With so many birth control options available, choosing one may be confusing.
Finding the best method for you involves balancing your lifestyle and priorities.
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How much do you know about birth control options? Take the quiz or keep reading for additional insight on choosing the right birth control for you.
5 things to consider when choosing birth control
1. Convenience and effectiveness
“Think about your lifestyle,” said Heather Sommers, a Marshfield Clinic OB-GYN physician assistant. “Some women can remember to take a pill at the same time every day, but if you don’t have a regular schedule, your timing can get thrown off or you could forget.”
Other birth control options include:
- Natural family planning, which requires a woman to track fertility information and refrain from sex at certain times in her cycle.
- Barrier methods, including cervical caps, condoms, diaphragms, spermicides and sponges, which a couple must use every time they have sex.
- Weekly birth control patch.
- Vaginal ring, which the user replaces every three weeks.
- Depo-Provera, a shot given every three months.
- Nexplanon, a device placed in the arm every three years.
- Intrauterine device (IUD) placed in the uterus every three, five or 10 years depending on the type you choose.
Convenience goes hand-in-hand with effectiveness because “birth control methods that take away human error are more effective,” Sommers said.
Birth control that must be taken or changed regularly and barrier methods are less effective if not used properly. Natural family planning requires daily effort and may not be very effective, especially for women with irregular menstrual cycles.
About 18 percent of women who rely on condoms and 25 percent of women who use natural family planning become pregnant within a year, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
IUDs and Nexplanon are very effective because patients don’t have to do anything for years after the device is placed.
2. Fertility plans
Consider how long you want to prevent pregnancy.
Birth control pills, patches, rings and barrier method contraception can be stopped at any time.
Long-acting reversible contraception prevents pregnancy for an extended time period.
A Depo-Provera shot is effective for three months, but it can take a year for your menstrual cycle to become regular after stopping. It may not be the best option if you want to return to fertility quickly, Sommers said.
Nexplanon prevents pregnancy up to three years and IUDs for three, five or 10 years.
Vasectomy for men and tubal sterilization for women are permanent birth control options if you’re sure you don’t want to have children in the future.
3. Side effects
Consider the positive and negative side effects of some birth control methods.
The hormones estrogen and progestin in birth control pills, patches and rings regulate your menstrual cycle and may make periods shorter and lighter. Avoid birth control with estrogen if you have blood clots, high blood pressure, migraines or family history of breast cancer.
Progestin-only methods (Depo-Provera, Nexplanon and Mirena and Skyla IUDs) often make periods shorter, lighter or non-existent. Don’t plan on using Depo-Provera more than two years, because it’s known to decrease bone mass, Sommers said.
Health insurance offered by most employers, private insurers and the Health Insurance Marketplace covers FDA-approved birth control with no copay. Your insurance may not cover birth control if you work for a religious employer or a non-profit religious organization.
Generic birth control pills are typically inexpensive if you’re paying out-of-pocket. Implantable birth control has a higher up-front cost, but you won’t have to pay for it each month.
5. Sexually-transmitted infection protection
Most birth control doesn’t protect you from sexually-transmitted infections (STIs). If you may be exposed to STIs, use condoms every time you have sex, Sommers said.