Friday, October 10, 2003


What is the "ideal" method of birth control ? First of all, it's a method that always protects you against pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). It is also a method which can be used by anyone, at any time during their childbearing years. And last, but not least, it's a method without any side effects. Unfortunately, this "ideal" method doesn't exist.

All the 82 methods of birth control currently available can cause side effects, some more serious than others. Also, for each method, there is a particular group of women best suited to use that method. In order to significantly reduce your risk of side effects, and to get the maximum benefit from birth control, you must use a method that uniquely fits you, and your lifestyle. So, how can you choose the best birth control method for you?

You can consult with your physician, which always helps, but is not enough--the average length of an office visit is 17 minutes. You can find out what your friends are using, but what works for a friend might not be best for you. Or, you can research all the methods yourself, but this is not very practical--few of us have time to spend days doing research, or to go to the library to look through medical journals.

A helpful, time-saving way to evaluate if a birth control method is best suited for you is to apply the Test of Ten. Here are the 10 things you need to know about a method, before you use it:

1. What class of birth control does it belong to?
This helps narrow down the field. For example, if you had a bad experience in the past using the birth control pill (the "Pill"), you may not want to use another method from the same class.
Remember: Class

2. How does it work?
This helps you understand the mechanism by which a method prevents a pregnancy. For example, you may feel more comfortable using a method that is approved by the Church and which has a mechanism the Church sanctions.
Remember: Underlying mechanism

3. What is its failure rate?
This tells you how good the method is at preventing a pregnancy. For example, if you have a medical condition that makes it dangerous for you to become pregnant before treatment is over, you want to choose a method that has the lowest failure rate.
Remember: Pregnancy protection

4. Who should use it?
This helps you determine if you fit the "ideal" user profile for the method. For example, if you travel frequently across time zones, or work different shifts, you are not the ideal candidate for using birth control Pills which need to be taken at the same time each day.
Remember: Ideal user

5. Who shouldn't use it?
This helps focus your search. For example, if you are a smoker, over the age of 35, you want to make sure the method you use is not dangerous for smokers.
Remember: Dangers

6. What are the advantages of using this method?
This helps you choose a method which gives you the most benefits. For example, if you have a strong family history of cancer, you should choose a method that protects you from cancer.
Remember: Method advantages

7. What are the disadvantages and side effect of this method?
This alerts you to possible problems. For example, if you know in advance that a method causes spotting, you may not want to use it. Or, if you do decide to use it, you are better prepared to deal with the spotting.
Remember: Any side effects?

8. Does it offer any protection against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)? This helps you protect yourself. For example, if you, or your partner, have a high risk of acquiring STDs, you want to choose a method that gives you the best possible STD protection.
Remember: The STD risk

9. How soon does fertility return?
This helps you plan for the future. For example, if, once you stop using a method, it takes several months for your fertility to return, and if you plan to become pregnant in the near future, you should not use this method.
Remember: Can it delay fertility?

10. Where can I find more information about this method?
This insures that you always have a handy resource. For example, if you use a method for the first time, you may have additional questions about it, or you may want to learn more about it.
Remember: Handy resource

Tip: the way to remember the Test of Ten is CUPID MATCH


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