How do I talk to my parents about going on birth control?

How do I talk to my parents about going on birth control?

Our expert: Dr. Cara Natterson

Our resident expert on all things girls. She’s a board certified pediatrician, author of the best-selling book series The Care and Keeping of You, and travels the country speaking about health and wellness issues to both kids and parents.

How do I talk to my parents about going on birth control, and is it even worth it to go on birth control for cramps if my mom is going to freak out?

The birth control pill was originally developed for birth control. But over time, doctors and the women who took the pill noticed many other side effects. We often think of “side effects” as being bad, but in this case some of them turned out to be big bonuses. For instance, the pill can help clear up pimply skin, reduce bleeding during periods, and lessen cramps. These side effects were so positive that eventually they became the very reasons why women wanted to take the pill. And so these days it is not at all uncommon for someone to take the birth control pill even if they have no need for birth control.

The fact remains, though, that the pill is a medication. It is made from a hormone or combination of hormones and it has risks just like every other medicine. For this reason, I think it is important to involve parents in the decision about whether or not to take it.

Now having said that, I have spoken with many girls who want to take the pill to help clear up their skin or to help manage their periods but they are afraid to bring it up because they are sure their parents will think they are using it for birth control. I get that, but this is an important conversation to have with your folks. You can explain to them why you want to be on this medicine, and you can even ask your doctor to help you have the conversation. It is entirely reasonable to try to reduce your cramps using a medicine, especially if the pain is interfering with activities that are important to you. Hormones aren’t the only way to go – there are other medications like antinflammatories that can do the job – but it is worth having the conversation, particularly if you have tried these other medicines and they haven’t helped.

I also really believe that it is critical to talk about sex and safe sex with your parents. I know – easy for me to say. But you are going to have questions in your life. You are going to need emotional support and information. If bringing up the pill is going to open up a bigger conversation about sex, that’s actually a good thing. Your mom might “freak” at first, but once you explain that you aren’t sexually active, she will be so happy that you started these conversations with her before you needed birth control. That freaking out is often a parent’s way of telling you she doesn’t know how to talk about all of this stuff either.

If you bring up the subject and your mom is entirely against it, remember that you can bring it up more than once. Conversations about puberty, the body, sex, and all sorts of other issues aren’t one-time things. You can – and should – talk about this stuff many times over the years. So if you try to address it and you get shut down, try again. Remember, your pediatrician is your doctor and she can help you have these conversations if you are struggling to do it on your own at home.

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