If you’re considering going on birth control, you likely have a lot of questions. What are your options? How does each one work? And which one is best for you? Everyone is different and it’s important to know the pros and cons of each form of birth control to figure out which one aligns for you. If you’re wondering how to choose the right birth control, here’s what you need to know.
What is Birth Control?
Birth control, also known as contraception, is a method of preventing pregnancy. There are numerous different birth control options available and it’s important to figure out which method is best for you. Some methods have additional benefits such as preventing STIs, producing lighter periods and reducing menstrual cramps, and some come with risks. Different types of birth control work in different ways and it’s important to understand your options.
How to Choose the Right Birth Control
Birth Control Pill
How it Works:
The birth control pill is a daily pill that contains hormones to change the way the body works and prevent pregnancy. In the case of “the pill”, the hormones control the ovaries and the uterus. There are two types of birth control pills. The most common type of birth control pills are combination pills, containing a mix of estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation. You can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate since there’s no egg to be fertilized. There are also progestin-only pills, or mini pills. They don’t contain any estrogen and the progestin dose in a mini pill is less than the progestin dose in a combination pill.
The pill also works by thickening the mucus around the cervix, making it difficult for the sperm to enter the uterus and can affect the lining of the uterus, making it hard for the egg to attach to the wall of the uterus. For maximum effectiveness, you must take the birth control pill at the same time everyday.
Pros of the Birth Control Pill
- Regulates menstrual cycle
- Lessens pain from menstrual cramps
- Reduces bleeding with periods
- Can help keep acne under control
- May reduce ovarian cysts
- May reduce symptoms of endometriosis
- May reduce your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
- You can get pregnant right away when you stop taking the pill
Cons of the Birth Control Pill
- Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV
- Can increase your risk of blood clots
- May not be effective when taken with certain medications
- May delay the return of normal menstrual cycles
- Pills must be taken everyday
- Can result in mood changes like anxiety and depression
How It Works:
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a tiny device, shaped like a “T” that’s inserted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal, and both prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg. If sperm can’t get to an egg, pregnancy can’t happen. Sperm doesn’t like copper, so the copper IUD makes it almost impossible for the sperm to get to the egg. The hormonal IUD thickens the mucus on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm, and they sometimes stop ovulation, so there’s no egg for the sperm to fertilize.
Pros of the IUD
- One of the most effective methods since you can’t forget to use it (like the pill) or use it incorrectly (like condoms)
- Lasts for years, but is easy for your doctor to take out whenever you want
- You’re able to get pregnant right away once IUD is removed
- Hormonal IUDs can make periods lighter and lessen symptoms
- The copper IUD doesn’t have hormones
Cons of the IUD
- Doesn’t protect against STIs
- IUD insertion can hurt, although the pain shouldn’t last long
- Rarely, an IUD can slip out of place
- Can have side effects like pain, cramping or spotting (if you notice these side effects, contact your health care professional right away, especially if they’re accompanied by chills, heavy bleeding and unusual vaginal discharge)
How it Works:
A condom is a “barrier” method of protection. It’s a thin, stretchy tube that’s worn over the penis during intercourse. Condoms provide protection from pregnancy by stopping sperm from getting into the vagina so that sperm can’t reach an egg. They also protect against STIs. Latex (rubber) condoms are the most common type of condom, but if either partner has an allergy or sensitivity to latex, there are plastic condoms available.
Pros of Condoms
- Helps other methods of birth control work even better
- Can be purchased without a prescription and is available from a number of places
- Protects against STIs
- No side effects
- Does not alter your fertility
- Available in different sizes and textures to increase pleasure for both partners
- Can be used for oral, anal and vaginal sex
Cons of Condoms
- You have to make sure they’re used correctly every time in order for condoms to be effective
- Latex condoms can cause irritation for people with latex allergies or sensitivities
- Excessive friction during intercourse can cause condoms to tear
Birth Control Ring
How it Works:
You place a small, flexible ring inside your vagina and it prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones into your body. It slowly releases estrogen and progestogen into your bloodstream, which prevents the release of an egg each month. There are two types of birth control rings: The NuvaRing and Annovera. The NuvaRing lasts up to five weeks, so you change it out about once a month, depending on the ring schedule you choose. One Annovera ring lasts for one year (13 cycles). You place it in your vagina for 21 days, then take it out for 7 days – it comes with a case so you can safely store it. After 7 ring-free days, you put it back into your vagina.
Pros of the Birth Control Ring
- It’s convenient – you only have to think about it once a month
- Makes periods regular and easy to predict
- Can help with menstrual cramps
- Can lighten periods
- Prevents or lessens acne
- Reduce risks of serious infections in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus
- Can get pregnant right away when stop using the ring
- Lowered risk of ovarian cysts
- Lowered risk of ectopic pregnancy
Cons of the Birth Control Ring
- You have to stay on schedule
- Can cause temporary side effects, such as vaginal discharge, breast tenderness and headaches
- In rare cases, can lead to blood clots
- Does not protect against STIs
- The ring can sometimes come out on its own
- Mood fluctuations and feelings of tiredness
Although these are some of the most popular types, here are also other methods of birth control, such as the birth control implant, birth control patch and even a birth control shot. Do your research to figure out the best type of birth control for you.
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