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Birth Control (cont.)

Choosing a Birth Control Method

With so many methods available and so many factors to consider, choosing birth control can be difficult. You may be able to decide on a method by asking yourself the following questions:

Might I want to have a biological child in the future?

One of your first considerations might be to determine whether you want permanent or temporary birth control. In other words, you should consider whether you want to conceive any (or more) children. This is a decision that will affect the rest of your life and can be made only after thinking it through carefully.

If you know that you will not ever want to conceive a pregnancy, tubal ligation or tubal implants for you or a vasectomy for your partner is a reasonable option to consider.

If you are not sure about the future even though you know how you feel now, a temporary method is a better choice. If you are young, have few or no children, are choosing sterilization because your partner wants it, or think it will solve money or relationship problems, you may regret your decision later.

How would an unplanned pregnancy affect my life?

If an unplanned pregnancy would seriously impact your plans for the future, choose a birth control method that is highly effective. Or if you have a stable relationship and income and plan to have children in the future anyway, you may feel comfortable using a less reliable method.

How effective are different types of birth control?

Consider how important it is to you to avoid pregnancy, and then look at how well each birth control method works. Hormonal methods and IUDs work very well. Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides are only moderately effective. Fertility awareness is even less effective.

Be honest about how much effort you are willing to put into birth control. To be effective, birth control pills require you to take a pill every day. Barrier methods have to be used before sex. Fertility awareness requires that you watch your temperature and other signs closely. You must also avoid sex on days when you could get pregnant. If you are not willing to put in the effort, choose another method of birth control.

Consider how comfortable you feel about using a particular method of birth control. If you are not comfortable with or might not consistently use a birth control method for any reason, that method is not likely to be reliable for you in the long run.

How can I prevent sexually transmitted infections?

Unless you know that your partner has no other sex partners and is free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you are at risk for STI infection. If you are at risk, protect yourself from infection every time you have sex. Use a condom in addition to any other birth control method you choose.

You can choose between a male or female condom to reduce your risk for HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and other infections.

What health factors could limit my choice of birth control?

If you have health problems or other risk factors, some birth control methods may not be right for you.

  • Smoking. If you smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day and are 35 or older or have high blood pressure, a history of stroke, a history of blood clots, liver disease, or heart disease, you may not be able to use combined hormonal methods.
  • Migraines. If you have migraine headaches, talk to your health professional about whether you can try combined hormonal contraception.
  • Diabetes. If you have advanced or long-standing diabetes, discuss the risks of taking hormonal birth control methods with your health professional.
  • Breast-feeding. If you are breast-feeding, the estrogen in combined hormonal birth control can lower your milk supply. Progestin-only pills, an implant, both kinds of IUDs, or birth control shots do not affect your milk supply and are a good option for breast-feeding women.

Other health problems that might keep you from using a particular birth control method are relatively rare, especially in young women. But before using any method, talk with your health professional to see if it is safe for you.

What are some other considerations in choosing a birth control method?

Other things to consider when choosing a method of birth control include:

  • Health benefits, such as decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections with condoms and reduced risk of ovarian cancer and uterine cancer with use of birth control pills for one year or longer.
  • Convenience and ease of use. Birth control forms such as patches, shots, implants, IUDs, and vaginal rings are convenient for women who have trouble remembering to take a daily pill or couples who know they won't use a barrier method every time they have sex.
  • Cost. Over time, the higher one-time cost of IUD insertion or sterilization surgery may be less than the continued costs of buying pills or condoms and spermicide.
  • If you are planning to become pregnant in the future. It is best to have a full menstrual cycle before you try to conceive. The amount of time it takes for a woman's full fertility to return after stopping birth control varies for each woman and depends on the birth control method she is using.
  • Risks and side effects of the method. Some birth control methods may have a greater risk of causing certain health problems. And some methods cause more side effects than others. For example, hormonal birth control usually has more risks and side effects than barrier methods. Talk to your doctor about the risks and side effects.

Thinking about the pros and cons of hormonal birth control methods may help you choose the one that is best for you.

After you have looked at the facts about the different methods and thought about your own values and needs, you can choose the method that will work best for you. Using condoms with any method may increase its reliability and helps to protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. Personal stories may help you decide.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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