Women today have access to a wide range of birth control options. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming. Do you want a hormone-free method? Is reliability more important to you than anything? Do you and your partner want a birth control method that can be started and stopped as you add to your family? Let’s break down the different types of birth control so you can be informed about this important aspect of family planning. Be sure to discuss the risks and side effects of different methods with your OBGYN.
Hormonal Pills, Patches & Injections
Hormones are the reason for a woman’s cycle, and the manipulation of hormones is the basis of several effective birth control methods. Available by prescription, birth control hormones come in a variety of forms, from the common daily pill to weekly patches to once-a-year injections. There is also a vaginal ring that releases estrogen and progestin locally. You must remember to take the pill or replace the patch or vaginal ring when required in order for these methods to be effective.
A few things may steer you away from hormonal methods. First, some women experience side effects from hormonal birth control, such as weight gain, depression, and other issues. In addition, the hormones may not be compatible with some health conditions and histories. Finally, certain antibiotics, medications, and herbal supplements can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods. Backup methods may be required if you receive antibiotic treatment while you’re using these methods.
Birth Control Pills — If it is easy for you to remember to take a pill every day at about the same time, the birth control pill may be a good choice for you. The pill comes in a couple of low-dose options that typically provide 3 weeks of hormones and 1 week of placebos. That is the week you will have your period.
Birth Control Patches — Birth control patches work a lot like the pill, except the hormones release through a patch on the skin. It is replaced weekly with the next patch. Of course, depending on where you wear the patch, it may be visible to others. It can be worn on the upper arm, belly, butt or upper chest. It isn’t quite as effective as some other methods in women with elevated BMI.
Birth Control Injections & Implants — For longer-term birth control, injections and implants can eliminate the daily need to take a pill or remember a patch. The birth control shot is progestin based and needs to be given once every 3 months. For even longer-term birth control that is highly effective, consider the implant, which can prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years. A tiny plastic rod filled with progesterone is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It slowly releases the hormone over time.
Vaginal Ring — You control when you put the vaginal ring in and take it out every 3 weeks to have a period. A couple of different types exist. Ask your OBGYN for details about how each vaginal ring contraceptive works.
Intrauterine devices or IUDs fall under their own category because they must be inserted and subsequently removed. IUDs are progesterone based except for the copper IUD, which offers a very effective hormone-free birth control option. IUD insertion or removal is a procedure we can perform in our offices. Learn more about IUDs in our previous blog post.
When you’re looking for simple contraception that also has the benefit of preventing sexually transmitted infections, condoms are one of the most affordable and accessible choices. Male condoms and female condoms protect you against STIs as well as pregnancy, but they aren’t the most effective when used on their own. Spermicides can be used inside the vagina, or you can use a diaphragm or sponge to further block sperm from making its way to the uterus.
When couples complete their families, they often discuss tubal ligation and vasectomies. Both are considered forms of sterilization. For women, the process involves blocking the fallopian tubes by cutting, tying, or blocking them to prevent eggs from passing from the ovaries to the uterus. This is considered irreversible.
The vasectomy procedure is simple, relatively inexpensive, and minimally invasive. It is nearly always done in a physician’s office. A man can recover from the outpatient surgery in a matter of a couple of days. For women, tubal ligation is more invasive and complex, with higher risks. However, it is still one of the most common forms of birth control available.
If you ever have an “oops” moment when you forget to use or miss doses of birth control, or if a method fails, emergency options are available. Emergency contraception pills like the Plan B pill can prevent a pregnancy if used within a certain number of days after unprotected sex. They take effect immediately to prevent pregnancy but must be used as soon as possible and within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
Narrowing Your Birth Control Options
If you’re looking at ways to sort the options based on your preferences, you should look at the Harvard Medical School Birth Control Center. This online resource allows you to click on the options that serve you best, from the most reliable options to those that are safe for breastfeeding mothers. Learn more about all of the methods available. Try the tool now.
If you have questions about birth control and which method is right for you, contact West Des Moines OBGYN Associates. We provide thorough, trusted guidance based on your health and lifestyle. Whether you want to avoid hormones or are more concerned about other factors, we can help you find the method that makes the most sense for you now, as well as possibilities for the future.