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Birth Control - Choosing a Birth Control Method

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How can I prevent sexually transmitted infections?

Unless you know that your partner has no other sex partners and is free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you are at risk for STI infection. If you are at risk, protect yourself from infection every time you have sex. Use a condom in addition to any other birth control method you choose.

You can choose between a male or female condom to reduce your risk for HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and other infections.

What health factors could limit my choice of birth control?

If you have health problems or other risk factors, some birth control methods may not be right for you.

  • Smoking. If you smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day and are 35 or older or have high blood pressure, a history of stroke, a history of blood clots, liver disease, or heart disease, you may not be able to use combined hormonal methods.
  • Migraines. If you have migraine headaches, talk to your health professional about whether you can try combined hormonal contraception.
  • Diabetes. If you have advanced or long-standing diabetes, discuss the risks of taking hormonal birth control methods with your health professional.
  • Breast-feeding. If you are breast-feeding, the estrogen in combined hormonal birth control can lower your milk supply. Progestin-only pills, an implant, both kinds of IUDs, or birth control shots do not affect your milk supply and are a good option for breast-feeding women.

Other health problems that might keep you from using a particular birth control method are relatively rare, especially in young women. But before using any method, talk with your health professional to see if it is safe for you.

What are some other considerations in choosing a birth control method?

Other things to consider when choosing a method of birth control include:

  • Health benefits, such as decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections with condoms and reduced risk of ovarian cancer and uterine cancer with use of birth control pills for one year or longer.
  • Convenience and ease of use. Birth control forms such as patches, shots, implants, IUDs, and vaginal rings are convenient for women who have trouble remembering to take a daily pill or couples who know they won't use a barrier method every time they have sex.
  • Cost. Over time, the higher one-time cost of IUD insertion or sterilization surgery may be less than the continued costs of buying pills or condoms and spermicide.
  • If you are planning to become pregnant in the future. It is best to have a full menstrual cycle before you try to conceive. The amount of time it takes for a woman's full fertility to return after stopping birth control varies for each woman and depends on the birth control method she is using.
  • Risks and side effects of the method. Some birth control methods may have a greater risk of causing certain health problems. And some methods cause more side effects than others. For example, hormonal birth control usually has more risks and side effects than barrier methods. Talk to your doctor about the risks and side effects.
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