Having the right birth control method isn’t just about preventing pregnancy. (Well, OK — it’s a LOT about that.) It’s also about feeling confident and in control of your life, your health, and your future. When it comes time to select the best contraceptive method for your needs, there are plenty of options to choose from. Birth control pills are by far the most popular in terms of the number of women who use them. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research organization, about 25 percent of women who use contraceptives opt for the pill. But just because it’s the most widely used, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you.
Deciding which birth control method you want to use is based on lots of factors, like:
- your age
- your health
- when — or if — you want to get pregnant in the future
- how often you have sex
- your STD risk factors, including how many sex partners you have
- how easy it is to use
- how comfortable you are using it
- how well it works to prevent pregnancy
Not sure what your options are? Here’s a quick review.
Birth control options
Contraceptives can be broadly divided into four categories: hormonal methods, long-acting reversible contraceptives (or LARCs), barrier methods, and permanent birth control.
Hormonal contraceptives: Pills, patches, and rings
Birth control pills are the most well-known type of hormonal contraceptive. The patch and the ring use a similar concept — releasing measured doses of hormones (estrogen and progestin) to prevent ovulation — but the hormones are delivered differently: The patch is worn on your arm and the ring is inserted into your vagina. All three methods need careful attendance — pills must be taken every day at about the same time each day, and the patch and the ring must be replaced on a regular basis in order to be effective. When used correctly pills are about 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, while the ring and the patch are about 91 percent effective.
LARCs: IUDs and implants
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that’s inserted into your uterus. Once in place, the IUD releases hormones to prevent ovulation. Copper IUDs don’t use hormones; instead, the copper works to kill sperm so fertilization is prevented. IUDs can stay in place for five to 10 years, and once they’re in place, all you need to do is perform an occasional, simple check to make sure the device is still in place. Like pills, IUDs are more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
Implants are flexible devices that are implanted into your upper arm, where they release hormones that prevent ovulation. Implants are 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and they need to be replaced every three years.
Diaphragms, male and female condoms, cervical caps, and sponges are all barrier methods that work by preventing sperm from entering the uterus. Barrier methods are not as effective as LARCs or hormonal contraceptives when used alone, but when combined with a spermicide, their effectiveness increases substantially.
Diaphragms and cervical caps take a little practice to learn how to use, and all barrier methods need to be used every time you have sex — which means they require a little more effort than other types of contraceptives. Male condoms have one advantage over all other types of contraceptives: They can also prevent STDs.
During your office visit, Dr. White will discuss the pros and cons of each method in more detail so you can feel confident you’re selecting the best option for your needs.
Find the method that works for you.
Abortion Care is committed to helping women take control of their health and their future. Dr. Sanford White, MD, works closely with each patient to help her find the birth control method that works best for her health, her goals, and her lifestyle. To learn more about the birth control options we offer, contact our office and schedule an appointment today.