If you want to start using birth control, you should know that various methods offer different effectiveness and risk levels. Understanding each option is crucial. Choosing the correct birth control depends on factors such as your health condition, lifestyle, future plans and sexual partners.
Different Types of Birth Control
Different birth control methods work in various ways. Before choosing contraception, consider the following options.
Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control releases hormones into a woman’s body, stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching eggs. Hormonal birth control is available in the following forms.
- Oral contraceptives: Combined oral contraceptives contain progestin and estrogen, but you can choose a progestin-only pill if you can’t take estrogen for medical reasons. Both oral contraceptives are 93% effective and require people to take a daily pill.
- Hormonal injections: If you select the hormonal injection birth control method, you’ll receive a shot containing progestin from your doctor every three months. This method is 96% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Hormonal implant: A doctor embeds a hormonal implant under the skin of your upper arm, where it can remain for up to three years. This small, rod-shaped device releases progestin, and it is 99.9% effective.
- Patches: Birth control patches release estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream, and they are 93% effective. This method involves applying a patch to the buttocks or lower abdomen once a week for three weeks and abstaining from wearing a patch during the fourth week to allow menstruation to occur.
Hormonal birth control methods can increase the risk of some cancers by releasing synthetic hormones that can stimulate cancer development and growth. Hormonal birth control can also increase the risk of developing a blood clot.
You can visit a doctor to obtain a hormonal contraceptive prescription or discuss your options.
Intrauterine devices are devices placed inside the uterus to kill sperm or prevent its movement. An IUD is a small, plastic, T-shaped device that comfortably fits inside a woman’s uterus.
Copper IUDs are non-hormonal options that can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years. A copper IUD contains wire that triggers a toxic inflammatory reaction to eggs and sperm, and it is 99.2% effective at preventing pregnancy.
A copper IUD lacks the risks of hormonal birth control such as blood clots, but it can present dangers for women with the following conditions:
- Cervical or uterine cancer
- Pelvic infection
- Uterine abnormalities such as fibroids
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Wilson’s disease — a condition in which vital organs absorb too much copper
In some situations, IUDs can cause infection or uterine perforation. An IUD can also slip out of its position in the uterus, increasing the risk of pregnancy.
Once an IUD is in place, you don’t have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. Still, you can use a barrier method such as a condom to prevent sexually transmitted diseases if needed.
Doctors insert hormonal IUDs into the uterus like copper IUDs, but hormonal IUDs release various amounts of hormones instead of copper. They are typically 99.6% to 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy. Hormonal IUDs vary in duration, size and the hormones they release based on their type.
- Skyla: Skyla can prevent pregnancy for up to three years.
- Kyleena: Kyleena prevents pregnancy for up to five years.
- Liletta: Liletta is effective for up to six years.
- Mirena: Mirena provides pregnancy prevention for up to seven years.
Hormonal IUDs can present the same risks as other hormonal birth control methods and copper IUDs.
Barrier birth control methods block sperm from reaching eggs, and some of these can also prevent STDs. Different types of barrier birth control consist of the following options.
- Condoms: External condoms fit over the penis, and internal condoms fit inside the vagina. External condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs when used correctly. Internal condoms are 95% effective with correct use.
- Spermicide: Spermicides are substances containing chemicals that stop sperm movement. Spermicide alone is approximately 79% effective at preventing pregnancy, so doctors recommend combining it with more reliable methods such as condoms or diaphragms. Spermicide cannot prevent STDs.
- Sponge: A sponge contains spermicide and covers the cervix during intercourse. The sponge must remain inside the vagina for at least six hours following the last sexual activity to be effective. Sponges are 86% effective in women who have never given birth, but the rate drops to 73% if a woman has given birth.
- Diaphragm: Diaphragms are cup-shaped barriers that cover the cervix and block sperm. Diaphragms are 83% effective at preventing pregnancy when you use the correct size and apply spermicide correctly.
You can purchase condoms, sponges and spermicide over the counter, but diaphragms require a prescription. A doctor must fit you to prescribe the correct size.
Natural Birth Control
Natural birth control is also known as family planning or the fertility awareness method. This approach requires women to track their menstrual cycle to know when they are likely fertile. When practicing this method, you should avoid unprotected sex during days you believe you are fertile.
FAM has an approximate 76% pregnancy prevention rate when implemented correctly, but it depends on your ability to track your cycle to accurately determine when you are fertile.
Sterilization is a surgical procedure that permanently prevents pregnancy.
- Vasectomy: A man can undergo a vasectomy to prevent his sperm from reaching the penis. Men typically get this procedure at an outpatient surgical center. Approximately 12 weeks after a vasectomy, a man’s ejaculate should lack sperm. Men must visit their doctor to ensure their sperm count is zero before having unprotected sex. A vasectomy is 99.8% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Tubal litigation: Tubal litigation closes the fallopian tubes to prevent sperm from reaching eggs during intercourse. Women can talk with their doctors to schedule this surgery at a hospital or outpatient surgical center. This method is 99.5% effective immediately following the procedure.
A vasectomy presents minimal risks, but men may experience discomfort, bruising or swelling following the procedure. Infections and hematomas are also possible. Men should see a health care provider if they experience swelling and bleeding under the skin or scrotal tenderness and redness combined with a fever.
Tubal litigation presents a small risk of pregnancy if a procedure does not fully close the fallopian tubes, and there is a small risk of nearby tissue or organ injury during surgery.
How to Choose Birth Control
The best birth control for you depends on your lifestyle, sexual partners, health condition and desire to have children in the future. Before choosing a method, consider the following factors.
If you lead a busy lifestyle and find it difficult to maintain daily habits, you should avoid oral contraceptives and opt for a long-term option such as an IUD or hormonal implant. These devices eliminate the risk of forgetting to take a daily pill.
If you engage in sexual activity with one exclusive partner, hormonal birth control or an implant are excellent options. However, you should also consider barrier protection, such as condoms, if you have multiple sex partners.
Avoid hormonal birth control if you are older than 35 and smoke tobacco, because this can increase the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots. Also, you shouldn’t get an IUD if you have uterine abnormalities or have had cervical or uterine cancer. A doctor can review your complete medical history to help you determine your best options.
Before choosing a birth control method, think about how many children you may want in the future. For example, you can immediately stop taking birth control pills if you decide to start a family.
Sterilization is an effective option if you don’t want children or already have children and don’t want to add to your family. However, you should only choose this approach if you don’t expect to change your mind.
Contact Hamilton Health Center to Discuss Your Birth Control Options
With birth control, you can take ownership of your wellness and future. Hamilton Health Center can help you make an informed decision based on your needs and medical history. Our caring providers deliver affordable, quality care to individuals in a welcoming environment. Contact Hamilton Health to learn more about our services and how we can help you choose and start a birth control method.