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Before You Choose a Birth Control Method: Consider Health Factors and Side Effects

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Updated June 10, 2014

With so many birth control methods available and so many factors to consider, choosing a birth control method can be difficult. If you have certain health problems or other risk factors, some brands of birth control may not be the safest option for you. Knowing birth control side effects ahead of time canhelp aid in your decision-making.

Potential Side Effects

It may be wise to consider your tolerance for the possible side effects associated with certain brands of birth control. In general, these side effects are not serious and will often go away within a few months of use.

For example, some hormonal methods, particularly those that contain estrogen, may pose a risk of rare but serious side effects.

Some common side effects for combination birth control pills include break-through bleeding and nausea.

Some people experience side effects with Depo Provera, which could include excessive bleeding or weight gain. Depo Provera use can also lead to reversible bone loss.

More About Side Effects

Certain spermicides could cause irritation to the penis or vagina.

Some women may experience skin reactions when using the Ortho Evra Contraceptive Patch.

Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect for women who use Implanon (implants), as well as possible pain at the insertion site.

Very rarely, a Mirena or ParaGard IUD can puncture the uterine wall during insertion. If not corrected, the IUD can move into other parts of the pelvic area and could damage internal organs.

Research the side effects of each birth control method and determine how comfortable you would be if you experience one of those side effects.

Allergic Responses

Potential allergies to contraceptives are another consideration. If you or your partner are allergic to latex, you could choose a barrier method made of silicone or polyurethane, like:Diaphragms and cervical caps are not recommended for those with both latex and silicone allergies.

Some people are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides.

Other possible allergies could include: allergic reactions to the hormones found in the pill or other hormonal methods, allergies to the copper in the ParaGard IUD and allergic rashes caused by the NuvaRing.

Medical History

Consider whether your medical history conflicts with the use of certain contraceptive methods as various health factors could interfere with some of the available birth control options. For instance:
  • Birth control pills are not recommended for women who smoke and are 35 years of age or older.

  • Certain health conditions such as migraines, diabetes, and history of stroke or heart problems could make certain contraceptives less safe to use.

Additional Medical Considerations

  • Having just delivered a baby or breastfeeding can also affect the type of birth control one should use. Progestin-only pills (the mini pill) could be a good option for women in this situation.
It is also important to consider that certain methods, like diaphragms, cervical caps, and the sponge may be less effective once a woman has given birth.

Sexual Transmitted Diseases and IUD's

Another health factor to consider is whether or not you currently have or potentially could be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

If an STD is present at the time an IUD is inserted, the infection can be carried into the uterus. This can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can cause infertility if left untreated. If you are planning on choosing an IUD and are at any risk of catching an STD, it may be wise to use condoms before and after the IUD is inserted.

Depo Provera and Sexual Transmitted Infections

Additionally, in a study reported in the Sexually Transmitted Diseases journal, women who used Depo Provera are more than three times as likely to catch chlamydia or gonorrhea over the course of a year than women who use birth control pills or non-hormonal contraceptives.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Condom Use

If you currenlty have a STD, remember that a condom is the only method that prevents the spread of certain STDs to your sexual partner.

In fact, condoms help reduce the risk of all of the following STDs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Condoms can also protect against vaginitis caused by trichomoniasis or changes in the pH balance of the vagina that can be triggered by semen.

Keep in mind, however, that condoms do not offer protection against HPV/genital warts or herpes.

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