Choosing a birth control option that's right for you
What is birth control? — Birth control is a term used to describe ways to prevent pregnancy. Another word for birth control is “contraception.”
Different types of birth control include medicines, devices, and procedures. Some types of birth control are used by women, and others are used by men. Some types need to be used every time a person has sex. Other types can prevent pregnancy for long periods of time. Some types need a doctor’s prescription, and others do not.
Which type of birth control should I choose? — Choosing birth control can be tough, because no birth control is perfect. Your doctor or nurse can help you choose the type that is right for you. To help you make a decision, think about:
●How well it prevents pregnancy – No birth control works 100 percent perfectly all the time, but some prevent pregnancy better than others.
●How often you have to use it – For example, women who use birth control pills must take them every day.
●How easy it is to use
●Its side effects or downsides
●If you want to get pregnant in the future – Some types of birth control are permanent, meaning they prevent you from ever getting pregnant. Other types of birth control prevent pregnancy only for a limited amount of time. After that time, you can still get pregnant.
●Whether it protects you from infection – Only male and female condoms can reduce your chance of getting certain infections called “STDs” (or sexually transmitted diseases).
What are the different types of birth control and how do they work? — Different types of birth control prevent pregnancy in different ways and have different levels of effectiveness.
●Intrauterine devices (IUD) - Click here to read more about IUDs
●Long-acting methods of birth control - Click here to read more about long-acting methods of birth control
●Emergency contraception - Click here to learn more about emergency contraception
●Sterilization for women - Click here to learn more about sterilization
●Vasectomy - Click here to learn more about vasectomy
What about natural forms of birth control? — There are a few forms of “natural” birth control, which require no medicines or devices. But they are not as effective as the other forms of birth control. Natural birth control methods include:
●Withdrawal – This is when the man pulls out before he ejaculates.
●Fertility awareness – This is when the woman keeps track of her menstrual cycle so she can predict when she is most likely to get pregnant. Then, she avoids sex during that time, or uses some form of birth control then, such as a condom.
●Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding can decrease a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Some women use it as a form of birth control for the first few weeks after a baby is born. But for it to work, breast milk should be the baby’s only food. If you decide to try this method, discuss it with your doctor or nurse.
What if I have problems with my birth control? — Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any side effects or problems with your birth control. Sometimes, side effects will go away after a few months. If they don’t, you might need to work with your doctor or nurse to find a different type of birth control.
Content adapted from UpToDate Patient Information.