Finding the right type of birth control can be overwhelming sometimes, even if you’re familiar with certain kinds of contraception. With so many options, it can take a bit of time to figure out what will work best for your needs and lifestyle. Whether you’ve never been on birth control before or are looking to switch things up, there are many different types to consider. Women’s Health Specialists is here to help you understand what’s available so you can make the right choice for your body. Let’s look at the ABC’s of birth control options below!
The basics of birth control
Birth control is generally seen as a way for a woman to plan her family, including the number and spacing of her children, but some methods can also help with hormone-related issues. These include migraines, painful periods, and endometriosis.
There are many birth control methods available, each with its own pros and cons. More than one method may be used at a time. For example, a barrier method like condoms or spermicide can be used along with any other birth control. While most birth control methods will require a prescription, condoms and spermicide do not.
Barrier methods are designed to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. These include male and female condoms, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges, and cervical caps. Male condoms tend to be the most effective barrier method for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs.) Spermicide is a chemical method that blocks sperm from entering the cervix and slows sperm’s swimming ability. It’s inserted into the vagina before intercourse and comes in cream, gel, foam, and suppository form. Spermicide is mandatory with diaphragms and cervical caps. It’s often used in conjunction with condoms.
Short-acting hormonal methods
Combined hormonal contraceptives include oral contraceptives like the pill, the contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra), and the vaginal ring (NuvaRing.) These options contain synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progestin. They help prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. There is also a progestin-only pill that is often referred to as the “mini pill.”
For maximum effectiveness, these pills should be taken at the same time every day. The patch can be placed anywhere on the skin, except the breasts. It needs to be reapplied every week. NuvaRing is flexible and designed to be comfortably inserted into the vagina each month for three weeks at a time.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives
There are two types of intrauterine devices (or IUDs) in this category, hormonal and hormone-free. An IUD is inserted by a health care provider through the cervix into the uterus during an in-office procedure with no surgery needed. The T-shaped device has a short string that hangs into the vagina that is used to remove it when the time comes.
Hormonal IUDs such as Mirena, Skyla, and Kyleena release a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel into the uterus. This causes a thickening of the cervical mucus which inhibits sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg. These devices can also prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. Hormonal IUDs are FDA-approved for long-term use and will typically last for 5-7 years. Women opting for this method of birth control have the added benefit of significantly lighter periods or sometimes no periods at all!
ParaGard is a hormone-free copper IUD that prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. It will also prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, which means it can be used for emergency contraception as well as birth control. In fact, it’s considered to be the most effective emergency contraceptive if implanted within 120 hours of unprotected sex. If this guideline is followed, it has an impressive 99.9% success rate. Although it can cause heavier periods with more cramping, many patients say this side effect declines over time. A ParaGard IUD can remain in the uterus for up to 10 years.
The Nexplanon contraceptive implant features a rod about the size of a matchstick placed under the skin of the upper arm. It works by releasing progestin to stop the ovaries from releasing eggs, and also thickens cervical mucus to make it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. Nexplanon lasts about 3 years. Some women may experience irregular menstrual bleeding with this method.
Depo-Provera is a shot of synthetic progestin that’s injected directly into a woman’s arm or hip every three months. It stops the ovaries from releasing eggs and makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus by thickening the cervical mucus. Maintaining a schedule with this method is very important! Getting the shot outside of an 11-13 week window will decrease its effectiveness.
Permanent contraception exists for women who are positive they do not want any more pregnancies. Tubal ligation surgery block the fallopian tubes and prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
Get the best birth control for your body at Women’s Health Specialists
There are several factors involved in determining the right birth control for you. Like any other medication, birth control comes with some potential risks and side effects. Speaking to your doctor before obtaining a birth control prescription is vital for your health and wellbeing! Our team will take into account your family and medical history, daily lifestyle, and preferences before determining which method would best suit your specific needs.