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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Tips For Long-Term Success

The key to long-term success in preventing unplanned pregnancy is to use birth control consistently and correctly. Remember, there is a 25% chance of becoming pregnant if you have intercourse during the time in your menstrual cycle when you are most fertile (mid-cycle, around the time of ovulation), if birth control is not being used. Using birth control every time you have sex will best prevent unwanted pregnancy. Otherwise, you'll put yourself at an unnecessary risk of becoming pregnant. For long-term success remember to:

Be Consistent

Each reversible method of contraception requires your attention and commitment, whether it is talking openly and honestly with your partner to support your decision not to have sex (abstinence), renewing a monthly prescription, taking a pill daily, or regularly visiting your health-care provider for exams and prescriptions. Your time and effort will go a long way toward preventing an unintended pregnancy.

You may need to find creative ways to remind yourself to use, renew and maintain your chosen method of birth control. Keeping a good supply of barrier methods or birth-control pills requires advance planning. Because the pill is taken daily, it's helpful for a woman to associate pill-taking with something she does each morning, such as brushing her teeth or taking a shower. Some women place reminder notes on their bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, car dashboard.

It may also be useful to send yourself a reminder via e-mail of your mobile phone. It is important that you remember to take the pill daily and keep track of when to get the prescription refilled. This takes some forethought and planning, but reminder notes to refill a prescription or a close relationship with a partner can be very helpful.

Use Contraceptive Devices Properly

Instructions for care and storage come with each method of birth control. If you are confused, contact your health-care provider about how to use and care for your method properly. Being afraid to ask questions leads to confusion, misunderstanding and worst of all, an ill-timed pregnancy. So, don't be shy about asking for help. Most questions have already been asked by others before you, and no question is too silly. If you think of questions when you are alone, write them down so you won't forget them. Be sure to ask any and all questions you may have about birth-control methods, proper use of your method, and what you can do to make your method work best for you.

Stay Committed

Discussing birth control with your partner during a quiet time not associated with sex may help both of you to stay committed to preventing an ill-timed pregnancy. Making a pact together and working as a couple will help ensure that you use birth control every time you have sex.

Remember, each sexual encounter carries a risk of pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Protection from pregnancy is not the same thing as protection from STIs. Strongly consider using latex condoms to prevent infection of STDs, even if you are using another form of contraception. Only latex condoms are proven to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Learn about all of the available methods of birth control, because the method you choose today may not serve your needs later in life. You will probably need to adjust your method of birth control several times during your reproductive years to best prevent pregnancy and/or to have a child when the time is right. Putting your knowledge into practice will help you to enjoy your sex life while taking good care of yourself.

Last updated October 1, 2010




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