Visit FAQs


If you’re looking for some more information about birth control use and side effects or would like more details about your visit, we’ve put together a list of some Frequently Asked Quesions. If you have a clinical question, please reach out to your Quality Hub provider. If you are having a medical emergency, please dial 911.

FAQs

General Birth Control: Uses and Side Effects

1. Will I get a monthly period using hormonal birth control?

This depends on what type of birth control you select. If the method has estrogen (pill, patch, ring), your period should come every month and you may notice lighter bleeding too.

If the method has progestin only (depo shot, hormonal IUD, or arm implant) you can expect spotting and irregular bleeding, especially the first few months. After the first 4-6 months, many will only have very light spotting if any bleeding; this is considered normal due to the progestin hormone. Not getting any periods/bleeding is more common with the progestin IUD.  It may seem odd to not have your period, but because of the small amount of hormone in your uterus, there is no reason to have your period as nothing is building up in your uterine lining.  Some people with heavy or painful periods intentionally seek out the hormonal IUD to treat these symptoms.

If you get a non-hormonal IUD (copper IUD), you will likely have monthly bleeding and your bleeding may be slightly heavier. You may have more cramps than usual. These are expected side effects, but the potential heavier bleeding and cramps may lessen after the first year.  Your periods should continue as before you got the non-hormonal IUD. Taking over-the-counter medicine that you usually take for your period symptoms can help with these expected side effects.  

2. Will hormonal birth control cause me to feel depressed?

There is no straightforward answer to this question as everyone responds differently to hormones. Feeling sad or blue for short periods of time can be normal or circumstantial and not related to your birth control. Most people using birth control find they are relieved to no longer be worried about pregnancy or feel happy that the birth control is treating the symptoms they may have been experiencing. We like to look at the science; research shows that birth control does not cause depression. The hormone levels in birth control today are all relatively low, but there is no guarantee as to how you may feel.  Only you know how you feel; if your mood is a concern, please talk to your healthcare provider.

3. Will hormonal birth control cause me to gain weight?

Studies show that no birth control methods cause weight gain. However, the depo shot has been shown to cause changes in appetite with about 1/3 of people feeling an increased appetite; therefore, some people do have weight increase with depo shots, and may be advised to try another method (unless weight gain is what you are hoping to achieve). Watching your total calories and getting moderate exercise is important to avoid gaining weight year after year regardless of what birth control method you use.  

4. Do I have to get undressed below the waist or have a pelvic exam if I want birth control?

No. Pelvic exams assess the position and shape of the uterus and allow for visual inspection of the vagina, cervix, vulva, etc. Healthcare providers sometimes do a pelvic exam during a gynecological visit for a pap smear, the screening for cervical cancer, but it is not required for you to start or continue most birth control methods (the exception is an IUD). However, your provider may recommend a pap smear based on your medical history, your age, and your previous test results.  And depending on the conversation between you and our provider, they may also recommend screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or a pregnancy test. Neither of these tests requires a pelvic exam.

5. Do I have to use condoms if I am using hormonal birth control?

Hormonal birth controls were designed primarily for pregnancy prevention and do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Aside from not having sex (a.k.a. abstinence), condoms are the only way to decrease the chance of getting STIs. Some commonly known STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.  So, if you are not sure of your partner(s) STI status or if you or your partner has more than one partner, you should still use a male/external or female/internal condom every time (just one at a time – not both at once!) to decrease the risk of getting a STI. 

6. I am confused by all the different brand names of pills or IUDs. Which ones are the “best”?

It can be confusing! There are many brands of birth control pills and several brands of hormonal IUDs.  A lot of the confusion stems from how the products are marketed; the actual active ingredients are very similar.  ICAN! is NOT in the business of promoting or supporting one brand over another so we often advise people to stick with the most affordable of the equally effective options.  

7. Will using hormonal birth control cause problems with getting pregnant later?

Research shows that a person’s ability to get pregnant (known as fertility) returns to where it was prior to the start of hormonal birth control once you stop the hormonal method.  For some people, fertility returns almost immediately (within days or weeks); for others it could be several months.  Unfortunately, fertility problems can happen to anyone (about 1 in 10 couples have infertility issues) so that is why it is a common myth to associate birth control with infertility.  One of the most common causes of infertility is untreated or longstanding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Be sure to get tested and use a condom for STI protection.

8. Does it make sense to use or continue birth control if I am not sexually active and at risk of pregnancy?

There are many reasons why someone may use hormonal birth control that may have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy.  Many people may seek birth control to help with premenstrual symptoms (PMS), painful periods, and/or heavy bleeding.  Also, hormonal birth control is a very common way to treat endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and severe acne.  There is solid research to show that using hormonal birth controls for several years can also decrease the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.

IUD and Implants

1. Does it hurt to get the IUD inserted or removed?

Insertion pain varies widely as pain is subjective and every person is different.  Pain can range from slightly uncomfortable to super painful, but it usually only lasts for a short time. Taking the over-the-counter medicine you usually take for your cramps can ease the pain and decrease bleeding. You can do this a few hours before your scheduled insertion appointment. Removal pain is very rare; you may feel light cramps.

