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Before You Choose a Birth Control Method

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Updated May 15, 2012

When choosing a birth control method, there may be several things that will be helpful for you to consider. Although some birth control options are more effective than others, no birth control method (except for abstinence) is 100% effective. Lifestyle and personal factors may also help you figure out the best method for you. Part of choosing a birth control method is also finding one that you feel comfortable with. We are all individuals and have our own unique needs, so remember to discuss these issues with your doctor; together, you can make an informed decision about which contraceptive may be the one for you.

Effectiveness

Factors that may influence the effectiveness of available contraceptives include:
Consider how well the method prevents pregnancy. Ask yourself: would you perceive an unplanned pregnancy as potentially devastating? If so, you may wish to choose a more effective method. If your intention is just to postpone pregnancy (but would embrace it should it happen), you may be more comfortable with a less effective method. Being familiar with how conception occurs can help you understand contraception and maximize its effectiveness.

Researching Failure Rates

When choosing a birth control method, you may decide to research failure rates. These rates are often listed as the “typical user rate”. This takes into account that contraceptives are not always used as they should be. People may:
  • Not use it consistently
  • May forget it at times, or
  • May be taking a medication that lowers the effectiveness

The typical rate of failure is generally higher than the failure rate of the method if used perfectly. In general, methods that require less for you to do (Nexplanon vs. condoms) tend to have lower failure rates. The more you know about the correct way to use birth control, the more control you’ll have over deciding if and when you want to become pregnant.

Health Risks and Side Effects

Inquire about potential health risks associated with the various birth control options. This could include factors such as your weight, age or whether or not you smoke. Birth control pills are usually not recommended for women who are older than 35 and smoke. If you are allergic to latex, barrier methods, like latex condoms may not be the right choice.. Also consider potential side effects that may accompany various methods. You can ask your healthcare provider to explain these to you.

Does it Fit into Your Lifestyle?

Women who have irregular schedules or who have difficulty remembering to take medication may not find compatibility with certain contraceptive methods. When choosing a birth control method, ask yourself:
  • Are you looking for something convenient (like the Depo-Provera shot)?
  • What are your days/schedule like?
  • Consider whether you will be able use a method, like the pill, that requires you to reliably take it at roughly the same time each day.

What Are Your Intentions?

Are you in a stable, single-partner sexual relationship, and are just wishing to put off having additional children for a while? If so, a Mirena IUD or ParaGard IUD may fit your needs. Part of choosing a birth control method is determining if you are looking for more of a temporary method, something long-term, or whether it is your desire to consider a permanent contraceptive method. People choose to use birth control for many different reasons. Perhaps you are just looking for one of the noncontraceptive benefits that a certain birth control method may provide. Begin by asking yourself – what are my reasons for wanting to use contraception?

Your Comfort Level

It is important to be honest with yourself – especially women – about your comfort level. Do you feel comfortable touching your body? There are many contraceptive methods, such as a diaphragm, cervical cap, NuvaRing, sponge, and female condoms; however, these require you to insert them into and then take them out from your body.

You also want to make sure that you are choosing a birth control method that is in sync with your religious beliefs. Additionally, part of your comfort level also includes how much you can afford to pay for birth control each month.

Your Sexual Behavior

It is also important to keep in mind who you will be engaging in intercourse with while on birth control.
  • Are you in a serious, monogamous relationship?
  • Is there a threat of a sexually transmitted infection because you are not in a committed relationship?
  • Do you have multiple partners?
Many of the available contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.

Protection Against Sexually Transmitted Infections

Many people believe that using various birth control methods will also protect against sexually transmitted infections, but that is not the case. Most contraceptives will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections or HIV. Condoms, particularly when used with spermicides, typically offer the greatest protection from contracting many of these potential infections.
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