Finding a birth control that works for you is one of the most frustrating parts of some women’s lives. The choices are so limited —you want something easy, effective, and side-effect free, but that feels like finding the holy grail. And the truth is, if you’re in a relationship, then birth control serves an important function for both people. So why are you bearing the burden alone?
A study published in the Journal of Sex Research looked at the contraceptive counseling visits of 52 women who did not want to have children in the future and found that, when it comes to birth control, things are really one-sided. “The responsibility that women assume for the physical, mental and emotional burdens of contraception is perpetuated and reinforced by how we discuss pregnancy prevention and through our healthcare system," the researchers explained in a press release. "This situation is not inevitable—men could assume much of this responsibility."
One of the worrying parts was that some of the clinicians seemed to normalize the idea that birth control was a female’s responsibility—vasectomies weren’t discussed as often as might be appropriate, because men aren't even in the room. So, if you’re in a hetero relationship, the change might have to come from you. There’s no reason that your partner can’t help bear the burden of birth control. Here’s how you can open up the conversation.
Talk About The Choices
Firstly, a lot of men are totally clueless about how difficult it is just to find the right birth control. I know men who think you just pick one at random and that’s that. If you have trouble with your birth control, make sure you explain the options—along with the pros and cons of each. "Talking about the mental and emotional work of choosing and using contraception with your partner is a good first step," Katrina Kimport, the study's author and an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Broadly. If they begin to understand what a complex world birth control is—and how frustrating it is to negotiate—it’s the first step toward your partner realizing the amount emotional labor that goes into dealing with contraceptives.
Find Ways They Can Contribute
Even if the right birth control method for you as a couple is something that you need to take or have done, that doesn’t mean that a male partner can’t help. There are still ways that they can contribute—mentally, emotionally, financially, and more. It all comes down to the individual couple and what makes their lives easier, but there are so many options to share the difficulties of dealing with birth control. Kimport suggests that "partners could shoulder the work of picking up prescription refills; partners could coordinate more of the household tasks when the woman has an appointment for a Depo shot or a clinical visit; partners could attend the contraceptive counseling visit itself; perhaps more radically for many people, partners could be in charge of keeping track of the woman using the method such as taking a daily pill or changing the patch or ring (just as women often supervise vitamin and medication consumption for children and spouses)." Just find a way that you can share the load.
Be Open About Any Side Effects Or Symptoms
If you’re struggling with your birth control then be honest about it. Whether it’s making you feel emotional, bloated, or your periods have gone all over the place, that’s something that your partner should hear. No, they don’t get to be grossed about talking about periods. Remember, you have birth control for both of you, so anything that happens as a result of it is totally something that you should share. And if that means they need to listen to you vent about it, that’s totally fine. Also, if you’re having problems and may need to change birth control methods, that’s something that they should talk about with you and help support you through.
Many modern birth control methods fall disproportionately on the women’s shoulders. Until a male pill or shot is ready and accessible, women will still be taking pills, having IUDs inserted, getting shots, and more. But even if the right birth control method for you is one that affects you physically, that doesn't mean you need to go through it alone. It’s time that men in hetero relationships start to share the burden of birth control that is taken, in part, for their benefit. So start by opening up the conversation about the difficulties surrounding your choice of contraception. They’re getting all of the positive effects of birth control—they can deal with the negative ones as well. And, if they’re a solid partner, they should want to help.