The world of contraception is a difficult one to navigate. Which contraception is right for you? What are the side effects? How quickly can the actions of a contraceptive be reserved? Should I just use the most popular one on the market?
These are common questions that many women have when deciding what type of contraception to take. The simple answer is that a number of different factors will determine the best contraception for you.
Looking at your options
Contraceptive methods range from injections, to patches, to pills, to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and lots of things in between. There is no shortage of options. So the good news is that you’re almost certain to find a type of contraception that fits your medical circumstances, lifestyle and personal preference. But to start off with, let’s go back to the basics.
How contraception works
Various types of contraceptives work in different ways. Contraceptives may:
- Prevent sperm from reaching the egg
- Inactivate or damage sperm
- Prevent an egg from being released each month
- Alter the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg doesn’t attach to it
- Thicken cervical mucus so that sperm can’t easily pass through it
The effectiveness of a contraceptive depends on the method that you use. For example, Intrauterine devices (IUD) and contraceptive implants are associated with lower pregnancy rates than the pill .
Remember, contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only way to protect yourself against STI’s is to use a condom.
Things to consider before choosing a contraceptive
- Your medical history – If you suffer from high blood pressure, migraines or a medical condition such as epilepsy, depression or have a history of blood clots this can effect what contraception your doctor might recommend
- Your tolerance for side effects – Consider how willing you are to put up with some of the possible side effects of a particular birth control method. Contraceptives that contain estrogen or progesterone have more side effects. This is best discussed with your doctor
- Reversibility – If you’re planning pregnancy in the near future, you may want a method that’s easily stopped or quickly reversible (eg. oral contraceptive). If you’d like to become pregnant — but not in the near future — you may want to consider an IUD. Note: An IUD has a quick return to fertility, but it is expensive if you are going to use it only for a short time period
- Lifestyle – Consider how willing you are to plan ahead or adhere to a rigid schedule. Will you forget to take tablets on a daily basis?
- Convenience – Lastly, think about what’s important to you. For example are you more concerned about ease of use, no bothersome side effects or price point? Figuring out your major concerns is a good place to start. It can immediately reduce your contraception choices to a more manageable number
Contraceptives broken down
Although this list is not exhaustive, here is a brief breakdown of some of the more popular contraceptives that are used.
- Pills – Pills are taken daily. The pill is a safe, affordable, and effective method if you always take it on time. There are different preparations available.
- Patch – This is a small patch you wear on the skin of your belly, upper arm, buttocks or back that releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. You put a new patch on every week for 3 weeks followed by one week without the patch. Repeat this cycle. The patch is 91% effective.
- Nexplanon / Implant – A tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick is quickly inserted just underneath the skin by a doctor or nurse. That’s it — you’re protected from pregnancy for up to 4 years. It is 99% effective.
- IUD’s – An Intrauterine device (IUD) is a tiny device that’s put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s long-term, reversible, low maintenance and 99% effective. Examples of IUD’s are: Mirena, Paragard, Skyla, Kyleena
- Depo-Provera (Contraceptive shot) – An injection you get from a nurse or doctor once every 3 months. It’s safe, convenient and 94% effective.
The bottom line is that when choosing a contraceptive method, many factors come into play, including your age, health history, relationship status (single, married, multiple partners) and your personal preference. Use the information above as a guide to help discuss your contraception options with your OBGYN.