Things to Stop Doing if You Want Effective Birth Control

What Makes Birth Control Less Effective?

Want Your Birth Control to Work?

It goes without saying that, if you have sex, there is always the chance that you will become pregnant. No birth control method is fool-proof -- so contraception failure can occur. But effective birth control does exist! So what makes birth control less effective? Your behavior. The following are 10 things you should stop doing if you want more effective birth control:


Effective Birth Control
Women - Carry Condoms. John Slater Collection/Getty Images

Yes, ladies, it is time that you step up to the plate when it comes to condom use. It seems like many men just expect that you are on the pill, so they don’t bring condoms or offer to use them. Even if you are using a hormonal method, these don’t protect against STDs -- so unless you know and trust your partner’s sexual history, you should be demanding that your man use condoms. Don't worry what "image" you are giving off if you carry condoms. At the end of the day... would you rather have a questionable image or an unplanned pregnancy?

So you find yourself caught up in the "heat of the moment" -- what happens if you ask your guy to put on a condom, and he says he doesn’t have one? Don't expect that your man will have a condom. Let’s face it, men offer all kinds of excuses not to use condoms (and not having one usually falls on this list). Want effective birth control -- empower yourself and be prepared:



effective birth control
Do You Believe in Birth Control Myths?. 4FR/Getty Images

One of the greatest hurdles against finding effective birth control is misinformation. The more educated you become about birth control, the better contraceptive choices you will make. By believing in certain myths, you may not actually understand how a method actually works. Be wary of certain websites that may be run by crisis pregnancy centers because these sites may try to mislead you into believing that certain birth control methods may be ineffective or harmful. Falling for certain birth control myths may also negatively affect your choice to use an effective birth control method. Don't choose to use a less effective birth control method simply because of not knowing the truth.

Do You Hold Misconceptions? Consider the following statements -- true or untrue?

How did you do? Can you see how having the wrong information about birth control could negatively influence which methods you are willing to try?



effective birth control
Talk to Your Partner. Paper Boat Creative/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Have you been afraid to bring up the topic of contraception with your partner? Do you think that your partner will question your devotion if you ask him to use contraception? Hey, if you are trusting enough to have sex with this person, you should be able to have discussions about what you’re going to do to avoid getting pregnant. Did you know that if you are in a serious relationship, you will be more likely to correctly and reliably use contraception if you have talked about it? Even married couples need to have these conversations.

Are you done having children? Then it’s time to discuss your feelings about seeking a permanent method. Do you want to have your tubes tied but are unsure? Discussing your thoughts about permanent birth control can help you in your decision-making process. Maybe you are afraid of asking your partner to get a vasectomy? Or maybe he's afraid to get one because of misleading information that he's heard. Maybe you only feel comfortable using natural family planning -- but you're not sure how your partner may react.

To have effective birth control, not only do you need to have these discussions --  but you need to have them ahead of time... before you have sex. If not, you may find yourself in the “heat of the moment” without a birth control plan. This may increase your chances of getting pregnant.



Effective Birth Control Methods
Birth Control Methods. Peter Dazele/Getty Images

Now, more than ever, there are so many effective birth control options available. Birth control has come a long way since the FDA approval of the pill in 1960. Women have more choices than ever -- beyond needing to take a pill each day or insert a diaphragm before having sex. Hormonal methods like NuvaRing and the Patch allow women the same effectiveness as the pill without the need to swallow pills. Femcon Fe is actually a chewable birth control pill. Plus, many women are thrilled that the Today Sponge is back on store shelves.

With so many available options, it is important that you do your research before you choose a method -- make an educated decision. This may require that you learn how to interpret birth control failure rates. Before choosing a birth control method, make sure to ask about side effects. You'll be more likely to continue using a birth control method  if you know about the side effects ahead of time. 

Know what else makes birth control less effective? Not knowing how to properly use it. For example, would you know what to do if:

You also need to know what can lower the effectiveness of your birth control, like medications or weight, or not properly storing it. Plan ahead when you are traveling. See, if you want effective birth control, it's time you recognize all of your contraceptive options and understand how to use them.



effective birth control
Don't Buy the Wrong Condoms. Photo Courtesy of R. Kaser

Latex condoms are the most popular and are can protect you against STDs. But did you know that polyurethane and polyisoprene (non-latex) condoms can do this as well? Natural lambskin condoms may help prevent babies, but their small pores don’t protect you from STDs. Over the years, condom styles have grown to include textured, flavored and colored condoms. But to make sure the condom you choose is an effective birth control method, you have to read the package to make sure that it is FDA-approved as contraception (and is not just a novelty item).

