forms of birth control

Birth control – what is it, and why is it useful?

Birth control is a form of protection against pregnancy. This helps to prevent pregnancy and can be in the form of a pill, shot, insertable bar, intrauterine device, condoms, and even permanent things such as tied tubes or vasectomies. Certain forms of birth control can also help prevent sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted diseases! There is also emergency contraception, which is similar to birth control but used in the case of a failed condom or forgotten contraceptive pill. There are many forms of birth control, and it can be confusing to navigate, so read on to educate yourself better on the topic of contraception options!

One of the original forms of birth control is birth control pills. 

There are so many forms and types of birth control pills. There are birth control pills that can prevent periods altogether, some that allow you to still have a monthly period and some that offer quarterly periods. Most pills are taken daily. 

Some contraceptivel pills have the brand name and the generic version, but they all do the same thing – control birth! With monthly period pills, such as Tri-Sprintec or Ortho Tri-Cyclen, you take 3 weeks of hormonal pills that contain the chemicals Ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate. These help to prevent ovulation. Ovulation is the period of time where your body is ready to fertilize an egg and is at the optimal condition to become pregnant. The 4th week of pills is a placebo week, which will be the week that you get your period.

There are also 28-day contraceptive pills like Yasmin and Yaz that use a combination of estrogen (Ethinyl estradiol) and progestin (drospirenone). These pills can help with acne and PMS symptoms. If you are confused about what to choose, communicating openly with your gynecologist can help you make the best choice. 

Lybrel is a birth control pill that can allow you to not have a period at all! With Lybrel, you take the pill every day and do not stop. This effectively eliminates your period, though you may experience some spotting or breakthrough bleeding. Lybrel is also effective for some women to help manage PMS symptoms.  

12-week pills, such as Seasonale and Seasonique, are specifically designed to allow you to only have 4 periods per year instead of a monthly period. Some women prefer this because they believe that not having a period is bad for their bodies. It can also prevent constant stress that you may potentially be pregnant. 

With consistent contraceptive pill usage, the chances of pregnancy are low. However, once you stop taking them, you can typically get pregnant as early as a month after stopping. With that being said, every person’s body is different, and it could take you longer. Birth control pills should be taken within the same time frame every day, so if you struggle with remembering to have them with you or take them on time, birth control pills may not be a good choice for you in preventing pregnancy

birth control pills

Birth control shots.

So, what if you do forget to take birth control, and pills are not a good option for you? Well, that is where Depo-Provera comes into play. Depo-Provera is injectable birth control that is given every 3 months. It is super easy since you do not have to remember it, and simply get the shot 4 times per year. It is super easy and effective, and if you do not mind needles, maybe the best option for you. It is also a great option for those that struggle physically to take pills. It is injected into your muscle, which can cause side effects such as tenderness or soreness. There is also a subcutaneous option called Depo-SubQ Provera 104. This is injected just below the skin. Depo-Provera is estrogen-free, which means that those sensitive to estrogen may want to consider this. 

Diaphragms.

Diaphragms are a much older form of contraception. In fact, most people do not use this form anymore, but some may prefer it. A diaphragm is a cap made of silicone that is inserted over the cervix before sex. It protects your cervix from sperm penetration. You should use a spermicide and leave it in for a minimum of six hours after sex for it to be effective at preventing pregnancy. 

Implantable birth control.

There is an implantable plastic rod that contains progesterone, called Nexplanon. Nexplanon is placed beneath your skin, typically on your upper arm. If you cannot have estrogen-based birth control, and do not want a shot, or just want a longer-lasting option, Nexplanon can be a phenomenal choice. The implant can be removed whenever you want, but is effective for up to 3 years! This means it is also a great choice for those who like Depo-Provera but cannot really get to the doctor every 3 months to get a shot. 

Birth control patches.

Birth control patches are super easy to use. They are good for about a week, and then you simply remove them and replace them. They can be worn while swimming and showering and are great for those who struggle with very heavy or painful periods. A patch contains estrogen and progesterone.  

Intrauterine devices. 

IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are very effective at preventing pregnancy. IUDs are basically get-it and forget-it methods. You get it inserted, and depending on the IUD you choose, it can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years, which is quite impressive. IUDs can also be removed at any time by your gynecologist. IUDs come in both hormonal and nonhormonal forms. 

Nonhormonal IUDs are made of copper. Copper is a natural spermicide. The IUD is inserted into your body through the cervix and has the benefit of being effective immediately. This means it can actually be used as an emergency contraceptive. It lasts up to 10 years.

Hormonal IUDs are widely available and include Mirena, Kyleena, Skyla, and Liletta. These range in time spans of effectiveness from 3 – 7 years, depending on which form of this contraception you choose. 

A tried and true birth control method – condoms.

Condoms are the only form of contraception that prevent sexually transmitted infection and sexually transmitted disease. However, only latex condoms provide this protection. While they are not the most effective form of birth control, with proper use, they have shown to be pretty effective. 

For those who want a nonhormonal, non inserted route of birth control, condoms are definitely the way to go.

There are non-latex varieties of condoms available, but keep in mind they do not prevent you from disease. It is important to get tested regularly, and ensure your partner is as well, if you choose to use non-latex condoms as your form of birth control. It’s important to get tested regularly no matter what form you use! 

There are also female condoms, which are inserted inside of a vagina. These are not as popular as penis sheathing condoms, but they are available and used.  

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What is a permanent form of birth control?

There are two kinds of permanent birth control – vasectomies and tied tubes.

If a woman chooses to have her tubes tied, this means her fallopian tubes will be blocked or sealed. This prevents eggs from traveling down and being able to be fertilized by sperm.

A vasectomy is when a man seals the tubes that carry his sperm. 

While these procedures are thought to be reversible, this is not always the case, so it is imperative that you are sure of this decision if you choose to make it. 

No matter what form of birth control you choose, ensure you are making the right choice for yourself. Talk to your gynecologist about your goals with birth control, so they may help steer you in the right direction. And remember, birth control is not one size fits all. You can switch methods if you do not like what you choose!