7 Things to Consider When Choosing Birth Control

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Hedy Marks MPH on November 5, 2020
  • Safe Sex
    Which birth control methods are right for you?
    From condoms to pills to IUDs, you have many choices when it comes to birth control, but not all methods are right for everyone. Before you settle on one form of contraception, weigh all the types of birth control and consider the facts. By asking yourself these questions and talking with your doctor, you can find the option that works best for you.
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    1. How effective is it?
    Some birth control methods work better than others do. In general, birth control that requires the least effort by you is the most effective. Examples include sterilization, IUDs, and implants. Pills, the patch, and condoms can be very effective if used correctly and consistently. The least effective birth control methods require self-control, including withdrawal before ejaculation and fertility monitoring.
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    2. Is it reversible?
    When choosing birth control, consider your long-term reproductive goals. Permanent methods, such as sterilization, are not a good option until you are sure your family is complete. If you want to get pregnant in the near future, consider birth control that is easy to stop and is completely reversible, such as condoms or oral contraceptives. If you will not be ready to have children for a long time, an IUD may be appropriate.
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    3. Are the side effects tolerable?
    Some contraceptives, particularly hormone-based contraceptives, cause side effects. You may have breast tenderness, bleeding between periods, nausea, cramping, weight gain, depression, hair or skin changes, or headaches. Other contraceptives may cause heavy periods. When choosing a birth control method, talk to your provider about possible side effects and consider which ones you can live with.
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    4. Does it fit your personality and lifestyle?
    Birth control must be used exactly as prescribed to be effective. If you are forgetful, birth control that requires remembering to take a pill every day may not be the best choice. If you aren’t sure you will consistently apply a condom before intercourse, consider a method that doesn’t cause an interruption. These methods include the pill, IUD or shot (Depo-Provera). If you smoke, avoid hormone contraceptives because the combination greatly increases your risk of blood clots and heart disease.
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    5. Are you in a monogamous relationship?
    It is important to choose a barrier birth control method that prevents pregnancy and protects you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if you have multiple partners. Consistent and correct use of condoms is the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other STDs. Non-barrier methods like pills, patches, or IUDs are an option if you are in a monogamous relationship with a partner who doesn’t have an STD.
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    6. Do you have health conditions?
    Take good care of yourself. Some hormonal contraceptives are unsafe for women with certain health conditions. If you are older than 35 and smoke, hormone-based birth control can increase your risk of heart disease. You should avoid hormone-containing birth control if you have a history of blood clots or stoke, breast or uterine cancer, active liver disease, or have migraine headaches with aura. Play it safe—tell your healthcare provider about all your health conditions before using prescription birth control methods.
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    7. Can you afford it?
    Birth control expense is a practical matter. Some birth control methods are more expensive than others. Consider how much the birth control costs and choose one you can afford. Keep in mind that some birth control methods cost more initially, but may be more affordable over a long time, such as tubal ligation (sterilization). Also, think about how easy it will be to get your birth control. Many methods require a prescription and regular checkups.
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    Consider your options and talk to your doctor.
    There are many safe and effective birth control choices. Think about your lifestyle, health, short- and long-term reproductive goals, and financial means. Then make an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss your options. Together you can determine the right birth control for you.
7 Factors to Consider When Choosing Birth Control Methods

About The Author

  1. Interactive Tools My Method. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. http://www.arhp.org/Publications-and-Resources/Patient-Resources/Interactive-Tools/my-method. Accessed October 23, 2013.
  2. Birth Control Options. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/sex-birth-control/birth-control/birth-control-options.html. Accessed October 23, 2013.
  3. Your Birth Control Choices. Reproductive Health Access Project. http://www.reproductiveaccess.org/fact_sheets/downloads/contra_choices.pdf. Accessed October 23, 2013.
  4. Birth Control Frequently Asked Questions. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq112.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20131023T1233124704. Accessed October 23, 2013.
  5. Patient Information: Hormonal Methods of Birth Control (Beyond the Basics) UpToDate. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/hormonal-methods-of-birth-control-beyond-the-basics. Accessed October 24, 2013.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.