Choosing Birth Control: Six Questions to Ask Yourself
Choosing your method of birth control is not just an issue of sexual health, but of your relationship wellness and emotional wellbeing. There are various options to consider when choosing birth control, which you need to go through with your partner to ensure you make the right choice for you. Therefore, we’ve outlined some important questions you need to ask when considering birth control:
1. What options do I have? Birth control options can be broken down into the following categories:
- Barrier methods, such as male and female condoms, the diaphragm, the cervical cap and the contraceptive sponge.
- Hormonal methods, including birth control pills, the vaginal ring, the contraceptive implant, the contraceptive injection and the contraceptive patch.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs), like the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD.
- Sterilisation, or a vasectomy or getting your tubes tied.
- Natural family planning. This means using rhythm, basal body temperature and cervical mucus methods to prevent pregnancies.
- Emergency contraception, which methods such as the morning-after pill shouldn’t be your first port of call, they can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex.
2. How do the different birth control options work? There are different ways in which birth control options work, and so you need to look into your choice to make sure it prevents pregnancy in a way you are comfortable with. Birth control methods can prevent sperm from reaching your egg, inactivate or damage sperm, prevent an egg from being released each month, alter the lining of your uterus so a fertilized egg doesn’t attach to it, or thicken your cervical mucus so sperm can’t easily pass through it.
3. How effective is your birth control? As with most things in life, it doesn’t matter how top-notch your birth control if you don’t use it in the right way. In order to be effective, any method of contraception must be used consistently and correctly. The methods little effort on your part, including IUDs, contraceptive implants and sterilisation. On the other end of the scale, methods that require monitoring fertility or periodic abstinence are associated with higher pregnancy rates.
4. Is it reversible? Your reproductive goals will obviously have a major part to play in the method of contraception you choose. If you want to become pregnant at some time in the near future, you may want a method that’s easily stopped or quickly reversible, such as an oral contraceptive or a barrier method. Something like an IUD, on the other hand, has a quick return to fertility, but it is expensive if you are going to use it only for a short time period. Obviously, sterilisation is a permanent method, so this may not be something you want unless you’re absolutely sure you don’t ever want to become pregnant.
5. Is it convenient and affordable? Again, convenience is really important when it comes to the effectiveness of the birth control you choose. What do you consider to be “convenient”? Does this mean that it’s easy to use? Or does convenience mean that the method doesn’t disrupt your sexual experience? Maybe you’re more concerned about the inconvenience of dealing with bothersome side effects or getting a prescription filled. Whatever convenience means to you, it’s important to choose a type of birth control that suits your lifestyle.
6. What are the side effects? While barrier methods and natural family planning tend to come few, if any, side effects, some birth control methods, particularly those that contain oestrogen or progesterone, pose some potentially serious risks. Talk to your GP about your medical history and how it might affect your choice of birth control.