Preparation is key I guess...

Get informed, stay prepared

Contraception can be a confusing topic, and it often helps to talk it through with your doctor. Talking to your doctor about your contraceptive options is an important step in deciding which contraceptive method is best for you.

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Tips when talking to your GP about your contraceptive options

You may feel uncomfortable raising the topic, but remember your doctor is there to help guide your decision and offer advice. Here are some tips to consider before you head to the clinic. This list of questions is not exhaustive but will help your doctor advise you about contraceptive methods that may suit you and your lifestyle.

The information provided here should not be used as a substitute for specific medical advice. If you have any questions about contraception and sexual health you should speak to your healthcare professional. If you can't get to your doctor right now, you can contact the Family Planning organisation in your state or territory for additional information.

1. Be comfortable

Make an appointment to see a doctor you are familiar and comfortable with. This will make it easier for you and your doctor to decide together which contraception option is best suited to you.

2. Make a list

Before you visit your doctor, you may want to do some background research on your contraceptive options. If you have any questions about what you read, make a list and bring it to the doctors (see below).

3. Keep no secrets

When you are discussing contraception with your doctor, he/she will probably need to ask you questions about your sexual history, current sex life and medical conditions. It is important to be open and honest with your doctor.

It's not as scary as you think

Questions to ask your doctor

Which type of contraception is best for me?

There are many types of contraception. But the best one for you depends on many different things. Your health, personal preferences and life stage (do you intend to get pregnant in the near future), for instance. Some options work better for people who can make contraception part of their daily routine. Discuss the different contraceptive methods in the context of your own health, family health history, age, and habits. Your doctor will then be able to steer you in the right direction.

How do the different contraception methods affect my menstrual cycle?

Different contraceptives work differently. As a result, different methods will have different effects on your cycle and bleeding patterns. Speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional about what changes you may expect from the different methods.

What are the potential risks or side effects?

Learning more about the risks and potential side effects can help narrow your selection to find the best method for you. How you feel about side effects can be a very personal thing. One common side effect women experience with contraception is changes in bleeding patterns. For instance, you could experience irregular bleeding between periods or stop getting your period altogether. For some women, no periods is a benefit, whereas for others, not getting a period doesn't feel right.

Are there any benefits beyond preventing pregnancy?

Some contraception methods may improve menstrual cramps, regulate cycles (if you tend to be irregular), reduce acne, and more. If you have a particular issue, these benefits can help steer you toward a particular method.

Will any contraception methods interact with any supplements or medications I take?

Some medications and even some herbal supplements can stop some forms of contraception from working normally. To be safe, remember to tell your doctor about all the other drugs and supplements you take.

Could any health problems make certain contraception methods unsuitable for me?

If you have health problems make sure your doctor is aware of these when you ask him or her about contraception.

How well does each method work?

In other words, how effective are they at preventing pregnancy? Each method is different, and preventing pregnancy depends on whether they're used exactly as they should be or not. Women may have complicated lives and it's not uncommon for them to forget a pill or not use a method properly. Some methods require much more effort to use perfectly than others. Talk to your doctor about the effort required for each method and then consider what you're realistically willing or able to do.

The condom broke when my partner and I were having sex. What should I do?

If pregnancy is a concern, emergency contraception can be used to reduce the chance of pregnancy if the condom breaks whilst having sex. You should speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible.

Emergency contraception should be taken ideally within 24 hours of having sex, but it still works well within 3 days. You should speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible.

Don't forget to also consider a check for sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

My pill is late. What do I do?

The rules for missed pills vary, depending on your situation (see below). If you're in doubt, always use condoms until you can get the advice of a doctor or healthcare professional.

All pills are different, and you should check your Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet that comes with your pill, and speak to your doctor, if you're unsure. Family Planning Victoria suggests the following guidelines:

If your pill is less than 24 hours late:
If you're taking the pill (the combined pill, not the mini pill) and it's less than 24 hours late, you're still covered for contraception. You should take it as soon as you remember and then take the next pill when it's due. This might mean taking two pills at once, but this is okay.

If your pill is more than 24 hours late:
If you're more than 24 hours late in taking the pill, you're not covered for contraception. Take the pill most recently due straight away. This might mean taking 2 pills in 1 day. Any other missed pills can be thrown out. Use condoms for 7 days. Keep taking your pills. Remember, if you've missed more than 1 pill, never take more than 2 in 1 day.

Steps to follow:
If you're not sure how to follow the steps below, see a doctor or sexual health nurse.
Work out which are the sugar pills and which are the hormone pills and count how many hormone pills you've had in a row since you last had a sugar pill.

If you've taken less than 7 hormone pills in a row:
You probably need emergency contraception (EC) if you've had sex without a condom in the last 5 days. You should see a chemist or a doctor for advice. Use condoms for 7 days. Keep taking your pills.

If you've taken more than 7 hormone pills in a row:
You don't need EC, but you need to use condoms for 7 days. You will also need to count how many hormone pills you have left until you start your sugar pills. If you've got less than 7 hormone pills left, finish the hormone pills in this packet, then skip the sugar pills and go straight onto the first hormone pill in the next packet. This means you will skip a period. If you've got more than 7 hormone pills left, you're covered for contraception. Keep taking your pills.