2. What are the IUD strings? Will anyone know that I am using an IUD?

The strings are outside of your cervix (neck of your uterus) and DO NOT hang outside of your vagina so nobody will know you are using an IUD. The small strings allow your healthcare provider to remove the IUD when you are ready for removal and you can feel the strings monthly if you want to be sure the IUD is in place (although you are not required to do this). With time, the strings usually soften and may curl up in your cervix; this is very normal. You and your partner will likely never notice the strings. You can still use a tampon but be careful if using a monthly period cup: tell your provider to cut the strings shorter to avoid the potential of pulling out the strings by accident.

3. I do not want others to know I am using the arm implant. Is it visible?

In general, the implant is very discrete. It is the size of a matchstick, and it is placed underneath your skin.  You can feel the implant by gently pushing down where it was inserted but it is not obvious like a tattoo or a raised scar. In the first 1-2 days after insertion, you will have a pressure bandage on your arm to allow the small insertion incision to heal.  You may have temporary bruising at the insertion site so you may want to wear long sleeves to cover the area if you are concerned about visibility. 

4. Not getting pregnant is super important to me, but I have heard about the dangers of IUD or Implant. Are they safe?

Yes, IUDs and implants have been around for many decades, but previous devices were not properly researched, caused harm, and eventually were pulled off the market. The modern IUDs and Implants have been redesigned and are now very safe and effective for people of any age. ICAN! providers follow evidence-based guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other national governing bodies that extensively study all the research data carefully before making recommendations for patient use. The American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have both stated that the IUD or implant is very safe for anyone wanting hassle free birth control—regardless of their age or whether they have already given birth.

5. What happens if I want my IUD or Implant out sooner that I thought?

 Only you can decide what is best for you. It is clinically recommended that you try an IUD or implant for a short period of time as many side effects will go away or decrease after several months. However, if you are not satisfied or change your mind, ICAN! providers can remove the device. This means, when you are ready to remove your IUD or Implant, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Once you have the IUD or Implant removed, you may be able to get pregnant right away. Your fertility returns to your normal baseline within a few weeks to a few months.  If you want to avoid pregnancy, you may want to discuss another method with your provider.  

Accessing Care

1. What if I am on my period for my birth control appointment?

No problem at all. Usually this means you are not at risk of pregnancy which is perfect timing for starting a birth control method. Many birth controls do not require a pelvic exam.  And for those getting an IUD insertion, it may help; but there is no hard science on this, so don’t worry about trying to schedule your insertion around your period.

2. What if I don’t have insurance? What if my insurance doesn’t cover contraceptive care? What if I don’t feel safe using my insurance?

Health insurance is super confusing so often it’s hard to know exactly what is and is not covered. ICAN! connects you to trusted providers who can help you navigate insurance. If your insurance does not cover birth control, ICAN! Quality Hub partners have sliding scales to help make your visit no cost or low cost. Nobody will ever be turned away due to inability to pay. If you have confidentiality concerns and cannot use your private insurance without emotional or mental stress/harm, or are a young person coming to an appointment without an adult, please share this concern when you make an appointment.  Those with Medicaid MCOs (CountyCare, Aetna, Meridian, Molina, and Blue Cross Community) have full confidential coverage for birth control, regardless of your network or medical home.

3. Can I bring my children or a friend/family member with me to the visit?

Due to the continued need to minimize exposure to covid, health centers are requesting only the patient comes for their visit.  However, for anyone with childcare issues or other needs, special accommodations can be made so you can complete the appointment.  When you are making an appointment, ask them about making exceptions for their guest policy.  Also, anyone two and older must wear a facemask.  When covid is no longer a public health emergency, health centers welcome a trusted friend or family member to join you at your visit.

4. What if I need other services aside from birth control? Can ICAN! help with this too?

All ICAN! providers are primary care providers too! This means they can help with many other physical and mental health issues. If there is a service they don’t provide they will give you a referral to the care you need.  Any follow up appointments can be scheduled directly with the Quality Hub provider, and you do not need to register again with ICAN!  If you want to find a different Quality Hub provider, you can always review our directory here, but you do not have to register for each return visit.

5. ICAN! states that finance is never a barrier to getting the birth control of my choice. I was told I would pay very little which I was okay with, but I ended up getting a large bill. Do I have any options?

Quality Hub health centers never turn away anyone based on ability to pay. However, to keep their doors open, depending on your financial situation, they do ask for small payments. The timing is very flexible (for example, you can pay a tiny bit each month). Quality Hub partners will do their best to work with your financial situation. If you are having serious financial hardship and cannot pay anything, please let the health centers know about your situation.

6. Do you have any other questions or want to speak with someone who can help?

Use ICAN! Phone a Friend to book a 10 minute slot to chat with us’

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