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Which Birth Control is Right For Me?

LGBTQ+ care specialist
Medically reviewed by Justin L.
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 09/06/2023

There are so many birth control options out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news is that with so many options available, there’s bound to be a good option for you.

Here’s a short list of common birth control options:

  • The Pill
  • The Patch
  • The Ring
  • IUDs
  • Injectable Contraception
  • Contraceptive Implant
  • Barrier Methods (Condoms, Diaphragm, Sponge)
  • Pull-out and Cycle based methods
  • Emergency Contraception (Plan B)
  • Abstinence

Now let’s get started! The biggest factors when choosing birth control come down to the following:

  • Why are you taking it?
  • How good are you at remembering to take it?
  • Do you have any risk factors?
  • Does it give you side effects?
  • Let’s break it down a little:

Why are you taking birth control?

Are you interested in birth control to help prevent pregnancy?

  • The most effective form of birth control is the one that works for you. If you follow instructions perfectly, the pill, the ring and the patch all work just as well at pregnancy prevention, while IUDs are the most effective form of birth control
  • When you want your birth control to start working may also impact your choice. Hormonal birth control can take up to 7 days to start preventing pregnancy, while condoms are a good choice if you need immediate protection against pregnancy. If you're looking for post sex pregnancy prevention, your best bet will be emergency contraception, but hurry as these methods decrease in effectiveness the longer post-sex you take them

Are you looking to prevent sexually transmitted infections (aka STIs or STDs)?

  • In this case, you’ll want to use condoms. You can use either male or female condoms, although male condoms are usually much easier to find
  • Condoms aren’t perfect at preventing pregnancy, so you may also want to combine condoms with other forms of birth control to lower your chances of getting pregnant

Are you looking for help with PMS pain, period pain or heavy flow, or perhaps to skip periods altogether?

  • Hormonal treatments are your best bet for this. Some examples of this would be combination pills (COC), the Patch, the Vaginal Ring or a hormonal IUD

Are you looking to help clear up your skin?

  • If you have hormonal acne, combined pills might be able to help
  • Check out Livewell’s prescription acne quiz. Our medical team might be able to prescribe you with treatment to help fight your acne

How good are you at remembering to take it?

While birth control pills are a great option for most people, their effectiveness depends on your ability to remember to take them every day, and ideally at the same time each day. This is especially important for progestin only pills.

If you’re a little forgetful (and that’s OK!), IUDs may be a good alternative for you, as they are a set it and forget it type of contraceptive. A single IUD can be good for anywhere from 3-10 years, depending on the model. The main downside is that you need a healthcare professional to insert it (and remove it).

Other alternatives if you don’t want to be thinking about taking your pill each day are the patch and the vaginal ring. The patch needs to be changed every week, while the ring needs to be changed once a month. For both the patch and the ring, you will go for one week per month without using them, before applying or inserting a new one at the end of the week. The biggest downside of the ring is that it can cause an increase in UTIs and yeast infections. The main drawback of the patch is that it doesn’t work as well for people above a certain weight.

Do you have any risk factors?

Some risk factors that may impact which birth control you should take include:

  • History of blood clots
  • High blood pressure
  • You’ve had migraine(s) with aura
  • You smoke and are over 35

If you have any of these risk factors, you should probably lean towards taking progestin-only options. Since most other forms of hormonal birth control contain both estrogen and progestin, your best bet will be a progestin-only pill or an IUD. If you're looking to take the birth control long-term (aka over 5 years), then an IUD might be your best option.

Does it give you side effects?

While all types of hormonal birth control use similar hormones, the levels of estrogen and progestin vary from one type of birth control to another. This means that while one type might give you certain side effects, it doesn’t mean they all will. In addition, the different ways the hormones enter your body from the various methods (ie. pills vs. IUDs) can also impact side effects you experience.

While some side effects aren’t a big deal, and some can even be beneficial (eg. decrease in acne, reduced PMS pain, etc.), some side effects can be a real nuisance, or even quite serious. If you’re experiencing side effects, don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical practitioner at Livewell, or seek immediate emergency care if it’s an emergency.

The bottom line

Finding the right birth control often takes some trial and error, so don't feel discouraged if the first type you try isn’t a fit for you. At Livewell, you'll always be encouraged to keep trying new alternatives that may work better for you.