Finally, we can choose to have sex in the safest way.
Not getting pregnant requires you to weigh the pros and cons of all birth control methods and to choose effective birth control that you find comfortable, can use correctly and will use consistently each time you have sex.
- Assess your contraception knowledge: take our Birth Control Quiz
With so many options, choosing birth control methods may be hard. Here are the top questions to ask yourself when making this decision.
1. How comfortable would I be using a particular birth control method?
Consider your comfort level when choosing a birth control method. If you are not at ease with an option or might not consistently use it (for any reason), that method is unlikely to be reliable for you in the long run.
- Decide whether or not a particular method may cause irritation or discomfort for you or your partner.
2. Will the contraceptive prevent sexually transmitted diseases?
Condoms (both male and female) are the only birth control method that reduces your risk of catching sexually transmitted infections as well as HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). Remember, that unless you know for sure that your partner has no other sex partners and is free of sexually transmitted diseases, you are at risk for catching an infection.To protect yourself, use a condom in addition to any other birth control method if you fall under this risk category.
Keep in mind that a male condom should NEVER be used at the same time as a female condom.
3. How important is ease of use and convenience?
Some birth control methods are more convenient to use than others. Likewise, some methods are easier to understand. For example, The Patch (which only needs to be changed once a week) is more convenient than a diaphragm (which needs to be with you and inserted before intercourse). On the same note, receiving a Depo-Provera injection every 3 months is easier to figure out than using a Natural Family Planning.
You should honestly evaluate how important these factors are to you and how your birth control method will fit into your lifestyle.
- For more considerations about: Convenience and Ease of Use Factors
4. Do I want to have a biological child in the future?First, you need to decide if you want a permanent or temporary birth control method. Whether or not you wish to conceive any (or more) children can help in this decision. If you are unsure about the future, consider a temporary method. When choosing one, think about how quickly you can become pregnant after stopping a particular method.
Also, keep in mind that you may regret choosing a permanent method if you are young, if you have few or no children, if you are choosing this method because your partner wants you to, you think it will solve money issues, and/or you believe this option will fix relationship problems.
5. How effective do I want my birth control method to be?
Though some birth control methods are more reliable than others, no birth control method is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy except for abstinence. So, choosing effective birth control is important. In general, permanent methods and some hormonal ones tend to be the most reliable.
Effectiveness rates are usually provided as a typical user rate and a perfect use rate. Normally, methods that require less for you to do tend to have lower failure rates. Carefully consider how effective you want your birth control method to be and at what rate you will feel most comfortable.
- To help you better understand: How to consider birth control effectiveness.
6. How would an unplanned pregnancy affect my life?
Your answer to this question can also help to point you in the right direction when choosing birth control methods.
It is recommended that you choose a highly effective birth control method:
- If you would perceive an unplanned pregnancy as a potentially devastating event
- If an unintended pregnancy would seriously impact your plans for the future
7. Do I have health factors that may limit my choice of contraceptive?
If you have certain health problems or other risk factors, some birth control methods may not be the safest option for you. Though there could be health issues that might prevent you from using a certain method, these are usually rare.
To be safe, before beginning any contraceptive, always talk with your doctor first.
Another health factor to consider is whether or not you currently have or potentially could have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. These situations could also help determine the safest option for you to choose.
- Learn more about: Potential health factors and how STD's may factor info your decision.
8. What are my religious and moral values?
If you are morally (ie., vegans may not feel comfortable using vegan condoms), spiritually or religiously opposed to using certain birth control metods, there are natural family planning methods that can be used successfully - given that both partners are motivated with this choice. Couples report that these methods can be a truly rewarding experience once you figure out the technique that best suits you and become accustomed to it. These methods usually receive less attention, but do not rule them out until you have done some research.
Though considered a Natural Method, please note that Withdrawal is not an effective birth control choice.
- Resource: To help encourage Natural Methods
9. How much will the birth control method cost?
Various costs are associated with each type of contraceptive. When choosing birth control methods, keep in mind the following costs (in addition to the actual contraceptive):
- Prescription methods require routine check-ups
- The insertion and removal of devices (like ParaGard IUD and Implanon)
- Treatment for possible complications
- The cost of emergency contraception (if your method fails you)
10. Am I looking for a contraceptive that offers additional benefits?
Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies. The medical risks of pregnancy/delivery are much higher than the risks of using any contraceptive.
Some birth control methods provide health benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy. Examples include:
- The Pill: it can reduce the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers, may improve acne, and can lessen premenstrual symptoms
- Latex Condoms: these can protect against STD's and HIV
- Progestin-Only Methods: options like Mirena IUD, Depo Provera Injection, and Progestin-Only Pills (The Mini Pill) can relieve cramping and menstrual bleeding. Periods may be less frequent or stop altogether, which lowers the risk for anemia.