My Doctor Online The Permanente Medical Group

Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Provider photo for Michael Lum

Michael Lum, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Welcome to My Doctor Online, a web site that my colleagues and I developed to make it easier for you to take care of your healthcare needs. On this site you will find answers to many of your questions about my clinical practice. Also included are several online features that will allow you to e-mail me, check your laboratory results and refill prescriptions. I hope you find its content informative and useful.

My Offices

San Jose Medical Center
Appt/Advice: 1-408-362-4740
Redwood City Medical Center
Appt/Advice:

See all office information »

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Overview

Birth control (also called contraception) prevents pregnancy. Choosing the best method of birth control is an important decision. There are many types of birth control, and your choice may depend on:

  • How long you would like to prevent pregnancy
  • Whether you need protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Whether or not you prefer hormones 
  • How often you want to think about your birth control method
  • If you would like to control when you have your period, or if you have painful menstrual symptoms you would like to control 
  • If you need a method that no one can interfere with.
  • What level of risk of pregnancy is acceptable to you. 

If you have a chronic medical disease, take certain types of medication, or have a disability, please use the Women with Medical Conditions link above to learn more.

Types of birth control
  • Barrier methods. Condoms, the diaphragm, and spermicide fall into the barrier methods group. All of the methods in this group form a barrier to prevent pregnancy.
  • Hormonal methods. The birth control pill, patch, and ring are methods that use hormones. Depo-Provera (the shot) is another method of hormonal birth control. Some hormonal methods require that you use them every day; others only need to be used on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Long-term methods. If you prefer long-term birth control methods that require less regular attention, you may consider an intrauterine device (IUD) or a birth control implant in your arm.
  • Permanent methods. If you decide that you never want to get pregnant again, you may consider a sterilization procedure such as tubal ligation (having your tubes tied) or a vasectomy for a male partner.
  • Emergency methods. Sometimes known as "emergency contraceptive pills" (ECPs) or "the morning after pill," emergency birth control is available if you have had sex without using birth control, or if the method of birth control you chose did not work properly.
  • Natural family planning. Natural family planning (NFP) is a type of birth control that can help you plan or prevent pregnancy without medicines, hormones, or a surgical procedure. Though it is not as effective in preventing pregnancy as some methods available, it is an option for couples with religious or ethical concerns related to contraception. (See the Additional References list below for more information.)
  • Abstinence. Abstinence means you do not have intercourse. With abstinence, partners choose not to have sexual intercourse at all. You can be intimate without having sex. The advantages of preventing pregnancy through practicing abstinence include that it is free, doesn't have side effects, and may prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A disadvantage of abstinence is that if you do end up having sex, you may not be prepared to protect yourself against pregnancy and STDs. Abstinence is an effective mehod of preventing pregnancy. 
Risk of pregnancy

Risk of pregnancy is important to consider when choosing a birth control method. Different birth control methods have different levels of risk of pregnancy. For example, birth control pills have an 8 percent risk of pregnancy with normal use. This means that if 100 women used birth control pills for 1 year, 8 of them will become pregnant. The risk may be lower with perfect use. Comparatively, the birth control implant has a less than 1 percent risk of pregnancy.

Protect yourself from a surprise pregnancy

Did you know that half of all pregnancies are surprises? A surprise pregnancy can change your life. If you don't want to get pregnant, take some time to review your birth control options. We can help you choose the best option for you and your lifestyle. You may need to try more than one method before finding a method that works best for you. Many women also change their birth control method depending on their life stage.

Since many pregnancies are surprises, we recommend all women of childbearing age (15 to 49 years) take 0.4 mg of folic acid daily. Folic acid has been shown to prevent or reduce the risk of certain birth defects and taking it helps decrease birth defects even for accidental pregnancies. The easiest way to do this is with a standard multivitamin. If you think you might be pregnant, there are things you should be doing to take care of your health. Contact us right away.

Protect yourself from STDs

It's important to understand that when you become sexually active, you can be at risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This is true for all forms of sexual activity, whether it is oral, vaginal, or anal.

STDs are caused by different bacteria or viruses that are passed between partners during sexual activity. Some STDs are easily treated with no long-term effects, while others can be carried for life or cause serious or life-threatening diseases.

Except for not having intimate contact, there is no sure way to avoid contracting an STD. You can reduce your risk by:

  • Limiting the number of your sex partners
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Using condoms correctly and consistently
Find help if you've been pressured to have sex

Being pressured or forced to have sex is common, but it's not okay. It can happen even in long-term relationships. It's also not okay for someone to refuse to wear a condom to protect against pregnancy or STDs, or to otherwise interfere with your birth control. If this is happening to you, you can get help by talking to us or contacting one of the following organizations:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: ndvh.org or 1-800-799-7233
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: www.rainn.org or 1-800-656-4673
  • National Teen Dating Violence: loveisrespect.org (if you are a teen)  

 

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods of birth control keep you from getting pregnant by placing a physical barrier between the sperm and the egg. There are several types of barrier birth control, including condom, female condom, diaphragm, and spermicide.

Unlike other methods of birth control, barrier methods are used only when you have sex. There are certain advantages to this: You don't have to remember to take a pill every day or change a patch every week. But, on the other hand, thinking about birth control before and during sex can be a disadvantage as well. Some people feel like stopping to put on a condom or insert a diaphragm is an interruption when they’re in the mood.

The condom and the female condom are the only types of barrier birth control that can protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS. This is very important, as STDs can be passed on to others and cause serious or even life-threatening diseases.

Some barrier methods are very easy to get: condoms, female condoms, and spermicides are available at your local drugstore or in our pharmacies. To begin using a diaphragm, you must make an appointment to see us and be fitted for the correct size. Some people are allergic to latex so they cannot use regular condoms. The substitutes, like polyurethane, don't give as much sensation, and animal skin condoms do not protect against STDs.

