How do I actually get birth control?
Sarah replies:This is really important! Okay, I need to know what I need to do to obtain birth control, by myself. My boyfriend and I have been sexually active for a few months but we always used condoms. Properly, I assure you. However, about a month ago, we both came to the conclusion that we wouldn't have vaginal sex anymore cause of how worried we both got about pregnancy risks afterwards. Now we're really wanting to start again. But I really want to get on the pill before we do. I just honestly don't know where to start with that. I have to make an appointment with a doctor right? Well, I don't know where to go for the appointment. The doctor that I've always gone to is like a family doctor and he even delivered me so that would just be awkward cause he's like friends with my mother and everything. And I don't know what to expect from the appointment. I really just wanna go in, get the birth control, and be outta there. But that's probably not the case. So what should I expect? And how much does the appointment, on top of the purchase of the birth control cost? My boyfriend will help with the money of course, but I'm scared if they're gonna do any tests. I've never had a pap smear or anything. It's hard that I have to do this alone. My mother I KNOW won't support me in this. But it's what I've decided to do and it's what I want. So I would appreciate some advice. /: Thank you.
First off, allow me to salute you for deciding exactly what it is going to take for you to feel comfortable about being sexually active and then taking steps to meet those conditions before continuing. Many people don't do that and continue to have sex that they really aren't comfortable having because they're continuously worrying about pregnancy or STIs. So the fact that you're trying to address those issues in your sex life shows an incredible amount of maturity.
We've really got two issues here. First off, we've got to figure out how to find you a health care provider. Then we'll talk about what happens at the appointment and how to actually get a form of birth control (to back-up your condoms) that you are comfortable with. Finding a health care provider can be a daunting process. If you're not comfortable with your current doctor, then it is absolutely advisable to find another one. Your provider needs to be someone that you feel good about seeing and comfortable about confiding in. There are a couple of ways you can go about finding somebody. You can find out if there is a Planned Parenthood near you or other youth or women's clinic. Your local phone book should contain information, or you can search it online. You may also want to speak to your female friends or relatives about who they see for their sexual health care, as they are a good source of advice too. Once you've decided where you think you want to be seen, you simply call the office and tell them that you'd like to schedule an appointment for a gynecological exam. They may ask you some basic questions (name, address, phone number where you can be contacted -- if you don't want them to call your home, you need to let them know not to call there and give them another number as well -- social security number, etc.). They'll schedule an appointment for you and that's pretty much all that takes. This is also the time to ask about costs. The cost of your visit will vary depending on where you live, who you are seeing, what tests are run, etc. Some Planned Parenthood locations operate on a "sliding scale" for costs where the charge to you is based on your income. I'll also link you to some of articles that might help with broad estimates of cost. Go ahead and ask the question about costs (and payment) when you call to schedule the appointment. Rest assured that this is a very common question that many people ask when they call health care providers. The only caveat I'll add is that if you have insurance and you wish to use that to pay for your visit, you may need to make sure that the provider you choose is on an "preferred" or "approved" list on your insurance. You can find out who is on that list by calling the information number on the back of your insurance card or by looking online. (Please also note that if you use insurance that is in your parent's name, they will receive a statement indicating that you have been seen. It will not give specifics, but it will show that a charge was made to the insurance by you and will give the name of the doctor.)
So now that we've found you a doctor, let's talk about what happens when you go to the doctor. We've got a couple of handy articles that talk about sexual health care and about what to expect from a gynecological appointment, so I'll link you to those as well. Rest assured, they really are not as scary as they are often made out to be. I'd honestly rather have a GYN exam than go to the dentist ANY DAY! If you just relax and communicate with your provider (tell them that you've never had an exam like this before and that you are nervous), it will be no big deal. Your provider will ask you about your health history, family history, current health status, sexual activity, etc. You need to be honest about all of these things. You can also tell the provider that you'd like to talk about getting another form of birth control. They will be able to help you choose a method that will work best with your lifestyle. The pill is not the only option available to you, so feel free to ask about things like the ring or patch, for example (which are nice because they do not have to be taken every single day the way the pill does -- they are changed less often) or non-hormonal methods like a diaphram, cervical cap, or Lea's Shield. (Some of our articles also note general cost ranges for your various birth control options. Prices will vary depending on the exact type (generic vs. brand, etc.), where you get it, and whether or not you use insurance.) You do not have to go to your appointment alone if you do not wish to do so. You can take a friend, relative, or even your partner with you if you'd like. The can accompany you to the office and sit in the waiting room...or they can even go with you into the exam room if you are more comfortable that way!
Sexual health care is really important, so it's good to see you taking this step. You are going to need this throughout your reproductive life (every sexually active woman should be seen at least yearly). So starting good habits now is an excellent idea. It really is not as difficult or scary as it seems. Health care providers are there to help you, not to hurt you or cause you stress.
Check out the following articles: