Navigating Your Birth Control Options

If you grew up in a household like mine, birth control options were never openly discussed and you had to take it upon yourself to do research. The days of having to rely solely on the rhythm method or calendar tracking are over (although these are still valid methods for women who choose them). We are fortunate there are so many options, but sometimes such a wide range of possibilities can be overwhelming. I’ve compiled some information about some of the many birth control options, which will hopefully assist you in making the best decision for your body and lifestyle.

 

Some women prefer birth control that has a low impact on their bodies and thus opt for hormone-free options such as a male or female condom, a diaphragm, or a sponge. Other women opt for longer-term methods like an implant (Nexplanon), an intrauterine device (commonly referred to as an IUD), or the Depo-Provera shot. For women who prefer more natural methods, there are birth control apps that track cycles of ovulation and fertility. 

 

The pill: Combination birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin, but there are some progestin-only pills. Combination pills come in packs of 21 or 28. The 28 pack contains 7 “sugar” or “reminder” pills to encourage the routine of taking of taking the pill at the same time every day. The fourth week or the “reminder” week is usually when the woman will get her period, although spotting may occur throughout the month. Progestin pills come in packs of 28, and one must take a pill every day, as there are no “sugar” or “reminder” pills in these packs. The pill is also sometimes used to reduce acne or decrease period cramps and heaviness. Birth control pills are 99% effective, but there are some risks, so always let your provider know which medications you are taking and any preexisting conditions you may have.

 

Implant (Nexplanon): I got the implant, which goes in your arm, this past summer. I did some research beforehand. I knew I wanted something I didn’t have to take every day because I am forgetful. I had heard that the IUD was very painful to insert, and I was a bit fearful of that level of pain. So, I decided on the implant. I got it at my local Planned Parenthood. The insertion process went smoothly; it just felt like a slight pinch. Then it went downhill. I walked downstairs to wait for my sister in a chair and proceeded to pass out. I came to when a security guard repeatedly asked me if I was okay. When I came to, sweat was running down my face and my stomach was killing me. I called my sister, and when she arrived we both went back upstairs to see what had happened. My pulse was very slow, and the clinician told me I had experienced Vasovagal, which results in fainting as the body’s reaction to distress. In this case, the distress was that I had a foreign object in my body. While the fainting was unexpected, I had been warned about the long period of bleeding, which for me lasted about four months. Because of this, it is not uncommon for women to get the implant taken out soon after getting it. While this is an effective method of preventing pregnancy, I would advise going to get it with someone who can drive you home afterward in the case you experience Vasovagal. Also, be prepared to have your period for a while after getting it.  

 

IUD: It is commonly known that getting the IUD put in is quite painful, as it must be inserted into the uterus. It is a small t-shaped device that is made out of flexible plastic. There is a non-hormonal option, which is made of copper, as well as multiple hormonal options. Both kinds work by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. IUDs are good for long-term pregnancy prevention, as long as it stays in place. If it slips out of place, you become at risk for getting pregnant. There are two strings that hang down, which should frequently be checked on during the first months of having the IUD. They begin as hard plastic but soften with time. 

 

Ring: The vaginal ring, or NuvaRing, is inserted into the vagina once a month for a three-week period. The ring contains both estrogen and progestin. The ring works by making cervical mucus thicker, which prevents sperm from getting into the eggs, and keeping the eggs in the ovaries so they can’t join the sperm. 

 

The sponge: Sponges prevent pregnancy by covering the cervix and blocking sperm from entering the uterus. The sponge is made of plastic foam and contains spermicide to immobilize sperm as it comes in contact with the sponge. It is around 2 inches in diameter and has a nylon loop which is used to remove it. It is sold at most drug stores and does not require a prescription.

 

The patch: The patch is applied to the skin once a week for three weeks straight. The fourth week does not require a patch. It can be applied on the skin of your outer arm, stomach, back or the butt.

 

Shot (Depo-Provera): A prescription is required for the shot, which prevents pregnancy for three months after the injection. The hormone in the shot is progestin, which makes cervical mucus thicker in the female body, preventing sperm from getting into the eggs. It also keeps the eggs in the ovaries, so they can’t join the sperm.

 

 

*Irregular bleeding is a common side effect of many forms of birth control. Please educate yourself of all possible side effects of any birth control options you are considering, as this is by no means an exhaustive list.