How To Determine Which Birth Control Method Is Best For You

Long gone are the days when birth control was considered a taboo in many cultures. In our modern era, when many working women decide to have kids later and teenagers have sex at younger age, birth control has become a critical instrument in planned parenthood. In other words, if you want to make love and not babies, you need birth control. 

According to MedlinePlus, birth control is a method used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It can take the form of pills, devices, or surgeries. Although all birth control methods are intended for the same purpose of preventing pregnancy, they are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and are more complex than most people think. In some cases, you might want to combine different methods to achieve optimal results. Depending on the method you choose, your chances of avoiding pregnancy might vary. Here are the most popular options on the market, plus a few tips on finding the right method for you.

The five categories of birth control

According to HealthPartners, there are five categories of birth control, including short-term, long-term, single-use, permanent, and emergency contraceptives. Short-term birth control typically refers to the use of short-acting hormonal contraceptives like pills, patches, and vaginal rings. For consistent results, you're recommended to take birth control pills daily, apply a new contraceptive patch every week, and change a vaginal ring every month. If you prefer a low-maintenance method, long-term reversible contraception might be a good choice. This method comes with two options, including having a hormonal or non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into your uterus, and having an implantable tube put under the skin of your upper arm.

Those who are certain they don't want a baby in the future are good candidates for the permanent method, which features options such as salpingectomy for women, vasectomy for men, and tubal ligation. In case you had unprotected sex, you can rely on emergency contraception, such as Levonelle or ellaOne, which can be effective if taken within three to five days after sex (via NHS Inform). A more convenient method that doesn't require prescription and is only used when you're actually having sex is one-time use contraception, which includes condoms, sponges, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicide. However, remember that preventing pregnancy isn't the same as staving off sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). To prevent STIs and pregnancy at the same time, you need to use condoms alongside other contraceptive methods, per Planned Parenthood.

The efficacy of each birth control method

In order to determine the right method for you, you need to figure out the effectiveness and flexibility of each method, as well as any potential downsides, per Cleveland Clinic. You should also consider how each method might affect your existing health conditions or your ability to have children some day, as well as which method best suits your needs. As you can see, the aforementioned birth control methods boast different usages and have different levels of accessibility; some are accessible over-the-counter, and others require doctor's visits. Effectiveness-wise, short-term methods are about 91 to 95% effective at preventing pregnancy, while the long-term reversible ones can last up to 10 years and are 99% effective, per HealthPartners. The single-use barrier contraceptives are 71 to 88% effective, and emergency contraceptives are almost 100% effective if used correctly. Likewise, permanent contraceptive is almost 100% effective.

Like any other type of medication, birth control has side effects. According to Brown University, these might include mood swings, nausea, headaches, and breast tenderness. Hormonal birth control can cause or worsen acne in some people. Those aged above 35 who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day are strictly advised against taking oral contraceptives, or using patches or vaginal rings, as they can harm your cardiovascular health, Pandia Health warns. If you have pre-existing health conditions or lifestyle habits that make you worried about taking pills or using long-term options, visit a gynecologist for a proper check-up and expert opinions.