Bingo: The Combination Pill.
While UTIs are pretty awful, fortunately there are certain steps that you can take (or things you can avoid) to reduce the likelihood of developing an infection. You're already aware that drinking more water can help prevent UTIs, which is great. Instead of focusing on drinking water right after sex, however, being well-hydrated all the time can be even more helpful. Additionally, making it a habit to urinate after sex or masturbation as you have been doing is definitely effective in flushing out your urethra of bacteria that can cause UTIs. There are several other tips and tricks that you can use to decrease the chance of getting a UTI.
In addition to actively preventing UTIs by trying some of the tips above, it sounds like you are also interested in changing up your birth control method. Before that, however, I think it might be helpful to take a step back and assess your attitudes around certain types of birth control with regards to being in a long-term relationship. You mentioned that using hormonal birth control or barriers are a drag because you are in a long-term relationship. Have you given any thought as to why you feel that way? Everyone's body is different, and you might find that the birth control method that works the best for your and your body is a method that you have not given full consideration to, simply because of your relationship status. Many people (myself included) have used barrier methods consistently as a form of birth control while in a long-term relationship, because of the benefits of using that particular method (low cost, accessibility, STI protection, and more). Being in a relationship shouldn't be seen as a barrier to the wealth of birth control options out there, especially if you have open communication and can discuss birth control together. For tips on talking with your partner about sex and birth control, check out Be a Blabbermouth! The Whys, Whats and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner.
If you do decide to explore alternative birth control options, there are other methods that are both highly effective forms of birth control, and also might decrease your persistent UTIs. You might find that a different method works better for your body, your lifestyle, and your personal preferences.
If you are looking for a form of birth control that does not have hormones and is also not a barrier method, then it is possible that the copper IUD (depending on where you live, it might be the Paragard, Flexi-T, Copper-T, Multiload CU250, or others) is what you are looking for. Everyone is different, so there is no one miracle birth control that will work for everyone. However, copper IUDs are a nice option for someone wanting to avoid hormones but also not rely only on barrier methods. They also work for up to 10-12 years, so if you are interested in a very effective, long-term birth control option, the copper IUD is worth learning more about.
If you're open to sticking with hormonal birth control, there are other forms that might work well for your body and are a little different than the combined contraceptive pill. These birth control options only contain progestin, and do not have estrogen. Some people find that the side effects are different, as estrogen interacts differently with your body than progestin.
-Depo-Provera (The Shot)
-the Mirena (hormonal) IUD
-Progestin Only Pills
Additionally, while the above forms of birth control are great options for very effective contraception, they do not protect against STIs. Even if you are in a long-term relationship, condoms act as back-up protection and can also decrease the likelihood that you develop a UTI, as they can reduce the amount of bacteria that you are exposed to.
While a vasectomy is a highly effective procedure for people with penises that do not want to get anyone pregnant, there currently aren't a whole lot of short-term or temporary birth control options for men besides condoms. And although deciding on a form of birth control and sharing the cost of contraception can be a joint responsibility, it tends to feel like an imbalanced responsibility, especially because most methods usually involve the female's body. However, today is your lucky day!! Okay, well not quite yet, but reversible male contraception is definitely in the works and will be available in our lifetime. There are a couple of studies that are currently still being evaluated and pending approval before any products or procedure will actually be available to the public.
Unfortunately none of these options are currently available, but the research is encouraging! Hopefully someday birth control will a more equally shared responsibility. For updates and information on male birth control, check out malecontraceptives.org.