Some birth control methods have side effects but are generally safe for long-term use with your doctor’s approval.

Let’s talk about settling down — not with a partner, but with your birth control method. If you’ve been in a loyal relationship with your contraceptive for years, you might wonder, “How long can I be on birth control?”

Whether you’re popping birth control pills, using an IUD, or relying on implants, understanding the ins and outs of extended use is crucial.

Let’s determine whether it’s time to play the field or renew your vows with your current pick.

Is it safe to use birth control over the long term? Generally, yes. For a hefty chunk of the population, birth control pills are more than just a pregnancy roadblock — they’re key players in managing menstrual cycles and toning down symptoms of some reproductive issues.

However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. If you’ve been taking the pill for a while without a hitch, you’re probably clear to continue, provided your doctor gives the go-ahead.

But pills come in different formulations with different side effects. Some, like the progestin-only minipill, are less likely to cause blood clots compared to their estrogen-infused counterparts, especially for smokers. If that’s you, it’s best to discuss alternatives to combination pills with your healthcare professional.

Does birth control stop working if you use it too long?

Birth control isn’t like a carton of milk that goes bad after a while! So, no, it doesn’t lose its effectiveness over time.

Whether you’re team pill, IUD, or implant, these champs keep doing their job without skipping a beat — as long as you play by the rules and refresh them when the time’s up.

The key is sticking to the script and keeping tabs on when a long-term method needs renewal.

Long story short, while birth control pills are a trusty sidekick for many, they’re not without their issues.

Birth control pills contain either progesterone alone or both estrogen and progesterone. Because they affect hormone levels, you might notice:

  • spotting between periods
  • increased blood pressure
  • headaches
  • vaginal dryness
  • nausea
  • skin issues like acne
  • breast tenderness
  • weight increases
  • mood swings
  • libido changes

These side effects are often temporary and disappear after a few months as the body adjusts to its new hormonal housemates.

More concerningly, there’s also a potential link with cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, hormonal contraceptives come with a mixed bag of risks and benefits. On one side, there’s a potential uptick in the risk for breast and cervical cancers. Yet, on the flip side, there’s a decrease in the risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.

Blood clots are another headline concern, especially for the smoking crowd or those who’ve been around the sun more than 35 times.

Hormonal IUDs are the unsung heroes if you want to set it and forget it with birth control, lasting anywhere from 3 to 8 years, depending on the type.

While serious side effects are rare, some folks report experiencing side effects similar to those of the pill, such as mood swings, acne, or headaches. The upside? Many folks notice their monthly visitor becomes much less bothersome, with lighter periods and fewer cramps, making life a bit smoother.

FYI: IUDs will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pelvic inflammatory disease.

Copper IUDs are the long-term, hormone-free MVPs of the birth control world, offering 10 years of pregnancy prevention.

They’re a top pick if you don’t like hormonal side effects. But it’s not all rainbows — some folks deal with the double whammy of heavier periods and next-level cramps, particularly when this little device first moves in. But, this unwelcome welcome party usually calms down after a few months.

Nexplanon, the arm implant, is in it for the long haul with a three-year stint of pregnancy-blocking prowess.

Side effects can include irregular bleeding, mood changes, and weight gain for some peeps. But as with other forms of birth control, these side effects vary widely, and many reckon it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind and hassle-free protection Nexplanon delivers.

PSA: Nexplanon might not suit you if you’ve had blood clots or have a history of blood clotting issues. It might also not be a good fit if you have a history of liver problems or tumors.

It’s time to book an appointment with your gyno if you’re experiencing side effects, your health situation changes, or you’re considering a different birth control method.

Whether it’s due to health issues, a change in your relationship status, or baby fever’s setting in — whatever the reason, a sit-down with your doctor helps ensure your birth control strategy is still in sync with where you’re at and where you’re headed.

So, should you switch up your birth control after a few years? Not necessarily. The duration and choice of birth control depend heavily on your individual health needs, preferences, and life circumstances.

Generally, there’s no expiration date on how long you can safely use birth control. That said, staying in tune with your body and maintaining open communication with your healthcare professional are your best bets for safe and effective contraception use.