Choosing the Best Birth Control

There are more choices for birth control than ever before, but what works for one woman may be all wrong for another. Each method has its own pros and cons, so picking a contraceptive is a very personal decision.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a birth control method:

  • Purpose: Why do you want to use birth control? Having your tubes tied may be the best option if you don't want children in the future, whereas birth control pills make more sense if you're concerned about when you want to have children.
  • Lifestyle: Ask yourself if you can realistically use this method and if it fits in to your habits. For example, are you willing to take a pill every day? Will you stop to get a condom each time you have sex? If the answers are no, consider another option.
  • Age: Though the pill may be an option for healthy, nonsmoking women over 35, smokers see their risk of heart attack and stroke increase dramatically after the age of 35. Women in the same age group who get migraines (with or without an aura) should also avoid the pill because of an increased risk of stroke.
  • Overall health: Your health can impact what birth control options are available to you. For example, birth control pills may be out for women with such conditions as heart disease, breast cancer, blood clots or severe diabetes. Women who have a recent history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) shouldn't use intrauterine devices (IUDs), and those with allergies to latex should stick to polyurethane condoms.
  • Side effects: Ask your health-care professional about any side effects of birth control methods you're considering so you know what to expect.

Other things to keep in mind include how often you have sex, how many sexual partners you have and your comfort level with the method. Remember: Unless you choose sterilization, you always can change the kind of birth control you use after consulting with a health-care professional.

Reviewed by Joanne Poje Tomasulo, M.D., ACOG

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