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
- 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
- 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.