Birth Control Basics
Pregnancy can be the most beautiful and fulfilling experience in a woman’s life. But an unplanned pregnancy can also throw your life into turmoil. Birth control can help you plan your pregnancies so that both you and your partner are prepared physically, emotionally – and, yes– financially, too.
Finding the birth control method that’s right for you means understanding the options, how well they work, and any possible side effects. Understanding how each method works will help you use it correctly and maximize effectiveness.
Also keep in mind that most birth control methods do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s).
Ask your doctor which choices might be best for you, and then make an informed decision. Like many women, you may find that different methods are right for different stages of your life.
Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptives are one of the most popular forms of birth control. There are many different brands of “the pill” with differing levels of hormones. Talk to your doctor about choosing the right pill for you.
This is a flexible plastic ring with controlled-release progestin and estrogen. You wear it for 21 days, remove it for 7 days – during your period – and insert a new one. You can insert and remove the ring yourself, without a doctor visit.
The patch transdermally delivers estrogen and progestin. The patch is worn for one week for each of 3 consecutive weeks, on the lower abdomen, buttocks, upper outer arm or upper torso. The fourth week is patch-free to permit withdrawl bleeding.
Progestin- Only Pill (Minipill)
Progestin-only pills contain only progestin and are taken daily with no hormone-free days. They have lower progestin doses than combined pills and no estrogen. They are a great option for women who are breast-feeding or who have a contraindication to estrogen.
Depo- Provera Injection
If it’s not convenient to take a pill every day, you may prefer to receive hormone injections. These are given every three months. Irregular bleeding is one potential drawback of this method.
The “Morning After” Pill
If you have sex without any birth control, or if a method has failed (a condom failed or missed a pill), just remember there are emergency alternatives available. Your local pharmacy has plan B or generics available over the counter. These should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, to greatly reduce your chances of becoming pregnant.
Nexplanon is the small, thin and flexible arm implant containing progesterone that provides up to 3 years of continuous birth control. It’s placed discreetly under the skin of your inner, upper arm by your health care provider. It’s also reversible and can be removed by your health care provider at any time during the 3-year period.
Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s)
Intrauterine devices, or IUDs as they are commonly known, are small plastic devices inserted into the uterus by your doctor. They are about 99% effective.
Mirena® is a hormone-releasing IUD that is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 5 years. Mirena can be used whether or not you have had a child. Mirena also treats heavy periods in women who choose intrauterine contraception.
PARAGARD® is a small, soft and flexible T-shaped device primarily made of plastic and copper that your healthcare professional places in your uterus at an office visit. It can be used for up to 10 years, and can easily be removed at any time.
KYLEENA is a hormone-releasing IUD that prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years. Kyleena can be used whether or not you have had a child.
Barrier methods include condoms and diaphragms. Condoms can be purchased over the counter. Diaphragms require an appointment for a fitting and then a prescription is given.
Sterilization is the surgical blockage of the pathways for egg or sperm. Either a man or women can be sterilized. This is meant to be a permanent form of birth control, so consider it carefully before you decide.
Tubal Sterilization for Women
There are several different procedures but they all involve cutting, blocking or removing the fallopian tubes, so that an egg cannot descend into the uterus and get fertilized. These are performed under a general anesthetic.