Choosing the right birth control

Posted by Cara Syth, M.D.
April 30, 2015

Women talking

There are many safe and effective birth control options; however, choosing the right one can be confusing. There are several factors to consider when choosing a birth control option, such as your desire for future pregnancy, hopes for the type of bleeding you might have and some health considerations. You and your partner becoming familiarized with the many options can help you choose the right method.

Do you prefer to have a regular, predictable cycle?

A hormonal option, such as an estrogen/progesterone combination, might be a good choice for you. With this type, you will still have predictable bleeding. The downfall of this type is that you have to remember to use it daily, weekly or monthly. This can be difficult and puts you at an increased risk for pregnancy.

  • Oral contraceptive pill (use daily)
  • Contraceptive patch (use weekly)
  • Vaginal ring (use monthly)

If you are starting with regular cycles and prefer a reliable form of birth control, you also may want to consider the copper IUD (see below).

Do you prefer no bleeding at all?

A progesterone-only product may be best for you. With this type, you may not have any bleeding or you may have light bleeding. This often is used for women who need effective birth control and have difficulties with heavy periods. The downfall is that the bleeding can be unpredictable.

  • Contraceptive injection (injection every three months)
  • Contraceptive implant (rod placed into arm, effective for three years)
  • Hormonal  IUD (T-shaped device placed into uterus, effective for three or five years)

Is your main goal is to prevent pregnancy long-term?

Long-acting reversible contraception (or LARC) may be best for you. LARC methods are some of the most highly effective forms of birth control and are effective for three to 10 years. In fact, LARC methods are as effective as permanent options. However, they are all reversible; therefore, you still can have children in the future.

  • Contraceptive implant (effective for three years)
  • Hormonal IUD (effective for three to five years)
  • Copper IUD (effective for 10 years)

Are you done having children or do not desire to have any?

Permanent birth control may be best for you. This option is permanent; therefore, you should not choose this option if there is any chance you may want children in the future.

  • Essure (female sterilization) is done as an outpatient office procedure and does not require any incisions.
  • Tubal ligation (female sterilization) is done in the operating room and requires abdominal incisions.
  • Vasectomy (male sterilization) is done as an outpatient office procedure.

Consult with your health care provider about your medical history and how it might affect your choice of birth control.

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