With so many birth control options available, choosing one may be confusing. Heather Sommers, an OB-GYN physician assistant with Marshfield Clinic Health System, says finding the best method for you involves balancing your lifestyle and priorities.
A few most common options for contraceptives include the pill, the IUD, the implant, the patch, the ring, the shot, natural family planning and condoms. An infographic below explains details of each birth control method to see if it would fit with your needs.
Other options include natural family planning, spermicides and permanent sterilization.
What to consider when choosing birth control?
Sommers shares five important details to consider when you are choosing a contraceptive method for you. She explains it is important to discuss each option with your OB-GYN provider to identify the risks and benefits of each method.
Other details to consider:
1. Convenience and effectiveness
“Think about your lifestyle,” Sommers said. “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.”
Convenience goes hand-in-hand with effectiveness because “birth control methods that take away human error are more effective,” Sommers said.
Contraception methods 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% of women who rely on condoms and 24% of women who use natural family planning become pregnant within a year, according to National Library of Medicine article.
IUDs and Nexplanon (Implant) are very effective because patients don’t have to do anything for years after the device is placed. According to American Academy of Pediatrics, the copper IUD is up to 99% effective and the levonorgestrel IUD is more than 99% effective for preventing pregnancy. Contraceptive implant is early 100% effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use.
2. Fertility plans
Sommers recommends considering how long you want to prevent pregnancy when deciding on a contraceptive method. 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. Some examples include:
- 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
It’s important to consider the positive and negative side effects of some methods.
The hormones estrogen and progestin in birth control pills, patches and rings regulate your menstrual cycle and may make periods shorter and lighter. Sommers recommends that you avoid birth control with estrogen if you have a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, migraines or family history of breast cancer.
Progestin-only methods (Depo-Provera, Nexplanon and Progestin-containing IUDs) often make periods shorter, lighter or non-existent.
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.
“Women have options to find a birth control method that works for them and is affordable,” she said. “There are many resources available to help cover costs, as needed.”
5. Sexually-transmitted infection protection
Condoms are the most effective way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Sommers said it is also important to be screened for infections on a yearly basis or if you are changing partners. Some forms of contraception, such as the IUD’s, can lead to serious complications if infections are not treated promptly.