If Finding Birth Control That Fits You Has Been Nearly Impossible, You’re Not Alone


When I was 13, I went on the Pill. I didn’t need it for contraceptive purposes; I just had hospital-admitting, head-splitting PMS each month. Sadly, I experienced numerous unpleasant side effects and, after about a year, decided to move on to a different one. I opted for the birth control patch which I used for a few years, but that didn’t work out too well either. I kind of teetered on and off the patch until I was 19 when I began using NuvaRing which is actually pretty snazzy with regards to side effects (for me, at least, and for now). Eventually, I would like to try the injectable birth controls, but I need to find a doctor in my new city of residence. I’ve always thought of myself as being far more experimental and indecisive than most people when it came to finding the best birth control for me, but apparently I’m not alone: nearly a third of American women have been equally flexible and varying in their birth control decisions.

According to two reports published yesterday by the National Center of Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 percent of women in the United States have tried 5 or more types of contraception. Additionally, about 11 percent of sexually experienced women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used emergency contraception with that statistic going from 4.2 percent in 2002 to 10.8 percent in 2006 to 2010. Plenty of interesting factors accompany that increase:

Most women used the emergency measure once (59%) or twice (24%) vs 17% for 3 or more times, and did so because they feared that their primary contraceptive method had failed (45%) or because they had unprotected sex (49%). Fear of failure varied with age, remaining stable from age 15 to 29 years (34%, 41%) and then increasing from age 30 to 44 years (52%).

Other factors for emergency contraceptive use included race/ethnicity (white, 53%; black, 27%; Hispanic, 33%) and education: Emergency contraception was more than twice as popular among women with a bachelor’s degree or more compared with those lacking a high school education/general equivalency degree (58% vs 26%).

Oh, and sort of good news: 99.1 percent of sexually experienced women say they have used some form of contraception in their lifetimes. Granted, that could mean they utilized a condom once and then used the rest of the box as water balloons, bur nevertheless, it’s good to see a high number for this statistic. The most popular method, of course, is the condom with 93.4 percent having used one. The Pill comes in second place with 81.9, while withdrawal has been used by 59.6 percent of women and 3-month injectable contraception by 23.2 percent.

Finding the birth control that works best for you is incredibly important, but it’s not always easy. There are plenty of questions to consider: Are you responsible with carrying pills? Are you good at remembering to take them? Are you avoiding anything with hormones? Are you okay with surgery or not? Is there a chance you’ll want kids in the semi-near future? Are you allergic to anything?

Fortunately, an OBGYN or nurse can often discuss all of these with you and help you come up with a plan that suits your needs excellently. Side note: this is yet another reason why Planned Parenthood needs to live on: it provides consideration and information to women who need help figuring out which contraceptive methods to use. Birth control, and all the care that comes with it, need to be available to all women.

Photo: teofilo / Flickr

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    • Tania

      I was super lucky in that the first type of BC I tried worked to alleviate my symptoms (cramps, ridiculously heavy flow) without any adverse side effects. It must be incredibly frustrating trying to find something that works when everything seems not to.

    • anna

      i was lucky too. when i was 17 and started having sex i went to planned parenthood and got on the pill. i’ve been on it since, with acne reducing, PMS reducing, weight reducing, and period regulating side effects.
      Planned Parenthood is awesome, and I hope you all find your birth control!

    • Anonachocolatemousse

      I went on the pill to try and regulate my periods and try to contain my PCOS (ha! contain). I was terrible at remembering to take them everyday, even when I had an alarm. So of course after I was without insurance I reached out to Planned Parenthood and asked to try the patch. IT SUCKED. The glue made my skin itch like crazy and if I put anywhere near my ovaries, it felt like I was having the most intense period of my life. Right now I’m on the Nuvaring and I love it. It’s one of those fix it and forget type things. I do count myself lucky that with all the switching, I’ve still maintained my low flow 2-3 day periods. But damn it if I haven’t seen any reduced acne or weight loss. :/ But it’s oddly nice to know that I’m not the only who has worked to find a better BC solution for myself.

    • gen

      I had tried to be on the pill 3 or 4 different times, each time with nightmarish results. The pill gave me the worst mood swings, weight gain, and even spotting. After concluding that the pill was the cause of making me into a crazy person who frequently broke down into tears, I swore off of it. When I switched to The Ring I thought I had found my godsend. I had no negative side effects, or so I thought. About six months into being on the ring I started feeling the similar side effects of the pill. Finally, my gyno suggested an IUD. I’ve had the Mirena for over a year now. It’s absolutely the best thing ever. No side effects and I no longer get a period, which means I never get cramps. I love love love it and highly suggest it to anyone who has had similar frustrations with bcs like me.

    • Hilary

      Your regular primary care physician will also be able to guide you in the type of contraception that’s best for you, and will most likely be easier to get in to see then an OBGYN (and no specialist co-pays!).

    • Anonymous

      I have always had a hard time finding a condom to fit my large penis. It really takes the fun out of it when the circulation is cut off.

    • chick

      A journalist, even an online one, must strive to communicate as clearly and intelligently as possible. The quality of writing used in this article would not pass muster in a high school English class. The way we speak affects how people receive our message and especially as women in journalism, we need to seek to show we can communicate ideas as articulately as men. elevating the quality of our writing elevates the quality of our journalism.

    • foodandart

      Ugh.. So many women playing with chemical fire.

      Right now, – FINALLY! – the government’s Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee came out a few days ago and is going to start to look into the issues of *chemical* exposures to ALL substances that can lead to breast cancer. And irrespective of what we tell ourselves about the ‘convenience’ of it, chemically tricking the body into a false pregnancy state – which IS how hormonal birth control works – is playing with fire.

      It’s NOT a coincidence that since the advent of ‘the pill’, the ‘plastics revolution’ and modern industrial farming and food production – all introduced in the 1950′s – breast cancer has soared.

      Is it a combination of the ubiquitous plastics (that are EVERYWHERE), the hormones (that have been pushed upon women like all we do is mindlessly screw anything with a penis) and the obesity epidemic (have another two liters of Coke, right?) that’s now striking each successive generation at a younger and younger age, or is it each by themselves?

      No one’s is sure, but at least it’s getting looked into. Take care and NEVER assume that chemicals are the only option.

    • Judith

      I’m another one of those people who have had a really hard time finding a birth control that works with my body and doesn’t turn me into a crazy depressed person. I went on the pill when I was 18 with some really bad side effects, but I didn’t realize it was birth control affecting me because of all the other stress I was under (choosing a college, going to college, boyfriends and everything that comes with being 18). I think it’s incredibly important for women to pay attention to their bodies; it’s really easy to not realize how subtle a drug’s effects can be on your body and well-being. Birth control is an amazing tool as long as you are choosing the correct type, and paying attention to how your body and mind (especially your mind!) are responding to it. No one likes being sad, so you should do everything you can do to keep yourself happy, and healthy. Take the time to research different types of contraception and decide which one sounds right for you, and don’t be afraid to switch around until you get it right!