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Birth Control - Choosing a Birth Control Method

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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.

Thinking about the pros and cons of hormonal birth control methods may help you choose the one that is best for you.

After you have looked at the facts about the different methods and thought about your own values and needs, you can choose the method that will work best for you. Using condoms with any method may increase its reliability and helps to protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. Personal stories may help you decide.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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