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    Birth control at different ages

    On this page
    1. Can you take birth control at any age? 
    2. Birth control and teenagers 
    3. Birth control in your 20s and 30s
    4. Birth control for over 40s
    5. Birth control and menopause
    6. Should you take the pill if you are a smoker?
    7. Emergency contraception and age

    Reviewed by our clinical team

    Birth control at different ages

    There are over 15 different methods of birth control, from the pill to the patch to the IUD. With so many options, it can be difficult to know which is best to use. 

    Here we share the most commonly asked questions about contraception including which methods are best for your age group.

    Can you take birth control at any age? 

    There are two different types of birth control; hormonal and non-hormonal methods.

    Any woman of child bearing age can access these methods of birth control. 

    Birth control and teenagers 

    There are many different types of birth control that prevent pregnancy in different ways. These include barrier methods (such as condoms), the pill, coils and the injection.

    What age should you start birth control? 

    You should start using birth control as soon as you start having sex to protect yourself against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only type of birth control that prevent STIs, which can affect you at any age. 

    What is the best birth control method for young adults? 

    All methods of contraception are suitable for people in their 20s and 30s unless they have a certain medical condition or risk factor. For example, those who experience migraines with aura will be advised not to take the combined pill due to an increased risk of stroke.

    What is the best birth control for first time users? 

    Many young people start having sexual intercourse around the age of 16. To reduce the risk of pregnancy, it’s recommended to use a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) method which are much more fool proof and once in place, will protect against pregnancy 24 hours a day.

    The IUD

    The copper coil, or IUD, is a non-hormonal method of birth control which has one of the highest rates of effectiveness. It is inserted into the uterus and can last for up to 10 years, depending on the type. During this time you don’t have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.

    The IUS

    The hormonal coil, or intrauterine system (IUS) is another highly effective form of contraception. It’s a small plastic device that's inserted into your womb. The device releases progestogen which helps prevent you from getting pregnant. 

    The implant

    The implant is a small rod that’s inserted just under the skin in your upper arm. It releases progestogen into your body, which can prevent you from getting pregnant. The implant can stay in your arm for up to three years. 

    No matter which method of birth control you choose to start with, you should always use a condom to protect against STIs.

    Birth control in your 20s and 30s

    Long-acting reversible contraceptives such as the IUD and implant are also effective for women in their 20s and 30s as they provide a convenient option of protection. Other popular options include the pill, patch and vaginal ring.

    Does birth control affect fertility? 

    The pill and most other hormonal methods of birth control have no impact on fertility. It may take a while for your menstrual cycle to return to what is normal for you after you stop using birth control, but this typically happens within three months.

    The contraceptive injection is the only method of birth control that can cause a short-term impact on fertility. This is because it stops ovulation and takes longer for the menstrual cycle to return after use. 

    If you have just given birth, you will need to use certain methods of birth control. This includes the implant, injection, progestogen-only pill and condoms. Find out more about contraception after having a baby.

    Birth control for over 40s

    Most methods of birth control are suitable for those over 40 including the mini pill, coil and condoms. 

    What age should you stop taking birth control pills? 

    Women can use the combined pill up until the age of 50 or progestogen-only pill until the age of 55. After this age, it’s very rare to get pregnant naturally. It is still recommended however to use condoms to protect against STIs.

    What birth control is best for over 40s? 

    You may be able to stick with your preferred method of birth control well into your 40s and 50s until you reach the menopause. Your blood pressure, weight and other medical factors will be taken into consideration by your doctor.

    For those with a history of blood clots, heart problems or breast cancer, you may be advised to use a non-hormonal method of birth control or one that contains progesterone such as a copper coil, the mini pill or condoms. This is because methods that contain the hormone oestrogen such as the combined pill can increase these risks.

    Permanent birth control is also an option for men and women including a vasectomy and tubal ligation, respectively. These may not be reversible so you must be sure you don’t want any more children before surgery.

    Birth control and menopause

    You can still get pregnant while going through the menopause so it’s important to still use birth control even after your periods have completely stopped. 

    Which birth control pill is best for menopause? 

    Most methods of birth control are suitable for women going through the menopause. This includes condoms, the progestogen-only pill, the implant and coil. The combined pill, patch or ring are only suitable until the age of 50. Find out more about the different types of contraception during menopause.

    Is birth control needed after menopause? 

    You can still get pregnant while going through the menopause so it’s important to still use birth control even after your periods have completely stopped. 

    If you’re over 50, you should use birth control until a year has passed after your last period. If you’re under 50, then you’ll need to wait two years. This guidance will vary slightly if you are using hormonal contraception which may cause missed or irregular periods as well as withdrawal bleeds, making it difficult to tell if you’re still ovulating.

    Should you take the pill if you are a smoker?

    Those who are over the age of 35 and smoke may be advised to avoid birth control methods that contain oestrogen such as the combined pill as this can increase the risk of stroke.

    Emergency contraception and age

    Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the birth control used has failed or been forgotten. There are two types: the morning after pill (Levonorgestrel or ellaOne) and the IUD, or emergency coil

    Can teenagers take the morning after pill?  

    Most women can use the morning after pill, including girls under 16. 

    Is emergency contraception suitable for older women?  

    All women can take the morning after pill unless they are allergic to any ingredients, have severe asthma or take certain medicines including St John’s Wort, some treatments for HIV, epilepsy and tuberculosis, omeprazole and less common antibiotics. 

    In this case, you can only take Levonorgestrel (sometimes known by the brand name Levonelle) and may need an increased dose. If you are breastfeeding you can also safely take Levonorgestrel. 

    The IUD can also be used for emergency contraception. This is suitable for all women apart from those who have an untreated STI, issues with their womb or cervix, and unexplained bleeding between periods.

    In summary, there are many different methods of birth control that can all be used at any age as soon as you start having sex. 

    Take a look at our contraception guide to find the best method for you, or get more information at our contraception advice hub where you can find out more about the different types of pills and learn more about where to get emergency contraception.

    Looking for contraception?

    Visit our contraception service


    References
    https://www.fsrh.org/documents/combined-hormonal-contraception/ 
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/menopause-contraceptive-pill/
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/emergency-contraception/ 
    https://www.sexwise.org.uk/contraception/ius-intrauterine-system 

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