How to Use Birth Control Effectively

Mid section view of a woman holding a blister pack of contraceptive pills
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Did you know that about half of unplanned pregnancies occur in women using contraceptives? That's because birth control pills and other contraceptives must be used correctly in order to be effective, and too often they aren't. Here's a primer on how to use common birth control methods for effective pregnancy prevention.

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills need to be taken at the same time every day in order to be most effective. Choose a time of day that works best with your schedule and stick to it. Consider setting an alarm to keep yourself on track. Use an alternative method of contraception, such as condoms, if you forget two or more pills in one cycle. Certain antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, so ask your doctor or the pharmacist about this if you're prescribed antibiotics.


When using condoms, remember to follow the instructions on the package exactly. Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place in order to maintain their quality. Avoid using your fingernails, teeth or sharp objects to open the package, as this could result in tears. If you notice a hole or tear in the condom, discard it immediately and do not use it.


An intrauterine device (IUD) is a low-maintenance form of birth control that is very effective. But you shouldn't just have an IUD inserted and then forget about it. Check for the string extending from your cervix monthly. If you can't feel it, use alternative contraception and call your physician, as this could signal that it has shifted or become dislodged from your uterus.

Emergency Contraception

If you slipped up and had unprotected sex or your birth control method failed, you have the option of using emergency contraception. While it's often called "the morning after pill," you actually have 72 hours after unprotected sex to use emergency contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. The sooner it is taken, the better your chances of preventing an unwanted pregnancy. Emergency contraception is available over the counter for women of all ages.

Whatever form of birth control you choose, remember to use it consistently. If you have any questions about the use of your birth control method, contact your healthcare provider.Contact your physician if you experience any side effects such as abnormal bleeding, pain, or fever.

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