Birth Control Methods for Women Over 30by Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. Health Professional
Just as you change as you get older, so do your birth control needs. From long-acting options to daily pills, here are some birth control methods to consider after age 30 based on your family planning goals, lifestyle needs, and more.
Why Worry About Different Birth Control as You Age?
As our bodies age, different changes alter how we respond, positively or negatively, to birth control methods. Certain illnesses, your weight, lifestyle choices, and other factors can play a part in your decision about which birth control method works well for you. Based on your life stage and your current health needs, you may want to consider a completely different type of birth control than the one you might 10 years in the past or future.
The Combination Birth Control Pill
Many people are familiar with the birth control pill. The most common type is the combination pill, which contains low doses of estrogen and progestin. This type of birth control can be used up to and through early menopause. It may even help with perimenopausal hot flashes, mood swings, and irregular bleeding, and it may reduce your risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. If you have migraines or are a smoker (especially over 35), then this may not be a good choice due to the risk of blood clots.
The Progestin-only Birth Control Pill
The progestin-only pill is another type of birth control pill. If you're a breastfeeding mom, the mini-pill, as it’s also known, may be the right choice for you. It also may be a good choice if you have a heart disease risk and can't take an estrogen-based birth control pill. It has a slightly lower success rate than the combination pill, but still works quite well to prevent pregnancy.
Warning: If you’re not able to diligently take the pill at the same time every day at the same time, skip this option.
The Extended Cycle Birth Control Pill
Hate getting your period? Not planning a pregnancy for a while? Suffer from awful PMS? The extended cycle birth control pill may be an ideal choice. Some of these pills, such as Seasonale and Seasonique, will result in only four periods a year, and Lybrel will stop your period for a full year if you take one pill daily. Some users may have spotting in the first few months of using an extended cycle pill, but this generally goes away with longer use and strict adherence to the schedule.
This tried and true method is still a great option for women 30 and older, especially if you are not in a monogamous relationship, because it protects against pregnancy and is the only birth control method that helps prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you are under age 40, you may consider pairing the condom with another contraception method for the best protection to avoid pregnancy and STIs at the same time. Condoms come in male and female versions and can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. When used correctly for each sex act, they have low pregnancy rates.
The Birth Control Implant
An implant is a tiny progestin-releasing plastic rod inserted in your upper arm that will provide birth control for about three years. It's nearly 100 percent effective and many insurance plans may cover its $400-$800 price tag. It used to be recommended that obese women not use this method, but it this is an acceptable form of birth control for any weight, especially when longer needles are used for insertion.
The Birth Control Shot
Most people know the injectable form of birth control by the name Depo, which involves a shot once every three months at your health care provider’s office. The birth control shot is another progestin-only form of birth control and is highly effective. However, using this method can cause bone loss, although some or most comes back after stopping the shots. If you have heart disease risk factors, history of stroke, high blood pressure that is poorly controlled, or vascular disease, you may be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease if you use this method.
The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The intrauterine device (IUD) is placed inside the uterus at your health care provider’s office and is good for several years of pregnancy protection, depending on the type of IUD you use. There are hormonal and nonhormonal versions available. It can be removed at any point if you wish to become pregnant. These are highly effective with little room for error, so this may be a good option if you are not looking to have children during the next several years.
If you know for sure you don't want children, then a tubal ligation (surgery to block the Fallopian tubes) may be a good choice for you. Since this is a permanent method of birth control, you need to be absolutely certain about not having children and should speak to your doctor, and potentially partner, about the procedures. Men can also be sterilized in a procedure known as a vasectomy, which has fewer risks than tubal ligation.
Pregnancy Rates Over 30 Are Rising
Remember, it is very possible to get pregnant after age 30, 40, and, in some cases, 50. While your natural fertility may wane with age, the over-30 group is one of the fastest-growing groups of women getting pregnant. Many of these pregnancies are planned, as women seek to delay childbearing until other aspects of their life are established. But if you are actively trying to prevent pregnancy, don’t assume an older age means you don’t need an effective and reliable form of birth control.