Not vibing with your birth-control method? That happens! Everyone is different when it comes to which birth control works for them. Sometimes it can take a few tries and doctor visits to land on the perfect fit. Your birth-control preference is allowed to change over time, too.
For the record, you should speak with a healthcare provider if you feel that a new birth-control method might be necessary. However, we broke down a few common signs, symptoms, and experiences that might indicate it's time to explore making a switch.
Check them out, along with tips on how to best start the process of switching birth control, below.
You're Dealing with Breakthrough Bleeding
Here's the thing: breakthrough bleeding can be an initial side effect from starting a new hormonal birth-control method.
"Pretty much any hormonal method can cause spotting at first," confirmed Maria Sophocles, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and the medical director of Women's Healthcare of Princeton. "I see this with birth-control pills, the patch, the ring, the shot, the arm insert, and the hormonal IUDs."
However, if it continues past a certain period of time, breakthrough bleeding could also be a sign that you and your birth-control method aren't made for each other. If this side effect continues after three or six months, Dr. Sophocles said it might be time to try another contraceptive method.
You're Experiencing Pain
If you're dealing with painful menstrual cramps or period discomfort that's impacting your life, reach out to your doctor. Dr. Sophocles said other potential issues behind the pain, like appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy, need to be ruled out first.
However, if your pain is from period cramps, switching to hormonal birth control could potentially help. Dr. Sophocles said many people begin birth control to help with period cramps even when they're not sexually active. Your doctor can help you decide if this birth-control method is right for your needs.
Nonhormonal birth-control methods, like condoms or the copper IUD, sadly cannot help with period cramps. In fact, Dr. Sophocles explained that the copper IUD (Paragard) can cause slightly heavier and crampier periods.
"That said, if a person with a Paragard in place is having severe pain or extremely heavy bleeding, they should be evaluated by their healthcare provider to make sure it is in the proper place and that there is nothing else going on," she added.
You Keep Forgetting to Take the Pill
In order for the birth-control pill to effectively prevent pregnancy, it needs to be taken every day. Missing a pill or forgetting to take it makes this method of contraception less reliable and therefore increases your chances of an unplanned pregnancy.
So if you are frequently forgetting to take your pill, you might want to consider a different method of birth control.
"If it's hard for you to remember to take a pill every day, there are many other options that don't require as much work from the patient," Dr. Sophocles said. "For example, the long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are an excellent choice."
Dr. Sophocles said this category of birth control includes the arm implant (Nexplanon) and IUDs, both of which need to be inserted and removed by trained healthcare providers, like an ob-gyn.
"The patient does not need to remember to do anything, and they are the gold standard for birth-control effectiveness," Dr. Sophocles said.
Depending on the type of LARC method, they can actually prevent pregnancy between three and 12 years. It's important to note that the birth-control implant and IUDs do not protect against STIs. According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are the only birth-control method that can prevent both STIs and pregnancy.
You Want Something More Convenient
According to Dr. Sophocles, the most convenient method of birth control is "the one you think about the least."
If you hate having to remember to take the pill every day or hate the fact that you have to remove your NuvaRing once a month, you might want to speak with your doctor about your other options. IUDs and the birth-control implant both offer protection from pregnancy for a matter of years.
You're Feeling Down or Depressed
If you feel like your hormonal birth control is messing with your mood in a negative way or making you feel depressed, Dr. Sophocles recommends reaching out to your doctor for evaluation. You may also want to think about switching birth-control methods.
"This can sometimes happen while on birth-control pills and any other combined hormonal method - meaning ones with estrogen plus progesterone," Dr. Sophocles said.
Your doctor can help you determine which method of contraception is a better fit for you.
How to Start Exploring New Birth-Control Methods
Dr. Sophocles said side effects like acne, nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain, and headaches may also cause someone to want to switch birth-control methods. The cost of birth-control pills may also influence someone's decision to switch.
So if you're at all unhappy with your birth-control method, a good plan of action is to call up your doctor and schedule an appointment.
"I always ask my patients what they are looking for in a birth-control method and then review all of the options with them," Dr. Sophocles said. "Together, using joint decision making, we choose the best method for them. If it doesn't work out after a few months, we can always change it."
If you do want to learn a little bit about what other birth-control methods are out there on your own or while you wait for your appointment, it's incredibly important that you visit factual and reliable websites.
"Using Dr. Google can be dangerous and offer misinformation," Dr. Sophocles warned. Planned Parenthood and Mayo Clinic are two websites that Dr. Sophocles said she trusts for birth-control information. Having a doctor's appointment on the books also allows for you to personally ask a licensed and knowledgeable medical provider questions about things you've read.
You may also want to crowdsource information from the people in your life about their preferred birth-control methods, but remember that everyone reacts differently to various birth-control methods, so their success isn't necessarily guaranteed for you.
When switching birth-control methods, Dr. Sophocles also stressed, it's important to use a reliable backup form of contraception. "Condoms, for example, like Trojan, can help prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as STIs," she said.