What Birth Control is Right for You?

Featured Article, Reproductive Health, Women's Health
on May 1, 2013
woman wearing underwear sitting on a bed holding a strip of the contraceptive pill

Birth control is only useful if it works for you. It doesn’t matter if your sister loves the convenience of her IUD, or your best friend swears the pill she takes keeps her complexion clear. What’s important is what your personality and lifestyle demands.

With so many new options on the market, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine and a spokeswoman for First Response, stresses that you should talk to your health care provider if you need some helping making the best choice.

“I want something that is going to work for folks,” she says. “Don’t be shy. If you’re somebody who forgets stuff, tell your health care provider.”

In the meantime, here are some birth control methods to consider if …

You have an erratic schedule.

Perhaps you fly back and forth across the country so often that “jet lag” should be your middle name. Or maybe you do shift work at a hospital or swing shifts at a manufacturing plant. If you don’t have a regular schedule, the very popular pill, which is most effective when taken at the same time every day, might not be the best choice for you. Consider an option that you never have to think about—or at least not very often, like an IUD or an implant. The IUD is a good option, regardless, even for young women, says Dr. Ingrid Rodi, a reproductive endocrinologist with the Fertility Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “Even someone who’s pretty good at taking medication may not be 100 percent good at taking medication,” she says.

You’re undecided about having children (or more children).

Think reversible. The IUD has a high success rate, but you can easily have it removed by your doctor or nurse practitioner if you decide you want to try to get pregnant. And you can get one regardless of your age or whether you’ve had children or not. Another option is an implant, which can also be easily removed if you decide you’d like to try to get pregnant. 

You’re finished having children.

Finito. Done. In this instance, a permanent method may be your best choice, especially if you’re over 40.  (That doesn’t mean temporary methods are unsafe over 40—they just may not be as practical or cost-effective.) You can opt for the traditional sterilization method like a tubal ligation, or you can encourage your partner to get a vasectomy. Or you can go with a method that uses an insert for the fallopian tubes that causes scarring and prevents fertilization; Essure is one brand that’s currently on the market.

RELATED: Is It Time To Dump Your Birth Control?

But if you’re happy taking the pill and don’t experience any side effects, don’t feel like you should discontinue taking it. “That doesn’t make sense,” says Camilla Bicknell, a woman’s health nurse practitioner and co-author of The Pregnancy Power Workbook. That is, unless you are over 35 and smoke or have other certain health problems, such as a history of blood clots.

You’re not in a monogamous relationship.  

To reduce your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, you need to use a condom. However, don’t just pick up a package of condoms and think you’re all set. Condoms themselves have a contraceptive failure rate of 18 percent with typical use, according to research from the Guttmacher Institute. (Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re a “perfect” rather than “typical” user, even if you’ve used them for years—almost no one is perfect every time.)

“You can’t just use condoms,” Rodi cautions. “You have to use condoms plus something else.” Choose a second method that works for you, your body and your bank account.