Using the wrong condom size makes birth control less effective. The wrong sized condom can break or fall off. Condom sizes also affect your comfort and fit, so it is important that you buy the right condom. To help you from buying the wrong condoms:



effective birth control
Abstinence. Photo Courtesy of L. Byrne

Abstinence is the ONLY birth control method that is 100% effective. You may want to be abstinent because of religious or moral reasons -- that's totally okay. Or maybe you just don't want to deal with the emotional side of having sex, or are just waiting until the day that you say "I Do."

Whatever your reason, practicing abstinence will basically guarantee that you will not become pregnant. So, this means that abstinence wins the award for most effective birth control. This is a personal decision -- one that you are in complete control of. If you decide that this is the route you feel the most comfortable taking, make sure to safeguard yourself against some of these predictable pitfalls. So, if not having sex is going to be the way to go, try your best to stick to your decision.



For some reason, it appears that women are reluctant to change birth control methods -- even if they are not happy with their current option. Do you fall under this scenario? Maybe it's because you're not sure  how to talk to your doctor about contraception. Some women may want to use the pill but will settle for a less effective birth control method because the pill isn’t sold over the counter. But if you want effective birth control, you need to feel satisfied with the contraceptive option you are using. It is important that you are comfortable with your birth control’s ease of use, cost, and that it fits into your lifestyle.

If you are not happy with your birth control method, you may be less likely to use it consistently -- this makes birth control less effective. You don’t need to settle for a birth control method you don’t feel is right for you, yet 21% of women do. Ask yourself -- how well is your birth control fitting your needs?

If you find yourself thinking that it may be time for a change, follow your instincts. Stop putting off this discussion with your doctor and start researching available effective birth control methods. Ask your friends if they are satisfied with their methods and listen to what other women have to say.

You owe it to yourself to use an effective birth control method that you feel happy and comfortable using.



effective birth control
Progestin-Only Methods. © Dawn Stacey

Okay, I understand that there are some women who can't use birth control that contains estrogen. Even though the risk is relatively low, research does show that hormonal birth control may increase your chances of having VTE/blood clots or other types of cardiovascular problems. The good news is that there are effective birth control methods that only contain progestin. Progestin-only options can be good and effective birth control alternatives. Effective progestin-only birth control methods include:

Also, ParaGard is super-effective birth control that is completely hormone-free!

Progestin-only birth control options (as well as ParaGard) can be effectively and safely used by:

  • Teenagers (though Depo-Provera is not recommended for teens due to its black box warning about possible bone loss).
  • Mothers who have been breastfeeding for at least 1 month.
  • Non-breastfeeding women who have just given birth.
  • Nulliparous women (those who have never given birth).
  • Obese women.
  • Women of all ages (even over 35).
  • Women who smoke (regardless of how often).

Given all the progestin-only hormonal options available, don’t allow your inability to use estrogen-based contraception get in the way of your quest for effective birth control.



effective birth control
Morning-After Pill vs Abortion Pill. © Dawn Stacey

There is a major debate about emergency contraception (EC) that stems from people’s mistaken beliefs that EC terminates a pregnancy. If you think that EC causes an abortion, you may be less likely to use it after contraceptive failure or unprotected sex. This can put you at a much higher risk to become pregnant. The morning-after pill is not the same thing as the abortion pill. If you use it and are pregnant, it will not hurt your existing pregnancy. EC is meant to PREVENT a pregnancy, not to terminate one. 

It is important that you recognize that EC and abortion are not the same things. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it's too late to do anything about your situation. Emergency contraceptives like Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Take Action, My Way, and AfterPill can be taken right way and can also be used within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. And the morning-after pill can be bought OTC, for those of any age. 

Emergency contraception can be an effective birth control method -- after the fact. It is most effective the sooner you take it, so don’t rationalize that you don’t need it or believe in the myth that it will harm an existing pregnancy.



Don't Think It Can't Happen to You. Photo Peter Glass/Getty Images

No birth control method (besides abstinence) is 100% effective. This means that, if you're having sex, there is the possibility that you will get pregnant. This chance increases if you are having sex without using contraception. Half of all pregnancies in the US are not planned. About 50% of the women who have these unintended pregnancies were actually using birth control during the month that they got pregnant. This tells us that allowing yourself to think that unplanned pregnancy happens to “other people” can be a risky way to think about the use of birth control.

A sign that you may be pregnant is a late period. Your period is considered late if it has been more than 5 days from when you would normally expect to have it. Though this can be a stressful situation to be facing, before you allow your emotions to get the best of you, try using a home pregnancy test to confirm if you are, in fact, pregnant.

For more effective birth control, you can’t allow yourself to become careless with your chosen method. Birth control that involves less for you to do tends to be more effective. But for the greatest chance against becoming pregnant, you must use contraception every time you have sex, and you have to be using it correctly


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