How to Choose the Right Birth Control

Half of all girls are sexually active by the age of 17 and menopause doesn't typically take place until a woman reaches 50, so there are a lot of years during a woman's life when birth control may be needed, according to the Associated Press. Yet choosing the right contraceptive can lead to confusion and uncertainty.

"We now have a whole generation of young adults, the vast majority of whom are sexually active, who are in a fog about modern contraception," notes Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, according to the Associated Press. "They don't know enough to make a reasonable choice."

If you're confused by the daunting array of contraceptives available, keep in mind:

1. Share your concerns over birth control with your health care provider, says Kathleen Morrell, MD, a fellow in family planning at Columbia University in New York City. Be sure to tell your doctor about any current health issues, and any problems you've experienced from contraceptives you've used previously. "I ask women what they've used in the past and what they realistically think they can handle," Morrell explains. "I make sure they understand what the common side effects of a particular method are."

2. Consider your lifestyle. Some women may not want the hassle of remembering to take a pill every day, Morrell says. "Establishing a daily routine to take a pill can be difficult for a younger woman who has a less routine life," she explains.

3. Talk with your partner about what method is best for you, says Mimi Secor, FNP, who specializes in women's health at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). "Your partner needs information, too, and should be involved," she says. And, Secor adds, bear in mind that if you are at risk for an unplanned pregnancy, you could also be at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Discuss this possibility with your health care provider and seek help in choosing the right contraceptive.

4. Learn all you can about the different kinds of contraceptives before you make a choice. You may find that one of the methods you've not have heard of, such as Implanon, a tiny hormone-emitting rod that gets implanted in your arm, is right for you. Implanon acts to prevent pregnancy for three years and is reversible when it's removed. While one of these long-acting contraceptives could be right for you, only some 5.6 percent of American women use these.

5. Recognize that the contraceptive that's the right fit for you today may not be what you want in 10 years. The leading form of birth control in the U.S. today is sterilization (meaning a vasectomy for men and a tube-tying for women), according to the Associated Press. But this method obviously is not the best choice for individuals who haven't completed their family. Among the forms of reversible contraception, the birth control pill is highly effective (provided you don't skip a dose). In addition to being an effective contraceptive, birth control pills also may lower the risk of ovarian cancer when taken long-term.


Neergaard, Lauran. "Birth control choices confuse many young adults." 12 December 2011. Associated Press.