Wise Counsel from Susan Quilliam: Which contraception should we use?

Hi Susan

I’m 24 and very happy with my boyfriend and our sex life. We’ve both been tested for STIs, so all we need take care of is contraception – and for the last three years I’ve been on the pill. But now I’d really like to come off it and use more natural methods. There’s nothing wrong with me health wise and I have regular check-ups – but it feels to me like I’m messing with my body if I carry on pumping hormones into it. I’m sure I’d be much more relaxed if we used a cap or condoms.

My boyfriend is great, but he’s totally against barrier methods. He likes the freedom of being able to be spontaneous and make love when we want to, and although he tries to understand my objections he doesn’t really ‘get it’. As I’m not having any side effects, he can’t see why we shouldn’t just carry on as we are. And I guess I see his point, but I’d still like to stop taking the pill. How can we resolve this one?

Helen

Hi Helen

First, well done to both you and your boyfriend for trying to see each other’s point of view. It could be all too easy to get emotional about this – many people take sides for and against the pill and feelings can run high. It could end up with you throwing a wobble that your man is putting his pleasure before your health, and him throwing a wobble that you’re being overdramatic. So whatever decision you come to eventually, major congrats for avoiding the blame scenario now.

I guess I see both your viewpoints and they’re evenly balanced. Yes, the pill can have negative side-effects, and if you were getting those then I’d be firmly advising you to stop – and to tell your boyfriend to get over it. And yes, the cap and condom are more natural but they aren’t the most spontaneous methods in the world so I also appreciate that using them would impact on the quality of your love life. It’s a tricky one.

I suspect that the way forward for you is to gather information and make experiments. In other words, give other methods of contraception serious consideration – there are a grand total of 14 and read about them on the Family Planning Association website. Rule out any methods that both of you are unhappy with, but then give each of the other methods a try. This will involve some effort so I’d start with the ones that don’t need time and energy to arrange – such as condoms and female condoms – and only if you find those unsatisfactory move to methods that demand more preparation  such as the cap or coil.

Try not to have expectations or to make assumptions about each method – it could be that your boyfriend is much more content with barrier methods than he thinks he will be… or that you are much more unhappy with them than you expected. And while you may want to avoid testing any hormonal methods, at least read up about them so that you get a clear sense of the comparison between the pill and such options as implants and the hormonal coil.

This may seem like a complicated route to make a simple decision – but if either of you are deeply unhappy with the contraception you’re using, you’re likely to start undermining it – you “forget” to take your pill or he “forgets” to use a condom. Do that and the results could be unfortunate.

Better to spend time now getting sorted in this respect than spending the next two decades caring for a baby that you love to bits but weren’t quite ready for.

Susan

Susan Quilliam also offers email, phone and face-to-face coaching on relationship and sexuality issues. Contact her here

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