Choosing the birth control method that's right for you can be complicated. There are lots of things to consider, such as your lifestyle and your health.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions about the birth control method you choose.
Jennifer, age 25, and Ben, age 30: Ben and I are pretty involved, so we've been discussing which birth control method to use. He is more sexually experienced than I am. He understands that I'm nervous about getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). He isn't aware of ever having symptoms of an STI, but some people who don't have symptoms can still spread an STI. We're both going to be tested for STIs. But my doctor tells me that if you don't have symptoms, tests for genital herpes and human papillomavirus don't always find an infection. We don't mind taking the time to use a condom to reduce our risk, and we plan on also using birth control pills to reduce our risk of pregnancy.
Renee, age 34, and Martin, age 31: Since I've been so busy with work and school and Martin is living 2 hours away, we only see each other 2 weekends a month. I've been using a diaphragm for birth control since we've been together the past 2 years. We are monogamous, so I don't worry about a sexually transmitted infection. It's easy to plan when we'll be together, and I don't have to worry about the side effects of hormonal methods.
Matt, age 27: My dad told me when I was a teenager that birth control is a man's responsibility too. I've been using condoms since I became sexually active. I use them now even if my partner is using another birth control method. It just makes good sense to protect against STIs and pregnancy at the same time.
Lily, age 32, and Shaquille, age 34: Two years ago when Shaquille and I decided to wait and get married after I finished my schooling, we decided to use birth control pills. My schedule was so crazy that we didn't want to worry if we were spontaneous and didn't have any contraceptive supplies with us. It's always been easy for me to stick to a routine, so taking my pills every day was no problem. We may decide to switch to the vaginal ring that I only have to use once a month. I like the pill and the ring because they are short-term birth control, so when we decide we're ready to have a family, we'll be able to plan it.
Janice, age 18: When I was 14, my menstrual cycles were awful. I had so much pain that I couldn't go to school and I would feel sick to my stomach for the first few days. Mom took me to the women's clinic, and I started using birth control pills. It made all the difference in the world. Now I'm off to college and think I'll continue using the pill so that I'm responsible for my birth control and not dependent on a partner for reliability. I will also use condoms—you never know about an STI.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
Sarah, age 22, and Pete, age 23: When my parents were killed in a car wreck, I became the guardian of my younger brothers and sisters. I'm now working and finishing my last year of college. Pete and I have been together since high school and have depended on the Pill to prevent pregnancy. Now I need a method that will really be reliable for the long term. The youngest in my family is 12 so I will need to provide for her for at least 6 more years. I've decided to use an IUD so that I won't need to worry about getting pregnant until my life is more settled.
Sophia, age 30, and Hank, age 37: I just started my medical residency program. Life is so busy with the kids' activities, study time, and the hours I work at the hospital. Hank has been so great about being the primary parent when I can't. Hank and I had a serious talk about what to use for birth control for the next 2 to 3 years until I graduate. We're not sure that we are done with our family, but we do want a reliable method so that the next few years aren't complicated by an unexpected pregnancy. Hormonal methods have not worked well for me in the past, so an IUD seems the best choice for long-term reliability.
Cindy, age 34, and David, age 33: All through college and graduate school, I used different methods of birth control because I was most concerned about an unplanned pregnancy. Now David and I both have steady jobs, and we're building our home in the country. We still hope to travel this summer, so we've decided to try to plan a pregnancy for later this year. Natural family planning will work for us, because my cycles are regular. If I get pregnant sooner than we planned, it'll be fine.
Jen, age 32, and Sam, age 36: Sam and I taught overseas for 3 years. Before returning home, we had the chance to adopt an orphan in the village where we were working. Sam and I would like to have another child at some point so Lily will have a sibling. We thought about using natural family planning, but we need time to get settled with our jobs and get Lily adjusted to day care. We don't want a surprise pregnancy. I'm going to use a progestin IUD until we're ready to expand our family. Then we can use fertility awareness to help us get pregnant.
Combination of methods
Deena, age 26: My older sister gave me lots of advice about birth control methods. She tried several reliable methods but ended up with genital herpes. Whenever she gets stressed, she'll get a flare-up of symptoms. From her experience, I've decided to use hormonal injections along with condoms to reduce my risk of getting pregnant or getting an STI.
Patty, age 42: I never would have guessed I might need to worry about birth control again, just as I never would have guessed I would be a widow at such a young age. The kids are almost out of high school. Someone at work asked me out, and I'm actually interested. But alarms are going off in my head about becoming pregnant at age 42 or getting an STI. I'm sure I don't want either, so I'm seeing my gynecologist this week to decide on a long-term birth control method and learn about using condoms.
Raimondo, age 42: In college and law school, I was not as careful with birth control as I should have been. I was lucky that none of my partners became pregnant. Now I'm over 40 years old, established in my career, and not in a long-term relationship. I know that I don't want to become a father, so I'm scheduling a vasectomy next week. I will still use condoms to prevent STIs, but I won't need to worry about the consequences of an accidental pregnancy.
Tom, age 45, and Barbara, age 43: Barbara and I met a year ago. Now we've decided to get married and blend our two families. That means finding a home for five children, three dogs, two cats, and lots of belongings. Combining our families and planning a wedding will take all our focus, so we don't want an accidental pregnancy. Since we are quite happy with the size of our family, I will have a vasectomy. It is a much simpler procedure for me than for Barbara to have a tubal ligation.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Femi Olatunbosun MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology