Birth Control

How to Decide What Kind of Birth Control Is Right for You

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Playtime between the sheets is supposed to be fun and relaxing. The last thing you want on your mind in the moment is whether you’re using the right birth control. Talk about a mood killer!

Still, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) are real concerns. It’s important to take the time to decide which safe-sex method suits you best. Some methods like pills, shots, IUDs, rings, and patches affect your hormones. Others like condoms, sponges, and diaphragms are barriers.

There’s a lot to consider. Do potential side effects concern you? Does your medical history present any problems? Or are you looking for the easiest option available? Before you make your choice, think through the topics below. They can point you in the right direction.

1. Availability

Birth control is only good if you can get your hands on it. If you’re using condoms, all it takes is a quick trip to the drug store. Most hormonal methods require a prescription, however. Fortunately, online birth control options offer prescriptions via licensed medical professionals—and it’s all delivered to your home.

You’ll also need to consider the price tag. Not all birth control options are equally priced. You can walk out of CVS or Walgreens with a 12-pack of condoms for less than $10. However, choosing birth control pills, injections, or rings will set you back between $50-200 every month. The most permanent solution — getting your tubes tied — is the most expensive, topping the list at around $6,000.

2. Efficiency

Yes, when it comes to pregnancy and STI prevention, you know abstinence is the only method that’s 100% foolproof. The good news is that most other birth control options are nearly as effective if you always use them correctly. So take success rates into consideration when you’re making your selection.

Basically, methods you use on a schedule (pills, patches, rings, and shots) are at least 95% effective. Barrier methods can fail up to 20% of the time. Usually that’s due to human error, so be careful with condoms, sponges, and diaphragms. Keep in mind sponges can move and condoms can break. Be sure you’re paying attention when you’re putting these barriers in the right places.

3. Family Planning

Babies are adorable. Their belly laughs, chubby cheeks, and little fingers might make you smile. That doesn’t mean you’re ready to have one now—or that you want one of your own. Deciding on parenthood is absolutely something to think about when you’re pondering birth control options. If you’re in a committed relationship, talk about the differences between short-term and permanent choices.

Birth control pills are a great option if you’re thinking about a baby within a few years. Your fertility bounces back within a few days once you stop taking them. Considering a family 5-10 years out? An IUD (either hormonal or copper) is a good solution. Don’t see high chairs and car seats when you look in your crystal ball? Getting your tubes tied might be your best bet.

4. STI Protection

You’re probably thinking about more than pregnancy prevention, though. Avoiding an STI is likely a big priority, too. If that’s the case, hormonal birth control isn’t going to be enough. You’ll need one of the barrier birth control methods—and you’ll need to use it every time you have sex.

Right now, the male condom is the best option for preventing STIs. They’re 98% effective when you use them correctly. Female condoms (worn inside your body) have nearly the same success rate at 95%. Don’t use them together, though. They can stick together, slip out of place, or—worst of all—break. Take note that while sponges, cervical caps, and diaphragms are barrier methods to pregnancy, they don’t prevent STIs.

5. Medical History

This is where having a conversation with your doctor is important. There might be something in your medical history that means one type of birth control could be dangerous for you. For your own health and safety, that’s something you need to know.

Birth control pills that contain estrogen and progesterone can be the most problematic. If you’ve ever had blood clots or currently smoke, don’t take them. Also avoid them if you’re over 35 or have ever had breast or cervical cancer. Be careful using other medications when you’re on birth control pills, too. Some antibiotics, antifungals, and supplements can make them less effective. Consider using a barrier method if you must take any of these.

6. Side Effects

Side effects are possible with nearly any type of birth control. You need to know what’s possible so you can decide what you can handle. You don’t want a method that could hurt your health or sideline you to the couch for several days.

Hormonal options all have similar side effects. Headaches, irregular periods (how annoying!), weight gain, moodiness, and sore breasts are all possible. Be aware risks exist for more significant health problems like heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. You need to know if you’re likely to be affected, so talk with your doctor before choosing your method.

There’s a lot that goes into figuring out which birth control option best suits your life. Your health, your professional aspirations, your bank account, and your family dreams all factor in. Take a realistic look at your needs and wants. Then be sure to use your chosen method correctly. If you make your choice long before you slip between those sheets, you’ll have a happier, more worry-free sex life.

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