Questions to Consider When Choosing Birth Control

Deciding Upon Effective Birth Control

Having sex is about making choices. We choose our partners, when we're ready to have sex, when to wait, and what we feel comfortable doing.

Finally, we can choose to have sex in the safest way.

Which Birth Control Method Is Right for You?

Not getting pregnant requires you to weigh the pros and cons of all birth control methods and to choose an effective birth control that you find comfortable, can use correctly and will use consistently each time you have sex.

With so many options, choosing birth control methods may be hard. Here are the top questions to ask yourself when making this decision.

1
How Important Is Ease of Use and Convenience?

Contraceptive patch
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Some birth control methods are more convenient to use than others. Likewise, some methods are also easier to understand.

For example, The Patch (which only needs to be changed once a week) is more convenient than a diaphragm (which needs to be with you and inserted before sex).

On the same note, receiving a Depo-Provera injection every three months is easier to figure out than using a natural family planning method like Standard Days or the Billings Method.

You should honestly evaluate how important these factors are to you and how your birth control method will fit into your lifestyle.

2
How Comfortable Would I Be Using a Particular Birth Control Method?

Vaginal ring, intra-uterine device, contraceptive implant and pills
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Consider your comfort level when choosing a birth control method. If you are not at ease with an option or might not consistently use it (for any reason), that method is unlikely to be reliable for you in the long run.

  • Decide whether or not a particular method may cause irritation or discomfort for you or your partner.
     
  • Consider how comfortable you are with touching your body. For women, some methods like a diaphragm or NuvaRing require inserting them into your vagina and taking them out. For men, using a condom requires rolling it onto your penis.

It's important to be honest about your feelings regarding these issues.

3
Will the Contraceptive Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Couple with a condom
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Condoms (both male and female) are the only birth control method that reduces your risk of catching sexually transmitted infections as well as HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

Remember that, unless you know for sure that your partner has no other sex partners and is free of sexually transmitted diseases, you are at risk of catching an infection.

To protect yourself, use a condom in addition to any other birth control method if you fall under this risk category.

Keep in mind that a male condom should NEVER be used at the same time as a female condom. Read more about whether two condoms provide better pregnancy protection than just using one.

4
Do I Want to Have a Biological Child in the Future?

Woman taking contraceptive pill
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First, you need to decide if you want a permanent or temporary birth control method. Whether or not you wish to conceive any (or more) children can help in this decision.

If you are unsure about the future, consider a temporary method. When choosing one, think about how quickly you can become pregnant after stopping a particular method.

Also, keep in mind that you may regret choosing a permanent method if you are young, if you have few or no children, if you are choosing this method because your partner wants you to, if you think it will solve money issues, and/or if you believe this option will fix relationship problems.

5
How Effective Do I Want My Birth Control Method to Be?

Teenage girl discussing birth control pills with gynecologist
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Although some birth control methods are more reliable than others, no birth control method is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy except for abstinence.

So, choosing effective birth control is important. In general, permanent methods and some hormonal ones tend to be the most reliable.

Effectiveness rates are usually provided as a typical use rate and a perfect use rate. Normally, methods that require less for you to do tend to have lower failure rates.

Carefully consider how effective you want your birth control method to be and at what rate you will feel most comfortable.

6
How Would an Unplanned Pregnancy Affect My Life?

Woman holding home pregnancy test and looking worried
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Your answer to this question also can help to point you in the right direction when choosing birth control methods.

It is recommended that you choose a highly effective birth control method:

  • If you would perceive an unplanned pregnancy as a potentially devastating event
     
  • If an unintended pregnancy would seriously impact your plans for the future

You might feel comfortable using less reliable birth control methods if you are in a stable relationship, have a reliable source of income, and/or are planning to have children in the future (but would embrace a pregnancy should it happen now).

7
Do I Have Health Factors That Might Limit My Choice of Contraceptive?

Teenage girl discussing birth control pills with gynecologist
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If you have certain health problems or other risk factors, some birth control methods might not be the safest option for you. Although there could be health issues that might prevent you from using a certain method, these are usually rare.

To be safe, before beginning any contraceptive, always talk with your doctor first.

Another health factor to consider is whether or not you currently have or potentially could have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. These situations also could help determine the safest option for you to choose. Learn more about potential health factors and how STDs might factor into your decision.

8
What Are My Religious and Moral Values?

Black doctor examining pregnant patient's belly
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If you are morally (i.e., vegans might not feel comfortable using condoms), spiritually or religiously opposed to using certain birth control methods, there are natural family planning methods that can be used successfully, given that both partners are motivated with this choice. 

Couples report that these methods can be a truly rewarding experience once you figure out the technique that best suits you and become accustomed to it. These methods usually receive less attention, but do not rule them out until you have done some research.

Although considered a natural method, please note that withdrawal is not an effective birth control choice.

9
How Much Will the Birth Control Method Cost?

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Various costs are associated with each type of contraceptive. When choosing birth control methods, keep in mind the following costs (in addition to the actual contraceptive):

It is helpful to consider the possibility that some of the higher, one-time costs of certain methods may, over time, be less than the continued costs of buying pills, patches, or condoms. Here is more about additional cost considerations that are often overlooked.

10
Am I Looking for a Contraceptive That Offers Additional Benefits?

IUD
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Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies. The medical risks of pregnancy/delivery are much higher than the risks of using any contraceptive.

Some birth control methods provide health benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy. Examples include:

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