Which birth control method is right for me?

Women’s contraceptive options go far beyond “the pill.” While many people associate birth control with the prevention of pregnancy, these methods also provide solutions for other health concerns. Gina Edison, FNP-C, Western OB/GYN, A Division of Ridgeview Clinics, shares, “Many patients use birth control for other reasons than preventing pregnancy, such as managing painful and heavy periods, regulating your menstrual cycle, treatment for acne, and relief for some kinds of headaches and migraines.”

Generally, there are five categories of birth control methods: one-time use, short-term, long-term, permanent and emergency. Each method works in a different way and can be used for various reasons. This article will focus on short-term and long-term options.

Short-term options:

+ Contraceptive pills: Commonly referred to as “the pill,” it is one of the most used birth control methods. This hormonal pill is taken at the same time of day, every day.

+ Skin patch: This method uses a transdermal patch that you replace every week. Transdermal simply means the hormones are absorbed by your skin from an adhesive patch that can be worn on your belly, buttocks, arm or back.

+ The Ring: A vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring placed inside your vagina that releases hormones into your body. For the ring to be most effective, you must make sure you are properly inserting it and refilling it on time—this will depend on the type of ring you use.

+ Injection: The depo shot (Depo-Provera) is an injection that contains the hormone progestin, which prevents ovulation. This injection is done once every three months.

When used correctly, these options are about 99% effective. Because short-term methods require a strict schedule, their efficacy is more likely around 91% as many women do not methods consistently follow the required regimen. The benefit of short-term options is that you can try several over time to determine the one that best suits your lifestyle and needs.

Long-term options:

+ Intrauterine Device (IUD): IUDs are one of the most effective options for women. An IUD is a small device (shaped like the letter T) that is inserted into your uterus. An IUD can last from three to 12 years, depending on the type you have.

+ Implant: The Nexplanon implant is a very thin rod, about the size of a matchstick, that is inserted into your arm. The implant releases hormones into your body and lasts up to five years.

IUDs and implants have an efficacy rate of about 99% and can be removed at any time should your contraceptive needs change. “Women have busy lives and busy schedules. These long-term options are a great choice for those who want an effective option that does not require such a strict regimen,” Edison said.

Determining the best option for you

Having so many options can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s important to remember that having options gives women a say in their health care treatment. “You have to consider your quality of life,” Edison said. “Every women’s health needs are different, which is why being able to choose the best method for your situation is so valuable.”

There are several factors to consider when choosing what method is right for you. A few considerations include determining what works with your schedule and routine, whether you can and want to use hormones, and your personal comfort level in regard to insertion/removal. For women who are interested in starting birth control or changing the method they are currently using, Edison offers three pieces of advice:

+ Do some research: Look into what options interest you—creating a pros and cons list is a great way to figure out what might work best for your situation.

+ Seek advice from other women in your life: Your trusted friends and family can be a great resource to get insight into what worked or didn’t work for them.

+ Talk to a women’s health provider: Bring the information you have gathered to a women’s health provider who will answer any questions and help determine what method is best for you.

If you are interested in starting or trying a different birth control method, schedule an appointment with a provider at Western OB/GYN, A Division of Ridgeview Clinics.


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