9 Things to Know About Birth Control
Facts about birth control
Many of us go ages without giving our birth control a second thought. “But as you move through different phases, your needs may change,” says Katharine O’Connell White, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Boston University School of Medicine. “What worked for you a decade ago may not be ideal now.” The good news: There are more than a dozen options out there. Downside? It’s trickier than ever to choose. Use our guide to make an informed decision. From what’s the best emergency contraception to why IUDs are safer than people think, here’s the absolute latest on pregnancy prevention.
You can use an IUD at any stage of life
IUDs are reversible, long-lasting (up to 10 years), and highly effective (more than 99 percent fail-safe)—which makes these devices a good option whether you’re in your 20s or your 40s, says Dr. White. Yet less than 7 percent of American women have an IUD. That may be due in part to an outdated misconception: In the past, IUDs were considered appropriate only for women who’d had kids, explains Dr. White. “There used to be a fear that IUDs would lead to infections, which could lead to infertility,” she says.
But now doctors know that these devices don’t raise a woman’s risk of pelvic infection beyond the “insertion window,” or the three weeks after the IUD is inserted. “So there should be no concern for women planning to have children in the future,” says Dr. White. If you’re in a monogamous relationship—and you and your partner don’t have any STIs— “an IUD is very, very safe.”
You still need birth control in your 40s
Yes, as you get older, it’s harder to get pregnant. But it’s still a very real possibility, cautions Colleen McNicholas, DO, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a 40-something patient stare at me in shock when I’ve told her she’s pregnant,” she says. McNicholas often recommends that women over 40 either take oral contraceptives, which can help relieve the symptoms of perimenopause, or use a hormonal IUD that can help regulate their period.
But bear in mind: These two forms of birth control may make it difficult to know when you’ve entered menopause. That’s because with the pill, you’ll still get an “artificial” period each month, and with the IUD, you may have no period at all.