Birth control has become less of a taboo subject recently, but this doesn’t mean that everyone knows about the wide variety of options they have. Many women think that the only option for female birth control is “the pill,” but did you know that there are multiple different types of pills? It’s true, and there are quite a few other options that you may not know about either. It’s best to stay informed so that you can make the right choice for you!
First, we have the combination pill. It is likely the type of pill you think of when you think of “the pill.” It contains both estrogen and progestin, hence the “combination,” and it is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly. Side effects include more regular and/or lighter periods, improved acne, lowered risk of ovarian cancer, and a few other awesome bonuses! On the flip side, they may raise your risk of heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots (only slightly!).
Another type of pill is the mini-pill, but it’s not just an easier to swallow version of the combination pill like the name suggests. This pill lacks the estrogen that is found in the combination pill, so the only hormone is progestin. It is also safer for women who smoke, are over 35, or are breastfeeding than the combination pill. On the contrary, it has to be taken even more strictly than the combination pill, as being just 3 hours late can put you at risk of pregnancy.
Finally, the extended-cycle pill not only prevents pregnancy, but also keeps you from having your period for months at a time. When you’re on birth control, there’s no biological need to have a period, so extended-cycle pills let you take advantage of this. It has similar side effects as the other types of pills, so you just have to determine which type is right for you!
A non-pill option is a vaginal ring. It works the same way as a pill, by delivering hormones, but more directly. It is a plastic ring that you actually insert into your vagina, and it releases hormones slowly for 3 weeks. If you don’t think you’ll be able to keep up with taking a pill the same time every day, this might be a better option for you. A similar option that doesn’t require you to stick something in your vagina is the patch. It works by releasing hormones just like the ring, but you place it on your skin for one week.
A more long term version of hormone release birth control is the implant. It is a small rod that is placed under the skin in your upper arm that releases hormones for 3 years. Talk about not having to keep up with it! The main drawback of this type of birth control is the price. It can cost up to $800 for just one implant.
If you’re not comfortable with a rod in your arm, you also have the option to get a shot. It’s simply the same hormones that are present in other types of birth control. But in a higher dose so that it lasts 3 months. Just like the implant, however, it can get pretty expensive, as shots can cost up to $240 per year!
Other types of birth control form a physical barrier between the sperm and the egg, such as a condom, but there are a wide variety of options in this category as well! Of course, the male condom is a classic that is often used in combination with other types of birth control. It is also the only type of birth control that protects you from STIs because it prevents skin to skin contact. The main issues that come with condoms occur if you or your partner have a latex allergy. However, oil based lubricants should not be used with condoms because thy increase the chance of a tear.
A lesser known type of condom is the female condom. Basically, it is a soft plastic tube that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It may sound odd at first, but it actually works almost as well as a male condom, however, it does not provide the same level of protection against STIs.
Similar to the female condom, the diaphragm also forms a physical barrier at the cervix. The difference between the 2 is that that diaphragm is a dome shaped piece of rubber that you must be fitted for by a doctor. However, if your weight fluctuates too much, you’ll need to be refitted, so this may not be a good option if you’re prone to significant weight gain or loss. Also, if you have ever had toxic shock syndrome or are prone to bladder infections, a diaphragm may not be a good idea.
If all else fails, and you think you may be pregnant after a sexual encounter, emergency contraceptive is an option. Also, known as Plan-B or the morning after pill, it is an over the counter pill that can be taken within a certain time frame after having sex to prevent pregnancy by interfering with either ovulation or the fertilization of an egg, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Most brands can be effective within 72 hours, but the sooner after sex that it’s taken, the more effective it will be. Unfortunately, it may not be effective if you weigh about a certain weight due to the concentration of hormones necessary to prevent pregnancy.
I hope this list helped inform you of some new types of birth control that you didn’t know of before! This was just a quick overview of a bunch of options, and should not be the sole factor in your choice of birth control. Take time to talk with your doctor and think about what type works best for you and your body because everyone is different, and what works for one person may not for someone else. And as always, be sure to have safe (and great) sex!