Signs That It's Time To Change Your Birth Control Method

Ah, yes, high school. Most people can recall the times of awkward social statuses, attempts at skipping gym class, and all the fears and anxieties that came with deciding what to do after high school was over. When it comes to high school memories, it's quite difficult not to reminisce on the classes we had to take. Typically, taking a health class is mandatory at some point in our grade school years — whether that be junior high or high school — and as often as high school health classes discuss the reproductive system, you'd think we could recite the line "always use protection" in our sleep. However, while the notion of using protection seems to get hammered into our heads at such an early age, the nitty-gritty details of what "protection" actually includes are rarely discussed.

The truth is that birth control is used for reasons far beyond preventing pregnancy. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly 65% of people with uteruses in the United States are reported to use some form of contraception. With this many people taking pills, using IUDs, practicing intercourse with condoms, or receiving a shot, it's common for some to wonder, "Am I utilizing the right option for myself?"

Unfortunately, just because one method of birth control worked for you for years doesn't mean it always will. Oftentimes, we don't even realize how a small or drastic change in our life can affect how a certain contraceptive may be working for us — or against us. So, when exactly is it time to pay your gynecologist a visit? Let's take a look at some of the top reasons your body may be telling you to switch up your birth control.

You continuously forget to take your pill

The "same time every single day" routine: it's so much easier said than done, right? If you're someone on the pill, the importance of timing is everything. This can be extremely difficult to get down if you're somebody on the move. Let's say you continuously travel for work; you're always in a different time zone or always have meetings to attend first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Taking a pill at the exact same time each day is probably the last thing on your mind. Or, let's be honest here: some of us are plain forgetful.

If you forget to take your pill, within just a few hours of the missed time, the effectiveness begins to wear off (via Planned Parenthood). In fact, you can even still get pregnant while on the pill if you aren't taking your pills on time. Not only that but, as noted by WebMD, you might experience other annoying side effects like nausea, migraines, light bleeding, or kick-starting your period and bringing back menstrual cramps. Many of these things are what those who take the pill are trying to avoid, so if you're constantly forgetting to take it, what's the point?

Luckily, there are options out there for those of us who tend to be busy or forgetful. With an IUD, injection, or contraceptive implant, these types of birth control will do all the work for you. These methods will need replacing or repeating anywhere after a few months to a few years, but saving yourself the stress of remembering to take a pill can be highly worth it in the end.

Financial concerns

If the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't proven that life can change in an instant, we don't know what will. Countless people were left out of work during the lockdown, meaning that, for a lot of folks, their insurance situations changed. In other instances, your new job might not be what you thought it would be or you were laid off. Whatever the reason, all of us may experience issues with our finances along the way. While there are low-cost options for those in need of medical insurance, signing up for these can be time-consuming and confusing and may not include the benefits you're used to.

According to Planned Parenthood, an IUD without insurance can cost anywhere between $500 and $1,300 — a hefty cost for someone out of work. Even if you still do have insurance, one that has a lower premium compared to others you may have used in the past may still end up costing you a good deal in the end. If you're someone that has relied on IUDs in the past, switching to a more inexpensive option — such as the pill — may be a better route for you. Without insurance, you're looking at around $0 to $50 for a supply of pills, depending on your situation (via Planned Parenthood).

The best part about switching to birth control pills in times of hardship is the lack of permanence and commitment that comes with them. You can stop the pills at any time, and when you're ready to switch back over to your preferred method, it will be there waiting for you.

Negative side effects

Birth control involves a lot of medical techniques, but it also involves a lot of science. When inserting hormones inside your body, you're altering its biology, per Healthline. Essentially, the purpose of birth control is to prevent ovulation from happening. Without an egg being released, the likelihood of becoming pregnant is very slim. If you stop and think about it, it makes sense that this type of medicine is bound to come with some side effects.

