Which Birth Control Method is the Best Choice for me?
Your age and where you are in your sexual life can be a big factor in your decision. Someone in a long-term monogamous relationship might prefer different methods than someone in a new relationship or someone who has multiple sexual partners. Some contraception choices usually aren’t great ideas for teenagers for example. You might want to have kids later in life, so surgeries like vasectomy or tubal ligation (getting your tubes “tied”) are probably out.
You might also want to think about doubling-up protection during sex, so you’re protected from pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections. If you’re having sex without a condom, you’re putting yourself at risk of disease. Condoms by themselves can prevent pregnancy too, but aren’t as effective.
Talk to your health-care professional about your choices, and discuss contraception with your partner before making a decision.
The most effective methods
Hormonal methods are the most effective, and if you are a healthy woman, the Pill, the Patch or the Vaginal Ring are great choices, since they can be used long-term.
If you are interested in having fewer periods each year
Certain hormonal contraceptives can result in fewer and lighter periods each year. Contraceptives containing the Progestin hormone given by injection (Depo-Provera), or in a Intrauterine system usually results in fewer periods. Also, a woman taking an extended cycle Pill (Seasonale) would expect to have a period only four times a year.
If contraception fails
If your contraception method has failed, consult your health care provider without delay and begin taking emergency contraception. Consider getting a prescription in advance, so that you will have it just in case you ever need it.
If you smoke
If you are over 35 and smoke, you may need to discontinue using birth control pills, except for the progestin-only pill (POP). You may wish to consider using an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD). Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you would like help to quit smoking.
Preventing sexually transmitted infections
The risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is greatly reduced by using dual protection - using a condom with your choice of birth control. Use a condom if you are in a new relationship, until you can both get tested for STIs, or if you are not sure your partner is faithful.
If you have just given birth
If you have just given birth, intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCDs), progestin-only contraceptives (POP) and condoms are good choices because they do not affect the quality or quantity of your breast milk. If you choose to use a diaphragm or cervical cap, these must be re-fitted several months following the birth of your baby, so before this point you should choose an alternative contraceptive method. Remember, there is no grace period after a pregnancy - it is possible to become pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth!
If you want to wait before having another child
If you wish to space out your family, natural methods like withdrawal or fertility awareness, in combination with a secondary contraceptive method such as condoms or a contraceptive sponge may be quite effective. You can also use more effective hormonal methods such as the Pill or the Patch and be guaranteed a quick return to fertility once you decide to have a child.
If you have had an abortion
If you have had an abortion, you may wish to choose a more effective means of birth control. If you wish to have a child at some point in the future, hormonal methods like birth control pills, the contraceptive patch or the new vaginal ring are all good choices. If you prefer a non-hormonal method, intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCDs) also provide long-term pregnancy protection. If you are certain that you will never want to have children in the future, something more permanent like tubal ligation or vasectomy may be the right choice for you or your partner.
If you are approaching menopause
If you are approaching menopause, low-dose oral contraceptives may help you deal with menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. It will also provide contraception in the event that ovulation is still occurring sporadically.