Various birth control methods on an olive green background
(C) Love Matters | Rita Lino

How to choose birth control

If you don't want to get pregnant – or don't want your partner to get pregnant – you need to use birth control, also called contraception or family planning.

There are lots of different types of birth control methods. They include taking hormones (like the pill), using barriers to catch the sperm (like condoms), or using natural methods.

Another way to avoid getting pregnant is abstinence – simply not having intercourse. And then there's also 'sex without vaginal penetration' – making love without actually having vaginal intercourse.
Sex is also about more than intercourse. And your needs will depend on what kind of sex you have with whom.

Do I need birth control?

Having intercourse without using birth control when you don't want a baby is a huge gamble. It can turn your life upside down.

When should you start thinking about birth control? If you start having sex first and start thinking about birth control later, you could get pregnant by accident.
Also, keep in mind: contraception isn't just about preventing unintended pregnancies – barrier methods like condoms can also reduce the risk of getting infected with an STI.

Do I want a baby?

If you decide to have sex, it's important to know whether you want to have a baby.
If you don’t want to get pregnant or get someone pregnant, you’ve got two options: don’t have sexual intercourse, or if you do, use birth control.

You can get pregnant if:

  • It’s your first time having intercourse.
  • You have intercourse before the woman has started her periods.
  • You’ve had intercourse during the woman’s period.
  • You forget to use birth control – even if it’s just once.
  • The guy pulls out (withdrawal) before he ejaculates.

Every couple has different birth control needs. So the best birth control method for each couple may be different.

Before you choose a birth control method

Here are some things to think about:

  • How important is it that you don't get pregnant? Would it be a total disaster if you were pregnant? Or would it be okay, but just not quite the right moment?
  • How well does the birth control method work? What's the 'failure rate'?
  • Could the birth control method have side effects for you or your partner?
  • How soon would you like to have children?

Every couple has different birth control needs

It's fine if you use a different birth control method from your friends. There are a lot of factors that affect your choice of birth control method. How old are you? Can you get the method in your country? How acceptable is the method in your culture? How do you and your partner feel about it?
There is no best birth control method that works for everyone. But there may be a good method for you.

Another thing to consider is whether you want children at all and if you do when you want them. The birth control method you choose depends on your answers.

Male birth control options:

  • Use a condom
  • Abstinence
  • Have a vasectomy – this means you are sterilised and can’t have children anymore
  • Pull out before you ejaculate in your partner's vagina – but this isn’t a reliable method of birth control

Female birth control options:

  • Use a female condom
  • Take the pill
  • Use another kind of hormonal method like the patch or implant
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted
  • Abstinence
  • Use natural family planning methods (also known as the ‘rhythm method’) – avoid having intercourse around the time you’re most fertile
  • Getting your tubes tied (being sterilised) – this means you can’t have children any more

Hiding your birth control method?

It’s easy to say that you have the right to decide when you want to have children, but harder to put into practice. Often reality is much more complicated.

You may be in a situation where you want to put off having children and your partner may not. Openly talking about birth control and making decisions together with your partner may not be possible. When you choose a birth control method, it might be important to you that you can use it without your partner noticing. And that it's easy to stop using it if you change your mind.

Other things to consider before choosing a birth control method

  • Does the method have any side effects? If so, what are the side effects?
  • What does it cost?
  • How soon do you want children in the future?
  • How easy is it to get hold of?
  • How well will it fit in with your lifestyle?
  • Are you a methodical person, or a bit chaotic? For example, would you remember to take a pill regularly?
  • How well does the birth control method work? What's the 'failure rate'?

See birth control methods to find out more about the different methods, their pros and cons, and how well they work.

Comments

Hi Shelly, Breastfeeding can be an effective way to prevent pregnancy for lactating mothers if;-

  • You only breastfeed your baby. (You do not give your baby any other food, formula or drinks.)
  • You breastfeed your baby at least every four hours during the day, and every six hours at night with no exceptions.
  • Your baby is less than six months old.
  • You have not started your monthly period.

Some methods can affect the supply of milk and for this reason it is important to talk to your health provider to discuss which methods you can use now that you are breastfeeding.

Mercedes Sarut
Mon, 07/09/2018 - 17:20
I am in a stable relationship and we just starteed having sex. I am concerned about getting pregnant because I don't want to get a child now. Is it safe for me to start using birth control/Family planning and I have never had a child. Can using affect me in future when I am want to get a baby?

Hey Mercedes, using a birth control method will not affect your chances of getting a child in future. Some of the methods may delay how soon you get pregnant after you stop using them but using them won't stop you from getting a baby once you are ready and after you have stopped using the birth control method. Check out the following articles with more information;- 

https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/how-well-does-it-work

https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

 

Do all birth control methods make one add alot of weight? I need to start using a birth control method but I am not sure which one since I dont want to add weight.

Hello Maggie, Hormonal methods particularly the Pill, Intrauterine Device, the Shot, and Implant are likely to lead to an increase in weight. However everyone is different and there is no sure way to determine what effect a particular method will have on a person other than trying out the method. This also means that other methods including condoms will not have this side effect. You may need to talk to your health provider who will be able to guide on what method to consider using. In the meantime, check out the following articles for more information on the different methods;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

Hey Lillie, hormonal methods will affect your periods. Many things can change when you start with a new method. Your period can get heavier or lighter, or you may have some unexpected spotting. These side effects are normal and will ease with time often within three months. Check out this article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/8-common-side-effects-of-contraceptives

I am particularly concerned about side effects the one on adding weight. I want to start using but I don't want to add weight. Is there a way to know whether li am likely to add weight as a result of using hormonal methods?

Hi Ritah, there is no way to tell if using a birth control method will lead to increase weight, the only way to know is to use a method. Also, not everyone will experience this side effect. You need to think about how important it is for you not to get pregnant at this point against what weight gain will mean to you as you think about which method to use. It may also help to talk to your health pprovider as you make this decision. Have a look at the following articles for further guidance;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/8-common-side-effects-of-contraceptives

https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/how-to-choose

Hi Diana, you need to think about the following as you think about which method will be appropriate for you.

  • How important is it that you don't get pregnant? Would it be a total disaster if you were pregnant? Or would it be okay, but just not quite the right moment?
  • How well does the birth control method work? What's the failure rate?
  • Could the birth control method have side effects for you or your partner?
  • How soon would you like to have children?

As you think about these, have a look at the following article with the different types of birth control;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

Hey Koyaya, it is highly recommended that a person who doesn't wish to get children use a birth control method which may include the pill, whether or not they have had children  before since this will not affect their ability to have children once they stop and are ready to have a child. Check out the following article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

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