As reported by Brown University, some of the most common side effects of using birth control include "nausea, breast tenderness, and enlargement, headaches, breakthrough bleeding, missed periods, weight gain, mood changes, decreased sex drive, vaginal discharge, and vision changes." What's more, there are several more rare but more serious side effects, too. Blood clots, certain cancers, and high blood pressure can also be the result of contraception.

However, not everyone will experience the same side effects. For instance, say your friend swears by using Ibuprofen for every ache and pain. But when you take Ibuprofen, you're left with bouts of nausea and are typically more of a Tylenol person. The same concept applies to birth control. While some methods may have some feeling all of these side effects and more, others may experience none of them. Each birth control method rears a highly individual experience, so speaking to your doctor about trying other forms may be extremely beneficial.

You want to reap the benefits

Naturally, pregnancy prevention is certainly not the only use for birth control. While each method may have its own set of downfalls and risks, sometimes the benefits can highly outweigh the cons. For example, if you've been on the pill for a long time but are looking to skip your period, this can be done by switching over to other methods such as an IUD, per Planned Parenthood. In addition, there are "no period pills," which might be a better option for you than the regular pill if you're trying to stop your period, according to Healthline.

Furthermore, switching over to the pill has plenty of additional benefits. While some may experience even more cramping with an IUD for the first few months, this issue is less likely to happen with the pill. In fact, as noted by Nationwide Children's, the pill can even prevent some kinds of female reproductive cancers and ovarian cysts. Moreover, it's quite easy to monitor when your period will come when you're on the pill. While some may use apps to track their cycle, the pill pack can simply do this for you.

You experience migraines with aura

Did you ever wonder why your gynecologist asked if you experience migraines before prescribing you the pill? While many think that this is just to prevent worse migraines from happening, the reasoning is actually a bit more serious. According to research published in the medical journal Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, at least 37% of women in the United States experience migraines, and asking patients if this type of headache is an issue to them is a crucial part of a gynecologist's evaluation. In short, if you're on a pill that contains higher levels of estrogen and you experience migraines, it may be time for a trip to the doctor.

"In the 1960s and '70s when birth control was just coming out, they contained higher doses of estrogen," neurologist Malathi Rao explains to Rush. However, it wasn't until the late '90s that it was discovered that pills containing higher doses of estrogen increase the risk of stroke in patients who experience migraines with aura. "But now, we have lower-dose estrogen formulation along with non-estrogen options," Rao adds. Who knew?

On top of women who experience this type of migraine already being at risk for stroke, the properties of estrogen can "cause your blood to clot easier," according to Rao. "I think most doctors would err on the side of saying, 'Let's hold off prescribing the oral contraceptive unless you meet very specific criteria,'" she says. "There's good reason to be hesitant. What I usually tell my patients is that if you have a migraine with an aura, and the aura frequency is less than once a month, there is a risk of stroke two times greater than in women without migraine."

You're coming out of a relationship

Just like any major change in your life, coming out of a relationship can bring many new ways of living to your day-to-day habits and structures. If you've been committed to one person for some time now prior to your breakup, you've likely settled into your birth control method and know the intimate details of your former partner's sexual health. While it may be true that contraceptives such as the pill, shot, or IUD may protect against pregnancy, you have an entirely new issue to worry about with new partners: STDs.

According to Connecticut Children's, the only form of birth control currently on the market that will prevent STDs and STIs is condoms. Of course, it is recommended — in order to ensure you're receiving the highest level of protection possible — to use condoms in conjunction with "a hormonal method" of contraception. This way, you're getting the protection you need from both pregnancy and STDs — a win-win situation.

Which particular kind of condoms you prefer to go for is up to you. While the most common type is the male condom, you can actually choose to be proactive and carry a female condom with you, per the U.K.'s National Health Service. While many may find condoms a nuisance or annoyance, studies have proven their effectiveness with a 98% success rating, meaning only two people out of every 100, on average, get pregnant with the proper use of a condom. Of course, if you begin to seriously date someone again, you can opt to go back to just one form of birth control after a while. Just make sure you are aware of your new partner's sexual history and health.

