Birth control methods are meant to evolve with your personal, sexual, and general health needs. What worked in your teens may not be the right choice in your 20s, 30s, or 40s.
That’s because your contraception method is often based on circumstances, which may need to be periodically reevaluated as they change.
The good news? Your doctor can help you pinpoint why a change may be needed and determine the best alternative birth control options to consider.
There are several reasons why it might be a good idea to consider switching methods. For some people, it’s challenging or inconvenient to remember to take a pill every day or insert a device before having sex.
But for others, the reason to change may involve disliking the side effects, a change in health or sexual activity status, considering pregnancy in the near future, or no longer considering pregnancy at all.
Ultimately, choosing contraception comes down to your health, lifestyle, personality, and priorities. You have a ton of options to choose from if your current method is not the right fit.
Some of the more common birth control methods, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), include:
- hormonal birth control methods like the pill, patch, shot, implant, and ring
- hormonal and copper intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- barrier methods like spermicide, condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap, and sponge
- emergency contraception
Here are five reasons to consider switching birth control methods.
If it’s hard to take the pill at the same time every day or use condoms or another barrier method consistently, it might be time to talk with your doctor about a set-it-and-forget-it method like an IUD, patch, shot, ring, or implant.
Also known as long lasting reversible contraception (LARC), the IUD and implant are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, and they last for several years, per the ACOG.
Plus, both methods are reversible, so if you want to get pregnant or change to a new method, you can have them removed.
The IUD is available in a hormonal version with progestin that is approved for 3 to 7 years. The copper IUD, which is hormone free, can remain in place for up to 10 years.
The other LARC method often recommended by experts is the birth control implant. It’s a tiny, flexible rod that’s inserted in the upper arm, just under your skin. The implant releases progestin and is approved for up to 3 years.
While not as long lasting as an IUD or implant, the shot, patch, and ring still require less work than the pill or other same-day methods like a diaphragm, spermicide, or sponge.
You replace the patch every 3 weeks, while the shot requires a trip to the doctor’s office every 90 days. The ring is a device you insert yourself and leave in for 3 weeks at a time. There’s also a new ring available which lasts 1 year.
Both the ring and patch can have a week off for your period, or you can use them continuously and skip your period. It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor to decide which schedule is right for you.
Remember, these methods do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may still need to use a condom.
If you’re beginning or ending a monogamous relationship, you might need to switch to a more consistent method, one that protects against STIs, or no method at all.
Condoms are highly effective in reducing STI transmission. That’s why the
Once you know STIs are not an issue, changing to a longer lasting, more consistent birth control method like the pill, patch, shot, IUD, or ring may be a better fit for a monogamous relationship.
If you’re planning a pregnancy in the near future, stopping your birth control method is likely a consideration.
The good news is that most contraceptive devices, regardless of duration and type, do not negatively affect the ability to conceive after you stop using them, according to a
That said, the ACOG says that the birth control injection or shot can delay pregnancy for up to 10 months after stopping the injection.
Combined hormonal birth control methods are generally safe. But you may want to consider talking with your doctor if a change in your health status includes:
- becoming a smoker
- having high blood pressure
- entering a higher risk age category while having certain health risks
- developing a blood clot
- having migraine with aura
- having high cholesterol
That’s because combination methods like the pill, patch, and ring can increase the risk of a blood clot, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, according to the ACOG.
Also, your doctor may recommend stopping a hormonal method if you have breast cancer. In addition, the progestin-only pill is not recommended if you have certain forms of lupus.
If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to avoid a method containing estrogen since it may affect your milk supply, per the ACOG.
Sometimes a change from a combination method to a progestin-only birth control is enough to minimize the risks associated with certain health conditions.
For example, progestin-only pills do not increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, or stroke, according to the ACOG.
Headaches, nausea, irregular bleeding, and mood changes from hormonal birth control are common, especially in the first few months, according to the
So are infections or irritation from spermicide or condom use. Cramping and heavier bleeding are other commonly reported side effects of the copper IUD, and they sometimes lasts longer than a few months.
Many of these adverse reactions subside after a few months. But if you’re unhappy with the method or the negative effects continue, it’s time to talk with a healthcare professional.
Your doctor may suggest ways to treat or manage these side effects. Or they may recommend changing from the copper IUD to the hormonal one if your periods are heavier than normal or you’re experiencing cramping.
Also, if headaches, mood changes, and irregular bleeding are an issue, changing from a combination hormonal or progestin-only to a nonhormonal contraception device may be the answer.
If getting pregnant is no longer in your plans, you may want to change from a short-term method to a longer-lasting device like an IUD or implant. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and nonhormonal (copper).
The hormonal IUD is effective from 3 to 8 years, depending on the brand. And the nonhormonal (copper) IUD can stay in place for up to 10 years, per the ACOG.
The implant prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years.
In some cases, permanent sterilization may be the right option. People with testicles can opt for a vasectomy, while tubal ligation is the proper procedure if you have fallopian tubes, according to the
If you’re curious about changing methods but still have a lot of questions, a visit with your doctor can help ease your mind. So here are some questions to ask during your next appointment:
- Are there any special instructions for stopping my current method?
- How quickly does this new method take effect?
- Should I use another form of birth control in the meantime?
- Will my body need time to adjust when switching between methods?
- What should I know about this new method?
- Are there any side effects that could be harmful?
Sticking with your current birth control method is fine as long as it’s working for you. But if you’re experiencing adverse side effects, your health status is not a match, or your pregnancy plans are in limbo, then it might be time for a change.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own. Your doctor can help you determine what’s not clicking and help you find a method that might be a better fit.