Ask An Expert·3 min read

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Switching Birth Control

A woman holding up a birth control pill packet
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
December 13, 2023

Not every birth control method is right for every person. Some can come with unwanted side effects. The good news: If you want to try a different option, there are plenty to choose from. So how do you know when to switch? We talked to Colleen Denny, MD, director of family planning at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, to find out.

What are some signs I should try a different birth control method?

Birth control is generally safe — but Denny says you should consider a different option, if your birth control isn’t fitting with:

  • Your lifestyle  

  • Your preferences. For example, if you’d prefer something that you don’t have to think about, versus remembering to take a pill every day. 

  • Your body, if birth control is causing unwanted symptoms.

You don't need a grace period before changing methods. “If it's bothersome enough to you right off the bat, it's totally fine to switch.” That said, “if you're a person that's noticing irregular bleeding or irregular spotting … we do know that with longer use of the hormonal birth control, that tends to even out.”

Featured Expert:

Colleen Denny, MD

Colleen Denny, MD - Director of family planning at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn.

Ultimately, you’re in charge here. If you have concerns about your birth control method, it’s important to communicate them to your provider. According to Denny, reasons to switch birth control methods generally fall into three buckets — so consider asking yourself…

Do I want kids? If so, when?

An IUD lasts as long as 10 years, and may be a good option if you don’t want kids now or ever. If you do want kids, a short-term birth control method (like the pill or condoms) may be a better option. And if you don't know if you want them, don’t worry: Most birth control options are reversible — and they generally don’t impact long-term fertility

Am I experiencing side effects? 

Like most things medical, birth control can have side effects. “People can be sensitive to [hormones] in different ways,” she explains. That could include nausea, breast tenderness, or undesirable period patterns. So it’s important to “[listen] to your symptoms and your [body’s] reaction to birth control,” says Denny. 

Are there medical conditions to consider?

In some cases, you may be advised to avoid birth control containing estrogen, says Denny. Your doctor may steer you away from the patch, the ring, and some forms of the pill if you have blood pressure issues, clotting diseases, or migraines. Generally, clue your doctor into any conditions you have when you’re discussing the right birth control method for you.

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

Live Smarter

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.