5 signs it’s time to switch birth control methods

Because life’s too short, and you don’t have time for nonsense

Ever feel stuck in a job or a relationship that just isn’t working for you, but you’re not sure how to get out of it? The right partner might be hard to find (and the right job might be even harder) but the right birth control method for you doesn’t have to be.

Look, we’re not going to sit here and tell you anything in life is perfect, but we are saying don’t marry someone you don’t like and don’t stick with a birth control method that makes you feel sick, sad, or otherwise less than great. There are too many good options out there to use one you don’t like.

And actually, lots of people try more than one method. On average, people try about three different birth control methods in their lives, and about one in three people actually try five or more methods. Five or more! All of that is to say don’t give up just because you don’t like the first (or second, or third) one you try.

Here are some common signs that there may be a better method out there for you than the one you’re on right now:

1. You’re not happy with the side effects

It’s fairly common to have some side effects, like nausea, when you start a new method. You may want to give it a few months to see if the side effects go away on their own, as long as they’re minimal and not bothering you too much. If you’re not sure if they could be serious or if you should stick it out, it’s a good idea to check in with your provider (or if you don’t have one, find a health center here).

But if you’ve given your method time to settle in, and you’re still not feeling too hot on it, whether physically or emotionally, try something else! There are lots of different hormonal methods, and different methods have different types and amounts of hormones in them, so just because you’re struggling on one pill doesn’t mean a different pill or the ring or patch will affect you the same way. Or if you’ve tried a few different hormonal methods, and you’re just over hormones, there are also a lot of non-hormonal options, including the copper IUD, condoms, internal condoms, the diaphragm, the sponge, the cervical cap, and more!

2. You keep forgetting to take your pill

This is a common problem people run into with the pill. You’ve probably already tried setting an alarm and using a reminders app, but if not, try those things first. If you’re still struggling to remember or you just don’t like having to do something every day for your method to work, you have so many other options!

You could try condoms, internal condoms, the cervical cap, spermicide, the sponge, or the diaphragm, which you only have to remember every time you have sex. (Then again, if you’re one of those lucky people who has sex multiple times a day every day you could end up having more to remember than you did with the pill.)

You could also try the patch, which you only have to remember to swap out once a week, or the ring, which you leave in for three weeks at a time. Or consider the implant, which a provider places in your arm, and which you can use for up to four years if you want. Or the IUD, which (depending on which one you get) you may be able to use for even longer. That’s literal YEARS of not having to remember anything BC-related.

3. Your period situation is not working

Sick of spotting as a side effect of your method? Tired of feeling like you’re going to bleed out every month? Or has your period stopped on your IUD and you keep freaking out that you’re pregnant? Different methods can affect your period differently (and some methods don’t affect it at all). The copper IUD (Paragard) might make it heavier, the hormonal IUD options (Mirena, Liletta, Kyleena, and Skyla) might make it lighter or make it stop altogether, and condoms don’t affect it at all! No matter what you’re looking for, there really is a birth control for every need.

4. You’re nervous that you’re not protected

If you’re worried the method you’re using right now isn’t the best at preventing pregnancy, and you find yourself feeling nervous every time your period is a little late or stressing out during sex, first get the facts on how effective it actually is. Then look into whether there are ways to use your method more effectively that would make it better at preventing pregnancy. If it still isn’t as effective as you’d like it to be, it might be worth thinking about switching methods.

If you’re worried about STIs that your method isn’t protecting you from, you may want to switch to using condoms or internal condoms (or use them in addition to your current method). Condoms and internal condoms are the only methods that can prevent pregnancy and also protect against STIs.

5. Your needs have changed

Real life is messy. Things don’t always stay the same, and your birth control needs to keep up. Going back to school, taking a stressful new job, having a kid, and many, many other life situations can change what you need out of your birth control and what works and doesn’t work for you. That’s normal and totally fine. It doesn’t mean you have to live with something that doesn’t work for you, and it also doesn’t mean you have to give up on birth control altogether. Your birth control should fit into your life, not the other way around.

Written by Lauren Kernan, MA

Lauren Kernan is the Director of Content and UX Strategy for Bedsider and Abortion Finder. In her spare time, she can be found sewing or starting and giving up on various other crafts.