Staying loyal to a great doctor

Staying loyal to a great doctor or a genius hairdresser—that’s just smart. But when it comes to birth control, sticking with the same method throughout the years isn’t always the right move. “Your contraceptive should fit your health, lifestyle, and values,” says Michele Curtis, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. That’s because the more comfortable you are with your birth control, the more likely you are to use it consistently—meaning less risk of an unintended pregnancy.

Whether you’re 25 or 45, condoms are a must to guard against STDs. But since condoms also have a higher failure rate than other forms of birth control, it’s wise to double up. Hormonal contraceptives—the Pill, patch, or vaginal ring—are highly effective. As a bonus, they can also help regulate periods, reduce PMS symptoms, and lower the risk of some cancers.

If you want to avoid an estrogen-containing method, you can pair condoms with an intrauterine device (IUD)—either the hormone-free copper ParaGard or the progestin-containing Mirena. Other good options include Implanon, a progestin-releasing implant that’s inserted in the upper arm for up to three years; and Depo-Provera, a progestin injection that’s given every three months.