Conversations about contraception tend to focus on a younger group of women who are at the peak of fertility during their twenties and thirties. Thanks to a new crop of contraceptive options for women over 40, the conversation is changing.
“Although fertility declines with age, it is still possible for an unintended pregnancy to occur. Effective contraception is just as important for women over 40 as it is for younger women,” says Beverly Eisenhuth, DO, OB/GYN at Lawrence Park OB/GYN at the Main Line Health Broomall.
Until recently, birth control options for women over 40 were thought to be limited to condoms or sterilization. In fact, the most common method of birth control for women over 40 continues to be some form of sterilization, either a vasectomy or a tube-tying procedure. However, women can now choose from a variety of options for contraception, including pills, rings, patches, injections, implants, and intrauterine devices.
Of course, with so much selection, it can be difficult to decide which option is best for you. Although the options have grown for women over 40,
Dr. Eisenhuth says there are often many considerations to make when choosing which contraception is right for you.
“Today, no contraceptive method is off-limits based on age alone,” she explains. “However, in choosing a birth control option, it’s important to consider factors like your health history, your risk for blood clots and cardiovascular disease, your plans for future childbearing, and your desire for a particular benefit that a certain method may offer.”
Aside from birth control, women can actually enjoy many other benefits from hormonal contraception. Depending on the contraceptive method, some of these benefits include treatment of painful, heavy, or irregular periods, improvement in bone mineral density, and a decrease in the risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colon cancer.
Nonetheless, estrogen-containing methods, including rings, patches, and most pills, can put some women over 35 at risk for heart disease, stroke, or blood clots. These contraceptive options may be excluded for women who are overweight, smoke, have high blood pressure, migraines, or diabetes.
“Every woman is different, which is why it’s important to have a conversation with your physician about which method is best for you. The first step in choosing any method of contraception is a conversation with your physician about your health, your lifestyle, and your family planning,” says Dr. Eisenhuth.
If you’re trying to determine which method of contraception is right for you, make an appointment with your physician.
Main Line Health’s gynecologists provide expertise in a wide range of services, from adolescence through the post-menopausal period. Visit our website to learn more about our women’s health services.