With so many birth control methods available, selecting the best one for you can be overwhelming. Some methods have been around for decades, while others have only recently started to gain popularity.
We frequently get questions about whether or not birth control causes weight gain, if it can improve acne and the effectiveness of each method. In this blog, we explain each method to help you make the best choice.
WHAT IS BIRTH CONTROL USED FOR?
Birth control is primarily prescribed to prevent pregnancy. When the user follows directions consistently, birth control methods are highly effective. It’s important to add that most birth control methods do not prevent STIs/STDs, which is why it’s important to use a condom as well.
Some birth control methods have additional benefits beyond pregnncy prevention. And sometimes, these additional benefits are the main reason someone starts using birth control.
For example, some birth control methods can help regulate periods, making it predictable and in many cases — less painful. Hormonal birth control methods may reduce menstrual cramps and make your period lighter, in addition to helping with PMS. There are birth control options that stop your period completely, which is an option you can discuss with your doctor.
Patients suffering from acne may see a reduction in breakouts, especially those that worsen during periods. Some birth controls can also reduce bone thinning, iron deficiency, endometrial and ovarian cancers, ovarian cysts, cysts in the breasts and infections of the reproductive organs.
WHO CAN TAKE BIRTH CONTROL?
Most women can use birth control safely. Some methods, like the birth control pill, have been around for decades and have been extensively researched. If you are a smoker, you should let your doctor know — you can still take birth control, but there are options that are safer than others.
Birth control pills can be prescribed to any girl or woman of menstruating age. For some younger girls, it may be more common for birth control pills to be prescribed to help manage hormonal imbalances (such as PCOS), irregular or heavy periods, acne or painful cramps than for pregnancy prevention.
In some cases, it may be advised to wait so that the cycle can be established before it is disrupted. For example, it’s very normal for periods to be irregular for the first year or two — it does not need to be corrected with birth control as it will likely resolve on its own.
A study from Reuters found that 18% of teen girls ages 13 to 18 filled prescriptions for birth control pills — and the number continues to increase. At Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown, we think it’s important to have open conversations with your teen. We’re happy to sit down with you and your daughter to discuss birth control options.
There are numerous birth control methods, each with specific benefits. Some methods are better for women at a particular stage of life — for example, a long-term IUD would not be the best choice for a women who wishes to conceive in the next few years. Below, we discuss the most common methods.
BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
Birth control pills contain hormones to prevent pregnancy. They’re taken daily, typically on a monthly cycle — three weeks on and one week off for your period.
They work by stopping ovulation, which means there is no egg for a sperm to fertilize. They also thicken cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to swim to an egg.
The pill must be taken daily in order to be effective — we recommend setting an alarm on your phone or leaving the pill pack somewhere you’ll see it every day. It’s also important that you use condoms in addition to the pill to prevent against STIs and STDs.
BIRTH CONTROL IMPLANT
The birth control implant is a small rod that implants into your arm. It’s about the size of a matchstick and works by releasing progestin to prevent pregnancy.
The implant lasts for up to three years, but you can get it removed at any time. Like most other birth control methods, it does not prevent STIs or STDs — it’s important to use a condom, too.
BIRTH CONTROL PATCH
The birth control patch follows the same cycle as most pills — you wear it for three weeks, take it off for a week to allow for your period, and then put a new patch on. Unlikely birth control, you do not have to deal with it every day — just once a month.
Like pills, the patch stops ovulation, preventing fertilization. You can wear it on your stomach, back, upper arm or rear.
It doesn’t prevent STIs and STDs, so you’ll need to use a condom to protect yourself and your partner.
BIRTH CONTROL SHOT
If thinking about your birth control just four times a year sounds good to you, the shot may be a good choice. Administered every three months by a doctor or nurse, the shot is an effective method — you just need to make sure you attend your appointments.
It prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation. It does not prevent against STIs or STDs, so using a condom for protection is strongly advised.
BIRTH CONTROL VAGINAL RING
The vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring that inserts into the vagina. It is changed monthly and is very effective when used correctly. It contains hormones that stop ovulation.
The birth control ring doesn’t prevent STIs and STDs, so condoms are imperative.
IUD stands for Intrauterine Device. It’s inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. You’ll never know it’s there — IUDs are tiny. They are designed for long-term use and are highly effective. Depending on the brand, they can last from 3 up to 10 years.
The different brands work in different ways — IUDs are either hormonal or copper. Either way, they prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm cells from getting to an egg. Your doctor can help you decide which IUD would be best for you.
IUDs do not protect against STIs or STDs — which is why you must use a condom, too.
Condoms are the only type of birth control that prevent against STIs and STDs; however, we recommend using them in addition to another form of birth control. They are effective with perfect use, which means they need to put on correctly and used every time you have sex. But remember, only latex or plastic condoms prevent the spread of STIs and STDs.
HOW WE CAN HELP
Deciding when to start using birth control and which option is best for you are both major decisions. Our doctors prescribe birth control daily and are experts in guiding you to the best method.
We can review your options, lifestyle and needs to help you make a decision. If you’re already using a birth control method and you don’t like it, we can help you find something different.
Download our FREE Contraceptive eBook to read about each birth control option in more detail.