a doctor who is helping a patient choose between contraceptives

Choosing the Best Contraceptives for You

Correct contraceptive use is important for maintaining your sexual health, but you may not be sure which type of contraceptives are best for your lifestyle. Below are some questions you should answer to determine whether you should choose condoms, oral contraceptives like "the pill," IUDs, vasectomies, tubal ligations, or other forms of contraceptives. Discuss your answers with your doctor to gain his or her insights into possible side effects or risks associated with some of these options.

What are your plans for the future?

If you know for sure that you don’t want children, it may be easiest to go with a permanent form of contraception, such as a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. However, if you’re simply trying to prevent pregnancy for the short-term, these methods are not recommended. Instead, consider a less permanent form of birth control such as oral contraceptives (a.k.a. “the pill”) or condoms. Additionally, intrauterine devices (IUDs) may be another option. These devices, which are inserted into the uterus, provide longer lasting results than other contraceptives but are still completely reversible.

What is your financial situation?

Some forms of birth control are more affordable than others. If you’re living on a very limited income, condoms may be a good choice, since they tend to be the cheapest form of birth control. A monthly prescription for oral contraceptives can quickly get expensive, but if your health insurance plan can cover some or all of the cost, it may still be the best choice for you. The upfront cost of an IUD will be larger than that of condoms or the pill, but since it’s so long-lasting, you’ll actually save money with it over time.

Do you want protection from STIs as well?

If you also want protection from STIs as well as unwanted pregnancies, that will limit your choice of contraceptives. Oral contraceptives and IUDs are not designed to protect users from sexually transmitted infections, so your only real option is to use condoms. Some couples elect to use condoms in conjunction with another form of birth control to both reduce their risk of STIs and decrease the chance of an unwanted pregnancy even more.

What is your lifestyle like?

Oral contraceptives require daily use, and some forms must always be taken at the same time. If your schedule is constantly busy or unpredictable, such a regular regimen may not work out for you. If that’s the case, you might think about an IUD instead. Additionally, there are other options that prevent pregnancy hormonally, similar to the pill, but don’t require daily use—these include patches that are applied directly to the skin or implants that are placed underneath it.

What is your overall health like?

There are a few health conditions that may limit the types of contraceptives you can safely use. If you suffer from migraines, poor circulation, or had breast cancer, hormonal products are not recommended. These include the pill, patches, and some forms of IUDs. If you’re overweight, over 35, or are a smoker, you should avoid contraceptives that specifically contain estrogen, but other hormonal forms of birth control should still be safe. 

Last Updated: July 07, 2016