Birth Control 101

March 5, 2015

Birth control: You’ve come a loooong way, baby. Not so long ago, birth control methods – outside of the rhythm method (not that it prevented many babies from being conceived) – were difficult to come by and/or had such a stigma attached that most people simply didn’t use them.

Fortunately, education, technology and women’s empowerment have created a market where birth control options abound.

Image Courtesy of Serge Bertasius at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Serge Bertasius at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Birth Control 101: What’s Your Birth Control Method of Choice?

Some birth control options provide a barrier to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg, some use hormones to manipulate the female reproductive cycle, and some use a combination of both. The important thing is that you don’t have to start a family until you are ready, and one of the following birth control options can help you keep conception at bay until that point.

Sometimes, it takes a while to find the right method of birth control for you, your partner and your body – but a healthy relationship with your OB/GYN and a bit of sampling will help you determine the one that works best for the time being. The following is a brief overview of your birth control options. You can learn more at plannedparenthood.org.

Most Popular Hormone-Free Birth Control Options:

Condoms. We’ll start here. Condoms (female and male) are the only form of birth control that prevents the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. For that reason, you should always use condoms – regardless of other birth control methods you may be using – when you are in a non-monogamous relationship or suspect your partner may not be as monogamous as he/she says. When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective. When not used correctly, they are only 82% effective. Condoms are cheap and often free at clinics.

Female condoms. These are also an option. They are slightly less effective (95%) than regular condoms and are also more expensive. However, they put the power in your hands if a male partner refuses to wear a condom.

Sponge. These are inserted into the vagina, ideally doused in spermicide, to prevent sperm from getting anywhere near the egg. When used correctly, they are about 91% effective. Sponges are more effective for women who have never given birth.

Diaphragm. A diaphragm is another way to block the sperm from getting to the egg. It is 94% effective when used correctly. Similarly, they work best for women who have never given birth. Spermicide is always recommended as an extra precaution.

Non-hormonal IUD. An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small, T-shaped instrument that is inserted into the uterus. Copper IUDs change the chemistry of their environment and help keep the sperm and egg from joining. IUDs are almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. 

Birth Control Options That Use Hormones:

Birth control pills. Birth control pills are taken every day to give your body a dose of hormones. When taken as prescribed, they are nearly 100% effective. If you skip a pill, your chances of pregnancy are slim. If you skip two, all bets are off. The pill is one of the most popular forms of birth control, but some women note undesirable side effects (typical of any hormone-based method of birth control). These can be discussed with your doctor and you can change pill types and brands to find one that works best for you.

Birth control shot. Also called the Depo-Provera shot, this option is popular because you only need to have the shot once every three months, eliminating the need to remember to take a daily pill or apply a weekly patch. For many women, it also eliminates periods, which can be an added bonus. The shot is almost 100% effective.

Hormonal IUDs. These are similar to their non-hormone IUD counterparts, but they excrete hormones that can prevent the egg from being released, in addition to preventing the sperm from moving freely and connecting with an egg.

Vaginal ring. This method of hormonal birth control uses a soft ring that is inserted up and into the top of the vagina where it secretes a time-released dose of hormones. Vaginal rings are almost 100% effective, as long as you remember to take the ring out every three weeks, and insert your new one after the prescribed one week break.

Permanent Birth Control Measures:

Permanent methods of birth control are also available. These include:

Vasectomy. Hands down, ladies, this one gets our vote. It is a simple, out-patient procedure for men and while mild discomfort is to be expected, that is the only real negative side effect. You will need to use another form of birth control until your husband’s doctor gives you the sperm-free go-ahead.

Essure. A non-surgical method of permanent birth control, Essure requires the insertion of a small hollow tube into the fallopian tubes. After three months, the soft tissue of the fallopian tubes meshes with the device to prevent the eggs’ release. You need to use birth control during the interim.

Tubal ligation. Also called, “having your tubes tied,” this is a surgical procedure that literally ties, blocks or clamps the fallopian tubes shut so no more eggs can be released. There are inherent risks in any surgical procedure.

Schedule an appointment at Women’s Health Associates to discuss your birth control options and determine which form is the best for you at this stage of life.