Birth Control: What Are Your Options?
Lately, birth control options just seem to be getting more and more diverse. Each method has its own pros and cons, and choosing which type is best for you can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Here's a brief fact sheet of each of the different types so you can feel a little more informed in your decision.
Natural family planning/the “rhythm” method
This involves figuring out your “fertile” window each month by tracking when you ovulate and avoiding having sex during that time. It's definitely not a foolproof science, but it can reduce the likelihood of you getting pregnant if you're savvy.
A “barrier” method is one that stops the sperm cell from reaching the egg. They can be broken down into the following:
- Contraceptive sponge: A wet sponge you insert into the vagina prior to having sex to prevent pregnancy for up to 24 hours.
- Diaphragm, cervical cap, or cervical shield: These are temporary methods that can be used for no longer than 24 to 48 hours. You'll need to be fitted by a doctor.
- Male condom: You probably know about this one. Said to be effective 98% of the time when used properly, the male condom is the most popular type of barrier contraception.
- Female condom: Inserted into the vagina up to eight hours before intercourse and can be used once.
Oral contraceptives/”the pill”
There are a number of different options of oral contraception, each with their own positive and negative factors to consider. Some women can't stand the different hormonal effects certain pills can bring them, while others feel no inconvenience at all. These must be taken at regular intervals to be effective.
The Patch/”Ortho Evra”
Worn on your lower stomach, buttock, outer arm, or upper body, the patch releases hormones to stop egg release. It also prevents the sperm from joining with the egg by thickening cervical mucus. Each patch is worn for a week, and in order to have a period, you don't wear one every fourth week. Talk to a doctor about various risks associated with the patch right after giving birth, such as blood clots.
The shot must be given every three months and cannot be used for more than two years in a row. Like the patch, it works by preventing egg release and fertilization.
Vaginal ring (NuvaRing)
A thin, flexible ring that releases hormones to stop egg release. You insert it into your vagina using your thumb and finger, and wear it for three weeks at a time.
You can either have an upper-arm implant or one that goes inside the uterus. Ask your doctor about Implanon, ParaGuard, and Mirena (brand names for various options) for more information.
Permanent birth control methods
- Essure: A non-surgical method that involves the insertion of a thin coil through the vagina and each Fallopian tube. It can take up to three months to be effective, so it shouldn't be considered a safe contraception method until then.
- Surgical sterilization: The cutting, tying, or sealing of the Fallopian tubes in women or a vasectomy in men.
The “pull-out” method
A pretty risky method of contraception, the pull-out method just means the man “withdraws” before ejaculation, stopping sperm from entering the woman's uterus. Thirty-five million couples worldwide are thought to use the pull-out method as contraception, and there are varying opinions as to how effective it is. Some studies have deemed it only slightly less effective than condoms at preventing pregnancy, while others say it's far too unreliable to trust.
Whatever birth control you decide to use, make sure you address your individual needs with a doctor, who can give you personalized advice. It’s important to remember that a lot of the above birth control options do not prevent STDs, so be aware of your partner's sexual history when making birth control decisions.
What is your preferred method of birth control? Have you had any bad experiences with one particular type?