Want to Switch Your Birth Control Method? Here's What You Should Know

Finding the right birth control can be a tricky process. Even after carefully weighing options with your gynecologist and selecting the best method for your needs, you may eventually find yourself thinking about switching to another method of contraception. If you are having trouble remembering to take the pill every day, for example, or want to give the IUD a try, there are some steps you might have to take to make a switch.

First, it's good to identify the pros and cons of your current birth control so you can figure out what else is on the market that might work for you. "Finding the right birth control can be tricky, as it is such an individual experience and comes down to trial and error," says Dr. Navya Mysore, MD. "What one woman responds to well may not be the right fit for another. Reactions to birth control that might make you switch are spotting in between your period, breakthrough bleeding, mood swings, increased acne, lower libido, headaches, migraines, or even sensitivity or irritated skin from the patch."

Want to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of switching contraceptives? Dr. Mysore shared a few tips to get you started:

  • If you're considering an IUD, ask your provider more about the insertion experience.
  • Use a backup method for at least seven days when making a switch between birth controls.
  • If you're thinking of moving to condoms, have a discussion with your partner to see if this is a realistic choice for the both of you — it's important that condoms are used consistently and properly.
  • If you have a progesterone-only IUD and want to switch to birth control pills, your medical history will come into play. If you have a history of migraines with aura, for example, you may only be able to take the progesterone-only pill.
  • Be prepared for headaches, nausea, or mood swings when moving from one form to another for a period of time while you adjust.

There is also the risk of additional side effects from your new birth control. You should keep careful track of any symptoms and report them to your doctor. "These side effects can range from unscheduled bleeding to mood swings to hair loss, while noncontraceptive benefits [of birth control] include improvement of acne, lighter and more predictable cycles, and decreasing risk of female reproductive tract cancers," shares Dr. Jennifer Hollings, a board-certified ob-gyn.

In addition to using condoms to prevent STIs, Dr. Hollings recommends condoms for their contraceptive effects as you get used to your new birth control. "If pregnancy is undesired, use the current form of contraception until the new contraception is available to prevent unintended pregnancy," she says. "If a woman is planning to switch from one pill to another pill, patch, or ring, just complete the package or month's supply and move right along."