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Why Do I Have To Be Consistent With My Birth Control?
When comparing different birth control options, there are often two effectiveness percentages that are shown. One describes “perfect use,” while the other describes “typical use.” It is important to differentiate between the two numbers. “Perfect use” rates describe the protection that the contraceptive method provides when it is used perfectly and correctly at all times. This means being consistent with zero errors. For example, taking your pill at the same time every day without fail, or using an unexpired, undamaged condom correctly during every single sexual encounter. “Typical use,” also known as “actual use,” reflects what happens in reality, factoring in human error.
“Doctor-controlled” methods such as IUDs and hormonal implants have less of a chance for human error (high “perfect use” and “typical use” rates) because they are administered a single time by a medical professional. However, there are ways to help ensure that “user-controlled” methods (such as the pill) have an efficacy rate closer to the “perfect use” number.
Many birth control methods require a person to remember to take action consistently. Women who are on the birth control pill must ingest a pill every day at the same time, while women who use the ring or patch use it for 3 weeks, then remove it for 1 week. Other methods, such as the shot or implant, require a visit to a doctor every three months or every three years, respectively. If a woman is inconsistent with her birth control, she risks becoming pregnant and may be subject to some uncomfortable side effects, such as spotting or cramping. Consult the information regarding your specific birth control method if you miss a dose. There are a plethora of tips and applications that can be utilized to help keep a busy person on track so that she can be as protected as possible by her choice of birth control.
Tips and Tricks
To maximize your chances of staying on track with your birth control, it is helpful to pick a time of the day when you will usually be at home and not asleep. Some women take their pill in the morning before they begin their day. You can incorporate your birth control into your morning routine by pairing it with a regular activity such as washing your face or eating breakfast. Other women choose to take their pill at night before bed. This may be desirable for those who experience nausea after taking the pill, or for women who wake up at different times every day. Nighttime activities such as eating dinner, changing into pajamas, or brushing teeth before bed can be used as reminders to take your pill. Make your pill packet part of the items you take everywhere with you (phone, keys, wallet, birth control!). You never know where you will be at every hour of the day!
The buddy system can also apply to birth control. Taking your pill at the same time as your friends, housemates, or a family member helps ensure that no one forgets. If you are in a relationship, you can even include your significant other! This is especially helpful during the first few months of being on birth control, before it becomes a habitual part of your routine. There is no advantage to taking the pill at a certain time, or how you remember to take it, but once you pick a time you must stick to it consistently.
You can set an alarm that repeats every day at the same time as a reminder to take birth control. This is most effective for birth control pills, as they must be taken daily. Any smartphone has an alarm feature, so this is an easily accessible resource. Some people choose to title the alarm with an obvious reference to birth control, such as “BC” or “time for the pill!” Others choose to use a more subtle reference such as “you’re beautiful” or “it’s time!” Try and think of a clever title for your alarm!
Similar to the daily alarm idea, an event can be created and set to repeat every day. The calendar is more versatile, as it can be used for many different forms of birth control. For example, an event can be set to remind a person to put in their ring on a Sunday, and then remind her after three weeks to remove the ring. Another event can be set to remind her a week later to reinsert the ring. The calendar feature can also be used to keep track of important appointments related to “doctor-controlled” birth control methods (i.e. the shot or implant) as well other health check-ups and appointments.
Although it is simple to use the above tricks already available on your smartphone, there are applications and programs that have been specifically created as birth control reminders. We will now outline some of the more popular applications that are available.
Bedsider1 is a very helpful organization with the goal of spreading knowledge about all things related to birth control. On their website, you can find a great comparison of the different methods of available birth control. They include in depth descriptions, testimonials, and information on the different types of birth control and how to attain it. One of the most helpful features of the site is the reminder feature. This site allows you to set up appointment reminders and/or birth control reminders via email or text. It can be set so that every day at the same time a text message is sent to your phone with a witty note, fun fact, or link to an interesting sex related article. The Bedsider app works for the pill as well as for the ring, patch, or shot birth control methods.
myPill2 is a very user-friendly smartphone application that is designed to help keep your birth control on schedule. Its features include reminder, snooze, planner, history, and prediction. This app is very helpful for visual learners as it imitates what a pack of pills looks like and easily shows what day of the pack you are on. You can take notes and track your flow all on the app. This app also works with the ring or the patch.
Lady Pill Reminder
Lady Pill Reminder3 is similar to the myPill application, but it is only available for Android devices. While it does not contain as many features as the myPill app, it could be a good option for people who just want a daily reminder without other complexities.
Simplest Pill Reminder
Simplest Pill Reminder4 is a simple, user-friendly ios app. Even if you miss the first notification, it will remind you up to twelve hours later.
It is important to remember that the birth control options mentioned in this article cannot protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Always use a male or female condom to protect yourself from the potential spread of STIs. Abstinence from all types of sexual activity is the only way to completely guarantee no transmission of STIs.
Also note that although there are many ways to help you take your birth control on time, one of these methods still might not be for you. If you find that you are constantly forgetting to stay on track with your method of birth control, then there are other birth control options for you to explore. Check out our birth control comparison chart and explore the different options out there. A long-term option such as an IUD or an implant may be better suited to your lifestyle.
- “Bedsider Birth Control Support Network.” Bedsider. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
- “MyPill® Birth Control Reminder App.” MyPill® Birth Control Reminder App. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
- “Lady Pill Reminder.” Baviux. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
- “Simplest Pill Reminder – for Girls on the App Store.” App Store. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
Last Updated: 16 February 2016.