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Q & A with Dr. Cullins: Birth Control

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    How do I decide which method of birth control is best for me?

    Your contraceptive needs may change throughout your life.  To decide which method to use now, you should consider all the methods that are available and how each will meet your personal needs.  Here are seven key considerations:

    1.  How well will it fit into your lifestyle?  Are you a woman who only has sex once in a while and doesn’t want to use birth control every day?  Are you a smoker who cannot use methods that include estrogen?  Have you completed your family and want permanent birth control?  Do you want a method that is very private so other people don’t know you are using it?  Are you a woman who can tolerate minor side effects for a while as you get used to a method? 

    2.  How convenient will it be?  Are you a woman who wants a method she only has to think about once every five years?   Would you consistently use a method you need to think about every day?  Do you prefer to think about birth control only when you’re about to have sex?

    3.  How effective will it be?  Are you a woman who wouldn’t mind if she had an unplanned pregnancy at this time in her life?  Do you need to be as sure as possible that you will not become pregnant?  Do you need protection against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy?

    4.  How safe will it be?  All birth control methods are safer than childbirth, but there are other safety issues to consider.  Would you use a very effective method that has very rare, but serious health risks?  Would you cooperate with the close medical supervision that may be needed if you have certain conditions that increase the risk of some methods?

    5.  How affordable will it be?  Are you a woman who would prefer to pay a high up-front cost to get a long-lasting method that costs very little day-to-day?  Can you get financial support for the method you would like to choose?  Does your insurance cover the method you want?  Do you need to rely on low-cost over-the-counter methods until you can arrange for something more effective and more costly?

    6.  How reversible will it be?  Are you a woman who is planning to have a child in a year or two?  Have you had all the children you plan to have?  Do you know if you’ll want children in the future?

    7. Will it protect against sexually transmitted infections?  Are you a woman who has more than one partner in the course of a year or two?  Do you have a partner(s) who has more than one partner?  Do you only have sex with a partner who only has sex with you?

    It will be helpful to keep your answers to these questions in mind as you compare the contraceptive methods that interest you. We've developed a useful tool to help you weigh all your options — My Method.

    Talk with your health care provider if you are interested in the pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, the implant, the IUD, a prescription barrier like the diaphragm, or tubal sterilization.  Or make an appointment with the nearest Planned Parenthood health center.

This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have a medical problem, please call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN for an appointment with the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

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