How To Choose The Right Birth Control
There are many contraceptive options available, and a variety of factors and risks to consider. It's therefore not surprising that making the right decision about birth control can prove to be difficult. The contents of this article are intended for general information only, to help you consider your health and lifestyle needs, so you can make the right decision about the birth control best for you. However, the information provided here cannot replace the expertise that a health care provider offers. Individual circumstances will vary, so if you have further questions, or any concerns (especially about medically based birth control such as The Pill), it is important to talk to your doctor as well.
What to consider
Your answers to certain questions will help you (and a health care professional) rule out certain methods of birth control in order to effectively select the type that will complement your needs and lifestyle in the healthiest and most effective way. The reason why it is important to be both thoughtful and thorough in your consideration is that birth control methods can have both positive and negative side effects. For example, certain options can decrease pain associated with menstruation and limiting the formation of new ovarian cysts, whereas others can trigger such symptoms as irregular bleeding or nausea. Areas to consider include:
Your health - during a consultation with a doctor, it's likely that they'll want to review basic vital statistics such as: whether a patient has given birth, current weight, etc. Vital statistics like these will impact the efficacy of a particular birth control method. Family planners will also consider current medications, previous medical conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease, past sexually transmitted diseases/infections, and any present health concerns like acne or migraines. These factors will all play a part in determining a contraceptive's appropriateness, effectiveness and safety.
Menstruation - What is your Menstrual Cycle like? Do you experience a lot of cramping, a heavy flow, or irregularity? Certain methods of pregnancy protection (e.g. hormone based contraceptives) can alleviate these issues, but it may take some time/trial & error to find the dosage/hormone combination that's right for your body. Also, if you are interested in having a lighter menstrual flow as well, as fewer periods in a given year, there are options available.
Your lifestyle - Could you remember to take a pill once a day? Apply a patch once a week? Change a ring every three weeks? Would you be capable of using a form of birth control exactly as directed in order to maximize its effect? A health practitioner will try to get a sense of your ability to make responsible sexual choices and ascertain whether you understand the issues related to each method of contraception. Be honest about your way of living, especially if keeping track of dates or remembering to take a pill aren't your strong points.
Do you smoke? - Smoking while taking certain forms of birth control can pose a risk to your cardiovascular health, one being an increased risk of blood clots. If you're over thirty five and smoke, a health care professional may recommend a progestin only oral contraceptive or an IUD.
Desire to have children - It is important to think about your desire to have children and when, e.g. one year, five years, etc. since it will have an impact on the appropriateness of a contraceptive. If having children is not in your future, then a more permanent form of pregnancy protection should be discussed.
Unexpected Pregnancy - A particular contraceptive may suit your unique needs best, but it could come at the cost of lower pregnancy protection. Since contraceptive effectiveness varies, consider how you would respond if you got pregnant accidentally and discuss this with your doctor.
Just given birth/breastfeeding - There are only certain methods of Birth Control that are safe to use while a women is breastfeeding and will not affect the quality of her breast milk. Some options include diaphragms, condoms, progestin only contraceptives, and copper IUD's.
Your contraceptive history - What is your previous experience with contraception? Have there been any methods that have failed you before? This will be important in choosing a method that may be more suited to your ability to take it as directed.
Have you ever used a hormone based contraceptive? - Some women do not want to alter the natural balance of hormones in their bodies because of concerns over the possible side effects. Sometimes it's a matter of trial and error to find the right method of hormone for you but, in any case, there are also many non-hormone based options available.
Interrupting Sexual Activity - Would you be comfortable with a contraceptive that required you to delay arousal in order to insert a device, or interrupt sex in order to readjust it?
Receiving injections - Would you be comfortable with administering contraceptives in the form of injections? What if it meant only having to remember to do it a few times a year?
Availability and cost - Think about how much you are willing to spend on contraception - and whether (or not) it is a method that will be paid for, or subsidized, by your health insurance plan.
Preventing STDs/STIs - Many forms of contraception prevent pregnancy, but offer no protection against Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections. In order to reduce your risk, unless you are in a totally trustworthy relationship, always use condoms in conjunction with your primary form of birth control.
As your life moves along and changes, your birth control method might need to change too. Consult your doctor if: your existing method starts causing you problems; you have had any significant life events (e.g. pregnancy, started/ended a relationship); or there are new developments in your health.