There are a variety of birth control methods, which vary across the spectrum from sexual practice to devices, medications and medical procedures. You can start to determine what contraceptive method is best for you by asking yourself a few questions: Are you with a steady partner? Is there a chance you would forget to take your pill every day? How do you feel about hormones? How do you feel about inserting a device into your body? Are you looking to change your period?
Your birth control needs may vary based on your answer to these questions above. Discuss the various birth control options with your partner and with your gynecologist. You can explore your options and come up with a decision you are comfortable with.
Abstinence, or refraining from sexual intercourse is the only contraceptive method that is 100% effective.
Fertility Awareness Methods, or FAM (Natural Family Planning) involve learning your body’s signs of ovulation and abstaining from unprotected sex during the part of the month you are likely to become pregnant. There are many options: using a calendar, taking your daily temperature, paying close attention to cervical mucus, or a combination of all these things. FAM requires diligence and self-control and is only about 76% effective when used correctly and consistently. If you cannot use contraceptive devices or treatments, this is a good birth control option.
Barrier devices are used to block the sperm from reaching the egg. The following contraceptives are barrier devices:
Condoms (thin latex or polyurethane sheaths worn on the penis during intercourse) are 98% effective when used properly. With “typical use”, or when there is a risk of inappropriate application or human error, condoms are only 85% effective. They are the most common form of contraception and are a simple, cheap way to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Female condoms, which are inserted into the vagina are another option that are 95% effective when used properly and 75% effective with “typical use”.
Diaphragms are small domes that cover the entrance to the cervix and block the entry of sperm. Spermicide gel can be added for additional protection. These devices require an initial fitting by your gynecologist and they can last two years. It must be inserted before intercourse and when used correctly, diaphragms are 94% effective.
Sponges are disk-shaped barrier devices that block the entrance of the cervix and release spermicide, stopping the entry of sperm. Like condoms, this is designed for one-time use. When used as directed, sponges are 91% effective.
Hormonal methods require a prescription from your doctor. Be sure to discuss options with your doctor before making a decision on hormonal methods since hormones can have side effects.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs), in addition to the copper IUD above, the hormonal IUD has a 99.8% effectiveness. This birth control works by releasing a low dose of progestin and stops sperm from reaching the egg. There is a copper IUD as well. Discuss with your gynecologist whether a copper or hormonal IUD is right for you.
Birth control pills are small tablets that contain hormones and are required to be taken at the same time every day, whether or not you have sex. There are a few different kinds of pill that contain estrogen and progestin. Talk with your gynecologist to determine the best type of pill. When used correctly, birth control pills are 99% effective when used properly and 91% effective with “typical use”.
A vaginal ring, or a contraceptive ring is a flexible plastic ring that stays in place for three weeks at a time. This device releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. It is as highly efficient as birth control pills and requires less work on your part.
The patch sticks to your skin and releases hormones that are highly effective at stopping pregnancy. It is not transparent, so this method is visible on your skin. It is as effective as the Ring and the Pill.
Depo-Provera, or “the Shot” is an injection that your doctor can administer every three months. Once injected, this method is not reversible. It works similar to a Ring, the Pill and the Patch, but has to be administered by a professional. The Shot is 99% effective when used correctly.
Implanon is a small rod inserted under the skin to prevent pregnancy for up to four years. This birth control method is 99% effective.
If you are positive you never want to get pregnant (or at least never again), these methods of “sterilization” ensure you don’t have to worry about birth control any longer. These methods are more than 99% effective.
Tubal ligation, also known as getting your tubes tied, is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut so that the egg cannot reach the uterus. Although this process can be reversed, it requires major surgery and may not necessarily be effective.
Essure and Adiana are systems in which your doctor inserts tiny pieces of silicone into each fallopian tube. Scar tissue will slowly form around these inserts, preventing sperm from reaching the egg. Although you will have to use another form of birth control for three months after the procedure, this method will take effect after that time. These procedures are less invasive than tubal ligation.
Consult with your gynecologist to determine which form of birth control best fits your lifestyle. Get the answers to your questions and discover your options at your next appointment.