It's messing with your mental health

Hormones are a funny thing. While they control so much of our bodies, they have just as much of an effect on the mind. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses, those who were on some form of hormonal contraceptive displayed more signs of "depression, anxiety, fatigue, neurotic symptoms, sexual disturbances, compulsion, anger, and negative menstrual effects" than those studied who were not on birth control. If you find yourself acting a bit out of the norm after beginning a new hormonal contraceptive, it may be time to visit your doctor to discuss new options.

Consultant gynecologist Dr. Tania Adib explains that some "with a history of depression are more susceptible to a worsening of their depression while taking the pill" (via Healthline). She adds, "It isn't possible to predict how you'll feel taking a certain contraceptive, and it's often a case of trying different ones until you find the one that suits you best." The good news, Adib explains, is that it's actually possible to find a pill for you that may help battle mental health issues. She says, "One combined oral contraceptive containing the progestogen drospirenone has been found to improve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women. So it's the best one to use if you [experience] PMS or low mood."

Furthermore, just as condoms are the only form of birth control that can protect against STDs, they're also the only one that doesn't involve the use of hormones. That being said, if the hormones are simply too much for your body, condoms are always a reliable choice.

Your IUD won't stay in place

IUDs can certainly be a wonderful thing, but while it's rare for it to happen, they can actually fall out or migrate. According to Flo, somewhere between 2% and 10% of patients experience IUD expulsion. (Most other IUDs stay in place.) For those who do fall in that 2% to 10% range, however, dealing with IUD expulsion or migration can be dreadful. According to Massachusetts OB-GYN Dr. Nina M. Carroll, signs like "unusual bleeding, cramping or persistent pelvic pain, and touching something firm at the cervix while conducting a self-exam" can all be associated with IUD displacement, per Blood & Milk.

Sometimes, if an IUD migrates instead of falling out, surgery is required. Los Angeles-based OB-GYN Dr. Michael Tahery explains, "The real issue with migration is that she now requires a surgical procedure, which requires anesthesia and so on. And she could be thinking that she's protected but she's not." Moreover, IUD displacement is simply a hassle, and for some patients, it never seems to let up. "My body probably just didn't want that in me. It tried to get rid of it and it did," one IUD patient shares with Blood & Milk.

While some IUDs can last all the way up to 10 years, per Healthline, if your body continues to dispel your IUD it's most likely time to start looking into other birth control options. A good choice for you may be an implant or shot. This way, you're still getting the benefit of not having to remember to take a pill every day to ensure protection.

You're experiencing acne

So, let's imagine: You just recently had an IUD inserted for the first time, and you're loving it. Now, there's no more worrying about taking a pill on time each day. But within a few weeks, you start to notice more and more acne — particularly cystic acne — on your face and jawline. This never happened to you on the pill. What gives?

"Hormonal IUDs can actually cause acne," cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green tells Healthline; IUD brands like Mirena and Skyla are even commonly known for their acneic side effects. IUDs contain a synthetic form of progesterone, and this can result in androgenic stimulation. "If the body's level of androgen hormones (the male sex hormones, such as testosterone) increases, it can cause an overstimulation of the sebaceous glands," Green explains. "When this occurs, the skin can become oily, which can clog the pores and cause an acne breakout."

The birth control option that won't cause acne? The pill. In fact, it can even prevent it. According to GoodRX Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given a thumbs up to four different kinds of oral contraceptives for acne: Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Beyaz, and Estrostep FE. Each of these options, per GoodRX Health, "contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin," which are a match made in acne-fighting heaven. If you're having trouble remembering when to take your pill, try setting a daily alarm on your phone for a time of day when you're usually the least busy. This will always serve as your reminder to be consistent with your birth control.