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?

Related: 15 Things To Consider Before Choosing Birth Control

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.

Did you learn something new?

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Recent Comments (50)

  1. i want to learn about birth…
    i want to learn about birth control

  2. Hi Love Matters Africa, How…
    Hi Love Matters Africa, How long should I wait before I start using birth control? I just got my baby 1 month ago. Thank you.

    1. Hi Shelly, Breastfeeding can…

      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.

  3. I am in a stable…
    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?

    1. Hey Mercedes, using a birth…

      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

       

  4. Do all birth control methods…
    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.

    1. Hello Maggie, Hormonal…

      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

  5. How true is it that when you…
    How true is it that when you start taking family planning pills you will bleed for long, please help

  6. I am particularly concerned…
    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?

    1. Hi Ritah, there is no way to…

      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

  7. So which is best birth…
    So which is best birth control method to use for women?

    1. Hi Diana, you need to think…

      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

  8. Is it adviceable for a…
    Is it adviceable for a person who has never had children use birth control like P2 or the family planning pills?

    1. Hey Koyaya, it is highly…

      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

  9. Do these family planning…
    Do these family planning methods with hormones afect amale if he has sex with a gil who uses them?

    1. Hello Jackson, there is no…

      Hello Jackson, there is no evidence that such methods have any effect on men when they have unprotected with a female who is using any of the methods. 

  10. I have been told that that…
    I have been told that that family planning pills will make me to have no moods for sex. Is this true?

    1. Hey Jane, this is possible…

      Hey Jane, this is possible but not likely. There are many things that affect the libido of woman including her age, how she feels about her relationship, psychological issues like stress and how active she is. If you notice that there has been a drastic change, share this information with your health provider who will help to determine if it has to do with the pill or other reasons. Check out these articles with information about the different birth control methods;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

  11. Which family planning method…
    Which family planning method method is 100% sure? I used P2 and still got pregnant.

    1. Hey Joan, all birth control…

      Hey Joan, all birth control methods have a failure rate. However, hormonal methods have a lower failure rate, which mean they work better and more effectively. Have a look at the following articles that discusses the different methods;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control On the other hand, emergency contraception (P2) is not a regular family planning method and should only be used during emergencies. Remember, emergency contraception only work if taken within the first 72 hours after and they are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after having unprotected sex. See this article for more details;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception

  12. What will. Happen if you…
    What will. Happen if you taken P2 twice or once every month?

    1. Hi there, there is no limit…

      Hi there, there is no limit as to how many times you can use the emergency-pill in a year. However, the e-pill does have short-term side effects that mean it should not be used as a normal form of contraception, but only in case of emergency. If you find you need to use the emergency pill often, you may want to consider a regular birth control method. Have a look at the following article for more information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception

  13. now effective are the daily…
    now effective are the daily pilss

  14. Hi.had started using the…
    Hi.had started using the three months injection yhen stopped for 2months now does that have a problem since I want to use the method or go for a long-term method instead

    1. Hello Martha, you can switch…

      Hello Martha, you can switch from the Shot to another method. All you need to do is make sure there is no gap when you are switching from one method to another, meaning there should be no period when you will be without protection. Talking to your healthcare provider will help determine when exactly to start using the new method. Talk to your health provider for further guidance. 

  15. I had a miscarriage I had an…
    I had a miscarriage I had an implant after 2 weeks.I had sex the same week of the implant and took an emergency pill.Does the pill have any effect on the implant?? Any risk of pregnancy?

    1. Dear Carol, so sorry about…

      Dear Carol, so sorry about the miscarriage. It is advisable to wait for atleast seven days before having unprotected sex after getting an Implant inserted. There is a risk of getting pregnant even with the use of emergency contraception. As to what effect emergency contraception can have on the Implant, do consult you health care provider. Have a look for the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/implant

  16. What is the effect of using…
    What is the effect of using P2 atleast once every month?

    1. Hi Diana, there are short…

      Hi Diana, there are short term side effects that occur after using emergency contraception pills. These may include nausea or vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache among others. These will usually go away after a few days. It is however important for one to consider using a regular birth control method if they find that they need to use emergency contraception frequently. As the name suggests, emergency contraception, should only be used in the case of emergency only. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception

  17. Which is the most effective…
    Which is the most effective birth control method?

    1. Hello Jeannette, the most…

      Hello Jeannette, the most effective way is abstaining from sex. Birth control methods have a failure rate, meaning there is a chance one could get pregnant when using a birth control method. You have to think about how important it is for you not to get pregnant as you choose the right method for you. Have a look at the following articles for 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 

  18. Which birth control method…
    Which birth control method will not make you put weight?

    1. Hello Eve, it is not…

      Hello Eve, it is not possible to predict for sure if a birth control method, especially the hormonal methods, will caused an increase in weight. This is a side effect that may or may not occur. You could use condoms, which will not cause weight gain. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

  19. Is there a way to know how a…
    Is there a way to know how a birth control method will affect you eg if you will add alot of weight…Please let me know. Thank you

    1. Hey Franscisca,…

      Hey Franscisca, unfortunately there is no way to know before hand what side effects one will experience using a birth control method. You only get to know after you start using the method of choice. Think about how important it is for you not to get pregnant at this time then look at each of the methods available to make a choice. The following article will help;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

  20. Is there a method is one 100…
    Is there a method is one 100% sure to prevent pregnancy? My friend was using FP pill but now she is pregnant. How? Why?

  21. Hello Daisy, all methods…

    Hello Daisy, all methods birth control methods have what is known as the failure rate which means that if 100 women use a birth control method for a year, there is number of them who will get pregnant. This number is depended on the method of choice. The way to be 100 per cent sure of preventing pregnancy, is to not has sex. Have a look at the following articles for more information including the failure rate for each method;- 

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

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

  22. I stopped using the…
    I stopped using the injection 8 months ago but I am yet to be pregnant what might be the issue?

  23. Am using the 21 days pill…
    Am using the 21 days pill chaguo langu n my question is how long does it take for my Periods to come after the last pill n is it safe for mi to have sex without getting pregnant as i wait for my periods to come

  24. Hi!i hv a vesical vein at…
    Hi!i hv a vesical vein at the back of my leg,wht is the best contraception to use?

    1. Hello Jael, kindly visit a…

      Hello Jael, kindly visit a medical practitioner for proper advice on this issue.

  25. Is there any tablets men…
    Is there any tablets men could take to control birth

  26. Hello Viola, thank you for…

    Hello Viola, thank you for reaching out to us and asking a great question. At the moment, there is no tablet that can be taken as a form of birth control by men but according to studies, researchers are optimistic that a safe, effective and reversible method of male contraception will eventually become a reality, although this is still several years away. 

  27. Why is it that some birth…
    Why is it that some birth control methods make some women sexually inactive

    1. Hi Yang, this is mainly…

      Hi Yang, this is mainly because a lot of birth control methods work by manipulating hormones. This in turn could lead to a whole number of side effects including reduced libido.

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