Birth control is a tricky business. A lot of us don't use it as much as we should, or we do use it but we're not necessarily using birth control correctly. There are about a billion different birth control options. But you can't just pick a birth control method— you need to make sure you're using it regularly and effectively. When there's so much that can go wrong, it's not an area you can afford to be sloppy.
I don't know why there's a tendency to be so lax when the consequences are so large— an unwanted pregnancy and STIs are nothing to laugh about. And it's up to you to be in control of your own sexual health, as studies have shown that two thirds of people wouldn't tell their partner about an STI and eight percent would not use a condom even if they knew they had one. Which is terrifying, but such an important reminder that you need to take care of your own sexual health. No matter how much you love or trust your partner, you really need to be looking out for you.
But like I said, it's complicated. So here are eight birth control mistakes you're making, and why you need to be paying more attention:
1. You Don't Know What Options Are Out There
Picking the right birth control is tough. Everyone has different priorities, so it's difficult enough to pick one in the first place, and then your body may have a bad reaction and you need to start all over. But there are so many options: pills, condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, long acting reversible contraceptives (I have the non-hormonal copper coil), and more. Make sure you do a whole lot of research and talk to your doctor. You're more likely to use it if it's right for you.
2. You're Inconsistent
One of the reasons I like the coil is that I don't need to think about it— it's literally jammed up in me all the time. But if you're on the pill or using condoms or diaphragms, you need to be consistent. Especially with the pill, you've got to be careful. Dr. Armstrong tells Everyday Health that "missing just one birth control pill can increase your risk for pregnancy", and the less consistent you are the more you can mess them up. Set an alarm on your phone and be consistent.
3. You're Only Protecting Against Pregnancy
I am guilty of this. If you're on the pill or have an IUD, it can be easy to think that because you're protecting against pregnancy you're covered. But it's not that simple. You need protection against STIs and, although if you have a regular partner it's easy to get lackadaisical, STIs are spread even within relationships— even when you've promised to be faithful. Keep condoms by your bed.
4. You Don't Know What Interferes With Your Birth Control
Certain lubes mess with condoms. Certain medicines mess with birth control pills. Whatever your method of contraception, talk to your doctor to make sure you know what can interfere with it.
5. You're Using It Wrong
It's a basic, but it's important. Do you know how to put a condom on? Are you leaving your diaphragm in long enough? Do you know what to do if you miss your birth control pill one day? Are you protecting yourself during oral sex? Make sure you know what's what.
6. Your Timing Is Off
It takes a while for the pill to become effective, so if you're just starting or changing pills you need a backup. Some morning after pills are more effective the more quickly you take them after unprotected sex. It's not as simple as just using the control.
7. Your Birth Control Isn't In Top Condition
I had a moment of extreme shame when I had to throw away loads of condoms that were expired. My friend gave them to me, thinking I would have loads of sex, and my sexual prowess let us both down. But you have to throw them out when they're too old. Same thing with sponges, diaphragms, everything. Make sure you're storing them correctly and that they're actually in a condition to be effective.
8. You're Not Using It
I'm not talking about those who purposely don't use it and accept the consequences, I'm talking about all of that know we should be better at using condoms than we are and yet... just... don't. Too many of us take a hands-off approach when it comes to sexual health. It should be obvious, but so many of us can, and need to be, better.
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