Birth control and your age

As you get older, your birth control needs and preferences might change. Your lifestyle and medical history can also change over time, which may affect your choices.

Read on to learn about some of the best birth control options based on your stage of life.

Condoms are the only type of birth control that also protect against many types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

STIs can affect people at any age. It’s possible to have an STI for months or years, without knowing it. If there’s any chance that your partner might have an STI, using a condom during sex can help keep you safe.

Although condoms provide unique protection against STIs, they’re only 85 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. You can combine condoms with other methods of birth control for greater protection.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that nearly half of high school students in the United States have had sexual intercourse.

To reduce the risk of pregnancy in sexually active teens, AAP recommends long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as the:

  • copper IUD
  • hormonal IUD
  • birth control implant

If your doctor inserts an IUD into your uterus or birth control implant into your arm, it will provide non-stop protection against pregnancy, 24 hours a day. These devices are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. They can last up to 3 years, 5 years, or 12 years, depending on the type of device.

Other effective methods of birth control include the birth control pill, shot, skin patch, and vaginal ring. These methods are all more than 90 percent effective, according to Planned Parenthood. But they aren’t as long-lasting or foolproof as an IUD or implant.

For example, if you use the birth control pill, you have to remember to take it every day. If you use the skin patch, you have to replace it every week.

To learn more about the potential benefits and risks of different birth control methods, talk to your doctor.

Teenagers aren’t the only people who can benefit from long-act reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as an IUD or birth control implant. These methods also provide an effective and convenient option for women in their 20s and 30s.

IUDs and birth control implants are very effective and long-lasting, but also easily reversible. If you want to get pregnant, your doctor can remove your IUD or implant at any time. It won’t have a permanent effect on your fertility.

The birth control pill, shot, skin patch, and vaginal ring are also effective options. But they’re not quite as effective or easy to use as an IUD or implant.

For most women in their 20s and 30s, any of these birth control methods are safe to use. But if you have a history of certain medical conditions or risk factors, your doctor might encourage you to avoid certain options.

For example, if you’re over the age of 35 and smoke, your doctor might advise you to avoid estrogen-containing birth control. That type of birth control can raise your risk of stroke.

Although fertility tends to decline with age, it’s possible for many women to get pregnant in their 40s. If you’re having sexual intercourse and don’t want to get pregnant, it’s important to use birth control until after you’ve reached menopause.

If you’re confident that you don’t want to get pregnant in the future, sterilization surgery offers an effective and permanent option. This type of surgery includes tubal ligation and vasectomy.

If you don’t want to undergo surgery, using an IUD or birth control implant is also effective and easy. The birth control pill, shot, skin patch, and vaginal ring are slightly less effective, but still solid choices.

If you’re experiencing certain symptoms of menopause, estrogen-containing birth control may provide some relief. For example, the skin patch, vaginal ring, and certain types of birth control pill may help relieve hot flashes or night sweats.

However, estrogen-containing birth control can also raise your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. Your doctor might encourage you to avoid estrogen-containing options, especially if you have high blood pressure, a history of smoking, or other risk factors for these conditions.

By the time you reach 50, your chances of getting pregnant are very low.

If you’re over the age of 50 and using hormonal contraceptives, ask your doctor if it’s safe and beneficial to keep using them. If you have a history of certain medical conditions or risk factors, your doctor might advise you to avoid estrogen-containing options. In other cases, it might be safe to use hormonal birth control until age 55.

If you’re over the age of 50 and not using hormonal contraceptives, you will know that you’ve gone through menopause when you don’t menstruate for a year. At that point, research suggests that you can stop using contraceptives.

As you get older, the best birth control method for you might change. Your doctor can help you understand and weigh your options. When it comes to preventing STIs, condoms can help protect you at any stage of life.