Babies are cute. But admiring your neighbor’s baby doesn’t mean you’re ready for one yourself. Whether you need a little extra time before you have your next baby, you don’t anticipate having children for several years (if ever), or you’re done having kids, a birth control option can fit your needs. Learning more about your birth control options will give you a better idea of what will work for you.
Common Birth Control Methods
As you consider your birth control options, ask yourself the following questions: Do you need protection against sexually transmitted diseases, or just pregnancy? Which method are you likely to use most successfully (like remembering to take a daily pill or put on a condom)? How effective is the method you’re considering? What are the side effects?
Male condoms protect you against STDs as well as pregnancy. Avoid lambskin condoms, which don’t protect against all STDs, and instead, opt for latex or polyurethane condoms. Use with oil-free lubricants that don’t degrade latex. Male condoms can also be used with other types of birth control like combination pills.
Inserted deep into the vagina, a female condom like Femy covers the cervix to block sperm and protects against pregnancy as well as STDs. You can wear a female condom for up to eight hours before sex. However, male condoms are more effective against both pregnancy and STDs.
When taken at the same time each day, combination birth control pills like Ortho Tri-Cyclen give you 99 percent protection rate against pregnancy. Combination pills have also been known to balance out hormones and restore regular periods. Smokers and women over 35 are at a greater risk of blood clots when taking the combination pill, so these women should consider other options.
Mini Pill (progestin-only pill)
Given to women with diabetes, heart disease, and smokers, the mini pill is progestin-only birth control. Without the estrogen present in typical combination pills, the mini pill also won’t reduce the milk supply of breastfeeding women. Like the combination pill, meds like Ovrette must be taken at the same time every day, or they’re not as effective.
Medications like Lybrel reduce your period to once every three months, while still protecting you from pregnancy. However, it’s a daily medication, so you’ll need to remember to take a daily pill.
Birth Control Injections
Also called Depo-Provera, the birth control shot is a hormone injection every three months. If you don’t mind getting an injection in your buttocks or arm, the shot is a no-fuss birth control method. You won’t need to remember to take a daily pill. Keep in mind that you cannot use this method for more than two years in a row, as the shot can cause a temporary loss of bone density.
Made of plastic, Nuva Ring birth control is a flexible ring that is inserted into your vagina for three weeks. It then provides a steady stream of estrogen and progestin. After three weeks, you remove the ring for one week to have a period. If you smoke, or suffer from blood clots, a vaginal ring may put you at greater risk for developing blood clots.
A diaphragm like Ortho All-Flex is a good “get it and forget it” type of birth control. The diaphragm is made of dome shaped rubber that covers the cervix. Used with spermicide, a diaphragm is placed at your doctor’s office. You may want to avoid using a diaphragm if you have weight fluctuations of more than 10 pounds at a time, or if you’re prone to bladder infections. Women who’ve had toxic shock syndrome should also avoid using a diaphragm.
IUDs like ParaGard and Mirena are birth control devices that are implanted in the uterus by a physician. The higher cost of an individual IUD makes them a good long-term birth control option for women, but they’re not great if you’re looking for short-term birth control. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can last up to 10 years, and are 99 percent effective. You might have better success with an IUD if you’ve already given birth. Otherwise, you may experience pain from your uterus expanding — a byproduct of the IUD.
If you’re not prone to blood clots, Ortho Evra allows you to place a patch on your buttocks, arm, or abdomen and have birth control for a week. The patch releases a constant stream of hormones to keep you from getting pregnant.
Unless you’re overweight, an implant is a nearly 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. Implants are surgically placed under the skin on your upper arm, and are the size of a matchstick. An implant may not work as well if you’re taking St. John’s wort.
Can’t remember if you took your birth control pill at the right time? Contraception like Plan B can help you cover your bases. It contains the same hormones found in combination birth control pills, but at higher doses. You can take it up to five days after unprotected sex. This emergency contraception can be accessed over the counter at many pharmacies if you’re 18 years or older. Minors will need a prescription from a doctor.
The most permanent forms of birth control for women include tubal ligation to block the fallopian tubes, which carry eggs to the uterus, or Essure, a nonsurgical procedure where a small coil is placed in the fallopian tubes. For men, sterilization is a minor surgery called a vasectomy where the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles are cut. Vasectomies are much less risky than either tubal ligation or tubal implants. However, if you plan to get pregnant in the future, sterilization isn’t recommended, as such procedures aren’t intended to be reversible.
In your birth control search, you may find there are so many options available that it’s hard to know which one to choose. Your doctor is an invaluable resource. He or she can prescribe medications, perform procedures, and help you choose the best birth control option for your situation.