Is it convenient and affordable?

For some people, convenience suggests ease of use, no bothersome side effects or no disruption of the sexual experience. For others, convenience means no prescription is required. When choosing a method of contraception, consider how willing you are to plan ahead or, if necessary, adhere to a rigid schedule. It's important to choose a type of birth control that suits your lifestyle.

Some methods of contraception are inexpensive, while others are more costly. Ask your insurance provider about coverage, and then consider the expense as you make a decision.

What are the side effects?

Consider your tolerance for the possible side effects associated with a particular birth control method. Some methods, particularly those that contain estrogen or progesterone, pose more side effects — some potentially serious — than do others, such as barrier methods and natural family planning methods. Talk to your health care provider about your medical history and how it might affect your choice of birth control.

Does it protect against sexually transmitted infections?

Male and female condoms are the only methods of birth control that offer reliable protection from sexually transmitted infections. Unless you're in a mutually monogamous relationship and have been tested for sexually transmitted infections, use a new condom every time you have sex in addition to any other method of birth control you use.

Does it offer other benefits?

In addition to preventing pregnancy, some contraceptives provide benefits such as more predictable, lighter menstrual cycles, a decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections or a reduction in the risk of some cancers. If these benefits are important to you, they may influence your choice of birth control option.

Is it acceptable to your sexual partner?

Your partner may have birth control preferences that are similar to or different from your own. Discuss birth control options with your partner to help determine which method is acceptable to both of you.

What's the bottom line?

When you choose a birth control method, many factors come into play, including your age, health, emotional maturity, marital status and religious convictions. Knowing your options is part of the decision process — but an honest assessment of yourself, your partner and your relationship is just as important. Ideally, you and your partner will discuss the options and reach a mutually beneficial decision.

Jan. 27, 2012 See more In-depth