Hormonal Methods

Birth control pills, patches, implants, and rings are methods that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. (Some other methods also contain hormones; use the Long-Term Methods link above to learn more.) Hormonal birth control methods are highly effective. They work by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg once a month. The hormones can also thicken the mucus made by your cervix (the narrow lower end of the uterus), making it harder for sperm to reach the egg.

Some hormonal methods require that you use them every day; others only need to be used on a weekly or monthly basis. Some methods can be used continuously. Let us know if you are interested in scheduling your periods or decreasing the number of periods you have.

Most birth control pills contain 2 hormones: estrogen and progesterone. There is one kind of hormonal birth control that uses 1 hormone instead of 2: The progesterone-only "mini-pill" has no estrogen in it.

Depo-Provera, sometimes called "the shot," is an injection that contains the hormone progesterone.

Are hormones right for you?

Most women can use hormonal birth control safely, but some women should not. We should discuss your options if:

  • You are over 35 and smoke
  • You have had blood clots or a stroke
  • You have high blood pressure or diabetes

Long-term Methods

Long-term birth control methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy. They are also convenient and easy to use. There are several types of long-term birth control, including a birth control implant and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Long-term birth control is best for people who want to prevent pregnancy for a long period of time. With these birth control methods you do not have to think about birth control every day or every time you have sex.

Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself, to decide if long-term birth control is right for you.

How long do I want to avoid becoming pregnant?

If you are sure that you want to prevent pregnancy for a year or longer, long-term contraceptives might be a good choice for you.

Will it be hard for me to remember to take a pill every day or use birth control every time I have sex?

Long-term contraceptives might be a good option for women who prefer not to think about birth control every day or every time they have sex.

Is it important to me that I have a period every month?

Some long-term contraceptives may change the way you have your period every month or even stop you from having it altogether.

There are many things to consider when choosing a method of long-term birth control. We are happy to talk with you about your options.

Permanent Methods

Surgical, permanent birth control methods might be an option for you if you know for sure that you do not want to have any more (or any) children. This process is sometimes called sterilization.

In all these methods of birth control, pregnancy is permanently prevented by closing off the fallopian tubes, so sperm and eggs can never meet. Until recently, that meant "getting your tubes tied." Now there are new, safe, and effective ways of doing this, including:

  • Hysteroscopic sterilization (Essure)
  • Laparoscopic tubal ligation
  • Postpartum tubal ligation

In addition, a vasectomy is a method of permanent birth control that may be an option for a male partner. It's important to know that vasectomy is a simple and safe office procedure.

Surgical sterilization for women is safe and effective, but it's a big decision to make. It's a good choice only for women who are sure that they will not ever want to become pregnant. Please talk to a trusted friend or family member, a professional counselor, or to us before making a decision about permanently ending your ability to become pregnant.

Emergency Birth Control

If you have sex without using any protection, emergency birth control can prevent you from becoming pregnant. You should consider emergency birth control if:

  • You had sex without using birth control.
  • You had a problem with your birth control (the condom tore or slipped off, or your diaphragm slipped out of place).
  • You missed several birth control pills, you were late for your contraceptive shot, or you forgot to insert your ring or apply your patch.
  • You were forced to have sex.
  • You have a partner who will not use or let you use birth control.

The sooner you take emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), the more effective they are in preventing pregnancy. ECPs alone are not a good form of birth control. If you find yourself using them often, now is the time to plan a regular, more effective method of birth control.

Women with Medical Conditions

Deciding which method of birth control is best for you is always a personal decision. However, if you have special needs that might influence your choice, we can talk and make sure you're choosing the best birth control for you. Preventing a surprise pregnancy is especially important for women with medical conditions because some conditions can complicate a pregnancy and put your health or the health of the baby at risk.

Contact us to discuss your birth control options if you have a long-term medical condition that requires medication, such as:

  • Migraines
  • High blood pressure 
  • Diabetes
  • Seizures
  • A history of blood clots
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • If you smoke and are older than 35 

While there are many good options, some kinds of birth control may not be right for you.

Getting Your Care at Kaiser Permanente

If you aren’t sure which type of birth control is best for you, you and I can discuss your options and make a birth control plan.

If you’d like to start using a new method of birth control, your next steps depend on which type of birth control you’re interested in using.

  • Condoms, female condoms, and spermicides are available in our pharmacies and at your neighborhood pharmacy. They are inexpensive, and you don’t need a prescription to buy them.
  • If you’d like to start using a diaphragm, please make an appointment to see me. During a visit, we can talk more about the diaphragm, how to use it correctly, and I can recommend a size of diaphragm that I think would be best for you.
  • Let me know if you’re interested in starting hormonal methods (like the birth control pill, patch, ring, or Depo-Provera) or long-term methods (like a birth control implant or an IUD).  Some of these should be discussed during a visit with me while others can be discussed by e-mail or by phone.
  • Please talk to me if you’re considering permanent sterilization. If you’re interested, we can talk about which of the sterilization procedures might be a good choice for you.
  • If you need emergency birth control:
    • Members of any age can call to get a prescription. Then you can pick up your pills at our pharmacy.
    • If you are over 18, you can also buy emergency birth control from our pharmacies without a prescription.

Contacting Me

From my home page, you can take advantage of a variety of convenient online services offered by Kaiser Permanente. You have the ability to e-mail me for non-urgent questions and make appointments using our online services. In addition, you can view and refill your prescriptions, view test results and summaries of prior visits, check the status of your preventive screenings, and find health information and interactive health tools.

Related Health Tools:

Interactive Programs
Personal Logs and Diaries
Prepare for Your Procedure

See more Health Tools »

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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