Recommendation # 1. Consider your priorities.
There are many factors to consider. I’ve listed some of the most important ones below. Think about all of them before deciding. No method of birth control is perfect. Which issues are most important to you? Ask yourself these questions:
Do I want kids someday?
Should I choose a permanent or a temporary method? Am I sure about my decision to have or not have children?
Impact of a pregnancy
How would an unplanned pregnancy affect my life? Could I handle having a baby or an abortion?
How effective is this method at preventing pregnancy?
How easy is this method to use?
What can I afford? What does my insurance plan cover?
Do I want to rely on my partner to use the method or do I want to be in control?
Can I buy it at the drug store or do I need to go to a doctor?
What kinds of unwanted side effects might occur? What can I put up with in order to prevent pregnancy? Could there be side effects I would like?
Do I need protection against sexually transmitted infections – what is my risk?
If I use it now, can I get pregnant later? How soon will I be able to get pregnant after I stop using this method?
Effect on my periods
Will it make my period heavier/lighter or more regular or irregular? Might this method cause my periods to stop? Is that good or bad?
Are there physical advantages to some methods, like an effect on my period, acne, menstrual cramps and my risk of getting cancer in the future?
Do I have medical conditions that might affect my choice like breastfeeding, obesity, allergies to latex, blood disorders?
Some people don’t like to use hormones. Some people prefer methods that prevent conception rather than prevent implantation. Some don’t want to remember to take a pill every day. Others don’t like getting shots. What other preferences might you and your partner need to talk about?
Recommendation #2: Choose the most effective method of birth control that you are likely to use successfully.
Stopping a method of contraception because you or your partner don’t like to use it or because of side-effects causes a significant number of unintended pregnancies each year. There are many methods to choose from. Really think about which one fits your personality and your life-style the most. Generally speaking, the methods that need the smallest amount of energy on your part are the ones that people use successfully the longest.
For example, here is a list of some of the birth control methods that are currently available.
The number represents the percentage of women (and men) who started to use this method and continued to use it for at least one year:
Hormonal rod implant: 84% Hormone-containing IUD: 80%
Copper-containing IUD: 78% Hormonal pills, patch, or vaginal ring: 67%
Diaphragm: 57% Depo-Provera Shot: 56%
Fertility Awareness Method: 47% Male condom: 43% Female condom: 41%
As you can see, the methods that couples used for the longest period of time required the least amount of their attention. Keep that in mind when choosing your method.
Recommendation #3. You can always change your birth control method, but try using it for at least three to six months before deciding you don’t like it.
When starting a new method, it may take some time before you are comfortable using it, especially if it is a method that you need to learn how to track, insert, put on, or change periodically. As with all new things, it takes a little time to get used to. If you experience side-effects from your birth control method that are severe or unexpected, call or visit your health care provider for advice. Check out the expected side effects of your new method on-line to see if they are common. Many side-effects go away completely or become less bothersome over time. If, at the end of three to six months, you are still uncomfortable with the symptoms you are experiencing, you can always change your method. It is nice to know there are many options you can choose.
Recommendation #4. Your health care provider is your friend.
Find a clinic, a physician, or a nurse practitioner who you feel comfortable with discussing your birth control needs. Health care providers are highly trained experts who discuss these matters with patients every day. While you may feel a bit awkward discussing personal issues, they will not – that’s their job. Especially if you are having any problems with your birth control method, if you are having trouble paying for your method, or if you have any symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you are experiencing genital burning, irritation, discharge, odor, or pain, contact them quickly to resolve the problem. They are there to help you.
Excerpt from the upcoming book, Women’s Guide to Contraception: Choosing the Birth Control Method that’s Right for You Now.