Choosing a form of birth control, or contraception, is a highly personal decision and should be informed by your unique wants and needs. Some people want to have a regular period, some want an option they don’t have to think about every day, and others want a non-hormonal option — these are just a few common considerations.
Contraception can be useful even if you are not actively avoiding pregnancy (perhaps you aren’t having sex, or you’re doing so with a female partner). Different kinds of contraception can help alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), control hormonal acne, and even treat conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and uterine fibroids.
Consulting with your doctor
With so many birth control options available, the best place to start is talking to your provider about your personal goals for starting or switching contraceptive methods.
A provider might ask you about your sexual history, number of current partners, and additional health factors. Then, it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for you. Remember, it’s your body, so feel free to ask any questions you have and voice any concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable with their recommendations, you can always seek another opinion.
Contraception after birth
If you recently had a baby and have resumed intercourse with a male partner, you may want to consider contraception. Even though you are less likely to get pregnant soon after giving birth, ovulation and fertility can return at any time, even while breastfeeding. Resuming contraception will not impact your ability to conceive in the future if you want more children, and it is safe for you and your baby. By waiting at least six months to conceive again, you are more likely to have a healthy pregnancy.
Contraception and the Black community
When it comes to reproductive health, Black women in the U.S. have experienced a long history of trauma. From 1900 through much of the 1970s, many Black women were forced to be sterilized or compelled to accept long-acting contraceptives without consent. Some of these birth control methods were unsafe, such as the Dalkon Shield (discontinued in 1975). In many cases, this pressured contraception/sterilization was a condition of receiving government benefits and financial assistance.
While this history is disturbing, it’s important to know this context. When you are educated about your options, you are empowered to make an informed choice about a contraceptive method that is safe and effective for you. Weigh the risks and benefits of each type of birth control, and work with your provider to choose what’s best for you.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Combination birth control pills.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. December 17, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/combination-birth-control-pills/about/pac-20385282.
- “Birth Control: The Pill.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. July, 21, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/3977-birth-control-the-pill.
- Byrne K. Medical records in litigation: the Dalkon Shield story. AMRO. 1992 Feb;32(5):11-4. PMID: 10117045.
- Prather, Cynthia et al. “Racism, African American Women, and Their Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Review of Historical and Contemporary Evidence and Implications for Health Equity.” Health equity vol. 2,1 249-259. 24 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1089/heq.2017.0045
- “Birth Control Options.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. July, 21, 2020. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/3977-birth-control-the-pill.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Birth control options: Things to consider.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. February 16, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/birth-control-options/art-20045571