Overview: Birth Control Options
Written by Rebekah Cook
Photography by Photography by James Kicinski-McCoy
Do you want to have sex? If the answer is “No,” no need to read further. If “Yes,” we have a follow-up question: Do you want to get pregnant in the immediate future? If “Yes,” no need to read further. If the answer is “No,” we’re here to help you out.
Below we’ve listed basic info on several methods of birth control available, including pros and cons for each. Of course, talk with your health care provider about what is best for you, as there’s no one-size-fits-all in terms of birth control.
The Details: There are two types of condoms: a latex or plastic condom that is placed around the penis, and a vaginal condom that is inserted into the vagina. Both types of condoms collect pre-cum and sperm when a male ejaculates, preventing pregnancy.
Pros: Condoms are an over-the-counter form of birth control, so you do not need a prescription to use. They are also inexpensive and if used correctly, are fairly effective. Using this form of birth control, you avoid adding hormones into your body and can cycle naturally. Condoms aid in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and are also safe to use while breastfeeding.
Cons: Some men and women find sex less pleasurable while using a condom. Also, if not used correctly, chances of getting pregnant increase significantly. Of 100 women whose partners use condoms incorrectly, 18 will become pregnant. Only two of those women will become pregnant if condoms are used correctly.
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
The Details: A pill taken orally daily as prescribed by a health care professional. Most birth control pills contain a combination of man-made estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation, which is the release of an egg. If there is no release of an egg, you cannot get pregnant. It also changes the way our body’s hormones work reproductively, in this case, keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries and making cervical mucus thicker, which keeps sperm away from eggs.
Pros: When taken as directed, birth control pills are highly effective. They can make periods lighter and menstrual cramps less painful. Birth control pills have been known to help with acne issues and also regulate your period, keeping you on a schedule.
Cons: You are responsible for remembering to take birth control pills. If you do not stay on a schedule, you increase your chances of getting pregnant exponentially. Note that you must use the pill for at least seven days consecutively for it to become effective. A second form of birth control should be used during this waiting period. Some women have been known to have less of a sexual desire when on the pill. Other side effects include headache, nausea, breakthrough bleeding, mood swings, and even blood clots. When discontinuing use of the pill, it can take 1-3 months for your cycle to return to normal, which is important to consider if you are trying to conceive. Estrogen has also been shown to effect milk supply for breastfeeding moms.
BIRTH CONTROL IMPLANT (NEXPLANON)
The Details: A matchstick-size plastic rod is inserted by a health care professional into your upper arm. It releases a form of progestin in order to change the way your body’s hormones work reproductively, keeping eggs and sperm apart.
Pros: You don’t have to remember to do anything. Once it’s been inserted, it lasts for up to 3 years. Typically it’s a fast reversal, meaning it usually doesn’t take long to get pregnant once it’s been removed. 1 out of 1,000 women using an implant will become pregnant each year.
Cons: This method can cause irregular menstrual bleeding, weight gain, mood changes, and spotting between periods as the uterine lining becomes thinner.
BIRTH CONTROL VAGINAL RING (NUVARING)
The Details: A ring that you place inside your vagina. You insert the ring for 3 weeks and remove for 1 week to have a period. It releases a form of progestin, which helps keeps sperm away from eggs.
Pros: 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant using this form of birth control as directed, and 9 out of 100 woman will get pregnant if it is not used as directed, so it is highly effective. The Nuvaring helps regulate cycles and has been known to fight acne. If taken continuously, you can remove your period all together. The Nuvaring is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Cons: You are responsible for remembering to insert and remove the Nuvaring as directed. Also, some women have been known to have less sexual desire when using the Nuvaring. Like the pill, it can take 3 months after you’ve stopped using the ring for your cycle to return to normal. There is also a possibility of vaginal discharge, irritation, and infection.
COPPER IUD (PARAGARD)
The Details: A T-shaped plastic frame that has copper coiled around the stem and 2 copper sleeves around the arms that continuously releases copper to coat the lining of the uterus. The copper essentially causes an inflammatory reaction to the uterus that is toxic to sperm, preventing fertilization. It can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years in some cases and is inserted into the uterus by a health care professional.
Pros: It’s a one-time method. Once inserted, it lasts for up to 12 years. It also does not add any additional hormones into your body. The copper IUD is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Cons: It can cause bleeding in between periods and heightened menstrual symptoms (back pain, heavy bleeding, cramping), though most of these symptoms disappear between 3-6 months after the IUD is first inserted. It may cause vaginal discharge and for some, pain during sex.
HORMONAL IUD (MIRENA)
The Details: A T-shaped plastic frame that is inserted into the uterus by a specialist. It releases a form of progestin, which changes the way our body’s hormones work, effectively keeping sperm away from eggs.
Pros: Once inserted into your uterus, it lasts for up to 5 years. The Mirena also has a fast reversal once removed. A Hormonal IUD can make your period lighter and reduce menstrual cramping. For many women, their periods are reduced as much as 80-90%, while others have reported periods stopping all together.
Cons: It can cause heightened menstrual symptoms and bleeding in between periods, though most of these symptoms disappear between 3-6 months. It also may cause vaginal discharge.
The Details: A silicone cup inserted into the vagina before you have sex. It covers the cervix, blocking sperm from joining an egg, therefore preventing pregnancy.
Pros: This method does not add hormones into your body, unlike other forms, so you cycle naturally. The diaphragm is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Cons: It can be challenging to insert properly. It can also be pushed out of place during intercourse. When used correctly, 6 out of 100 women can become pregnant each year, and if not used correctly, 12 out of 100 can become pregnant each year.
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