When should I switch birth control methods?

Author
Kristin Hoppe
,
Reviewer
Anna Funk
,
Ph.D.
Sometimes the birth control you’re taking just isn’t the right fit. Here’s what to consider when switching birth control methods.

Sometimes the birth control you’re taking just isn’t the right fit. Here’s what to consider when switching birth control methods.

Are you on the right birth control for your body?

Many of us have been there before — experiencing negative side effects from birth control can feel overwhelming and sometimes even out of control. Unfortunately, it’s a common experience that often requires a long process of trial and error to get past.


When is it worth it to switch birth control?

The birth control side effects you experience depend on a wide variety of factors — your genetic makeup, your hormone levels, what type of birth control you're taking, and how that birth control interacts with your body.

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 65% of women ages 15-49 are currently using contraception¹ — and one of the most common contraceptive methods is birth control pills.

People take two different types of birth control pills²: the mini pill (which uses estrogen) and the combination pill (which uses estrogen and progestin). Hormonal contraceptives like the Pill can give side effects such as³:

  • Acne
  • Changes in menstrual flow or spotting between periods
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness, enlargement, or discharge
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Gingivitis
  • Changes in libido

Your birth control side effects should not get in the way of your quality of life. Everyone deserves a method that fits their lifestyle and meets reproductive goals. If you’re experiencing negative side effects, you may want to consider switching.

Switching birth control can also help address specific health conditions⁴ you may be experiencing, including:

  • Heavy, irregular, or painful periods
  • Anemia (from excessive bleeding during your period)
  • Improved acne
  • Migraines 
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)⁵
  • Fibroids
  • Hormone imbalances

For example, after giving birth, your hormone levels change abruptly and dramatically⁶. This may mark a point in your life where it's worth reconsidering which type of birth control you want to use for your body.

How to make the switch

Before you decide to change birth control, you should always consult with your doctor to confirm that the side effects you're experiencing are related to your current contraceptive, and determine a better alternative together.

Tracking your symptoms is a great way to come prepared with data and better understand what’s happening to your body.

Once you do this, you may realize that you'd like to use a different method of birth control that has less negative side effects for you. Switching between birth control brands or types may actually feel a little overwhelming to figure out — or like you're trying to do some kind of terrible math equation.

This table below illustrates best practices for switching from one type of birth control to another, so that you don't lose pregnancy prevention coverage during the switch.

This table is adapted from the Reproductive Access Health Project⁷, published in 2011. Always consult your doctor and/or pharmacist to make sure these guidelines apply to your specific birth control.

Citations

1. Daniels, PhD, K. (2018, December). Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15–49: United States, 2015–2017. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db327.htm

2. MedlinePlus. (2020, October). Birth control pills - combination. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000655.htm

 MedlinePlus. (2015, September). Estrogen and Progestin (Oral Contraceptives). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601050.html

3.  MedlinePlus. (2015, September). Estrogen and Progestin (Oral Contraceptives). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601050.html

4. Jones, R. (2011, November). Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/beyond-birth-control.pdf

5.  Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. (2017). Hormonal contraception in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: choices, challenges, and noncontraceptive benefits. Dovepress - Open Access Journal of Contraception. Published. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5774551/

6.  Hendrick, V. (1998). Hormonal changes in the postpartum and implications for postpartum depression. PubMed. Published. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9584534/

7.  American Family Physician. (2011, March). How to Switch Birth Control Methods. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2011/0301/p575.html#afp20110301p575-ut1

8.  Kestelman, P. (1991). Efficacy of the simultaneous use of condoms and spermicides. Https://Pubmed.Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov/1743276/. Published. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1743276/


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