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“A lot of my patients will say, ‘Well, I trust them.' It’s not about trust."
Sure, it’s not as fun as sipping craft cocktails or taking selfies at a baseball game, but discussing your birth control plan is an important first (yes, we said first) step in any sexual relationship. Whether you're not looking for anything serious or you’re in it for the long haul, The Talk needs to happen and it needs to happen early. Here’s how to do it without dying of awkwardness.
Maybe not the most steamy way to think about it, but you wouldn’t sign a lease or start a new job without understanding all the terms and conditions, would you? Same goes with new sexual relationships, says Tosha Rogers, MD, an ob-gyn in Atlanta.
“Put all the terms upfront,” she says. “Then you get to decide if you want to be a part of that relationship, even if it’s a casual one.”
Those terms should include asking your partner about the last time they were tested for STIs, and then discussing both of your results in person.
“A lot of my patients will say, ‘Well, I trust them,’” Dr. Rogers says. “It’s not about trust. He or she is probably very trust-worthy and a nice person. I just asked if they were HIV+ or not. Totally different questions!”
Don’t wait until the clothes are hitting the floor to bring up your birth-control game plan. Instead, work it into an early-in-the-game conversation—say, when you’re talking about past relationships and the things that turn you on.
Cringing at the thought? Memorize this script compliments of Dr. Rogers: “Just say, ‘Hey, I’m on the pill. It regulates my period and I know that I won’t get pregnant, and for all the other stuff, are you OK with using condoms?’ All of those things need to be negotiated, and that’s why I tell my patients to do it early on: to see if this is a deal you want to make or not.”
Last step: Go over what you would do if your birth control plan fails—the pill is 99 percent effective with perfect use (91 percent with typical use), and condoms are 98 percent effective with perfect use (85 percent with typical use).
Coming up with a backup plan (such as taking Plan B if a condom breaks and you’re not taking an alternative form of birth control) means your bases are covered—and isn't peace of mind kind of, yes, sexy?
Just a refresher: The pill or an IUD are great for preventing pregnancy, but they don’t protect you from STIs. And not to scare you, but some STIs are untreatable, and others, like HPV, can even cause cervical cancer. Just another reason it’s so important to have the birth control chat before you jump between the sheets.
What you do with your body (and whom you do with your body) is ultimately your decision, and no one should pressure you into making a choice about the kind of birth control you should use.
“It’s all about negotiation,” Dr. Rogers says. “If you have blood clotting disorders and don’t want to be on the pill, then I don’t feel like it’s [your partner’s] right to say what you need to do. He can say, ‘Let’s go learn about some things together and see if there’s anything you are in agreement to taking, because condoms are not failure-proof and I don’t want to have a baby right now.’ That’s reasonable.” (Fine, he probably won't put it quite as eloquently as an ob-gyn, but if he's not amenable to finding a solution that works for you, uh... *pointed look*.)
Loop in your doctor, too, so you can nail down the best birth control plan for your body and then relay the message to your partner, Dr. Rogers says. And if you and your boo can’t find common ground, it might be the relationship you need to reconsider, not your birth control plan.