Considering switching birth control? 5 things to know

Birth control is a deeply personal choice. It can take a long time to identify the best method for you. You’ll need to find just the right combination of affordability, convenience, and effectiveness. You’ll have to consider your medical history and how your body responds to medications. Side effects are different for everyone, and the method your friend loves could make you really uncomfortable, or vice versa.

If you’re considering switching birth control pills, there are upwards of 80 brands to choose from. You also have other options for hormonal birth control, like the patch, the NuvaRing, the shot, hormonal IUDs, and more. Or you could look at non-hormonal birth control methods like a copper IUD or diaphragm. Whatever you choose, here are some factors to consider before you change from your current method.


1. Cost

Before switching birth control methods, you’ll need to consider how much it’ll cost you. Your insurance — if you have insurance — might not cover certain methods, or your out-of-pocket payments could be higher. You’ll also want to factor in the cost of any exams you might need in order to get a prescription. You may be able to save money by getting a birth control subscription online.

Note also that spending more up front could lead to long-term savings, depending on the method you choose. A one-time IUD insertion, for instance, could be cheaper in the long run than paying monthly for the pill or buying condoms. On the other hand, severe complications from an IUD — though rare — could lead to hefty medical bills. With any method, there will be many pros and cons to weigh in terms of cost.

2. Convenience

A new form of birth control could be harder or easier to get in your area. Certain brands or methods might not be available at your pharmacy right away. If your method requires a clinic visit, you may have to travel a long way to get to a clinic. You might also need to take into account appointment availability and wait times and how they’ll fit into your schedule.

Likewise, consider other ways your new birth control could factor into your routine. You might need to remember to take a pill every day or even at the same time each day. Or you’ll have to think about when to change your NuvaRing or show up for regular Depo-Provera shots. If you travel regularly, you could have to get refills, condoms, or medical care while on the road.

3. Medical Conditions and Side Effects

Side effects are another major consideration when switching birth control methods. Even different brands with the same ingredients may have subtle differences in their formulas that could cause new side effects. With hormonal methods, different delivery methods can have different degrees of side effects. Hormones from the ring or patch could affect you more intensely than those from the pill, even at low dosages.

You’ll also need to consider your health history and preexisting conditions when choosing your new birth control method. Medical conditions like high blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, or a history of stroke can make hormonal methods dangerous. If you’re over a certain weight, hormonal methods could put you at risk for a dangerous condition called venous thromboembolism. If you’re planning to get pregnant later, particular birth control methods can make it harder for several months after discontinuation.

4. Effectiveness and STI Risk

Before switching birth control methods, consider the effectiveness of your current method versus the new one. Think about how much risk of pregnancy you’re willing to accept for more convenience or fewer side effects. Hormonal birth control methods are generally more effective than barrier methods or natural methods. Methods more vulnerable to human error — like condoms, fertility awareness methods, and withdrawal — tend to be riskier.

If you choose a different primary birth control method, you still might want to use condoms as a backup. Condoms, including both internal and external types, are the only birth control method that protects against STIs. It’s a good idea to get tested regularly for STIs, especially if you’re not using condoms. And regardless of your birth control method, encourage all of your partners to get tested regularly as well.

5. Hormonal or Non-Hormonal

Many hormonal birth control methods have unpleasant side effects for users. They can cause nausea, headaches, breakthrough bleeding, breast tenderness, and more. Hormonal methods can also cause or worsen mental health issues like mood swings and depression. Changes in brand or delivery method can influence the type and occurrence of side effects from hormonal birth control.

Many side effects of hormonal birth control go away after the first few months of use, but sometimes they don’t. If your side effects last longer, you may need to switch brands or types. You might also want to consider going off hormonal birth control entirely, especially if you’ve already tried a few kinds. A quick online consultation can help you compare and contrast methods so you can find the right match for you.

Making Your Best Birth Control Choice

Choosing birth control can be stressful, especially when it takes a lot of trial and error to find the optimal choice. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to find the best method with the fewest side effects. Fortunately, there are dozens of methods and brands to choose from, along with various ways to obtain them. Safe, affordable birth control prescriptions are easier than ever to get — even from the comfort of your own home.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice.