For many years, birth control pills have been the top choice of women who want to prevent a pregnancy. But you don't need to automatically default to pills.
There are many contraceptive methods to choose from, and each type comes with advantages and disadvantages. You can use their differences to choose the one that truly fits your lifestyle, family planning goals, and overall health.
As Karen F. Brodman, MD, talks with women seeking birth control, she learns about their personal preferences before suggesting the method that best meets their needs. In this blog post, she shares the most important points to consider when choosing your birth control.
Before prescribing contraceptives, we need to know if you have any health issues that affect your choices. That's why we always begin by reviewing your medical history and doing a pelvic and breast exam.
A few health problems limit your choices. For example, birth control pills may not be safe if you have cardiovascular disease or breast cancer.
But contraceptives can also improve health problems. We prescribe different hormone-based birth control methods to treat irregular, painful, or heavy periods.
When it comes to your lifestyle, one of the most important factors is the convenience of your birth control. You may not want to deal with methods you need to use every time you have sex. Or you might worry that you’ll forget methods that have to be taken or replaced on a regular basis.
You need to take a birth control pill every day without fail, which isn't a major inconvenience for many women. Other contraceptives also need regular, but less frequent, attention. For example, you must get another shot or replace the skin patch and vaginal ring every week, month, or year, depending on the method you use.
Barrier methods like the diaphragm and condoms must be inserted every time you have sex. However, they don’t contain hormones, which may be a bigger factor than convenience. And condoms are the only method that protects you from sexually transmitted diseases.
The issues related to convenience also have an impact on effectiveness. If you forget to take a pill, you wait too long to get a new shot, patch, or ring, or you get caught up in the moment and don't use your barrier method, their effectiveness falls.
The high numbers in this list show a method's effectiveness when they're used properly. The low number reflects the drop when user error comes into play.
For example, birth control pills are 99% effective when you take them every day but they only prevent pregnancy 91% if you miss a day.
As you can see, all these methods are effective when used the right way:
- Birth control shot: 94-99%
- Vaginal ring: 91-99%
- Birth control pills: 91-99%
- Birth control patches: 91-99%
- Diaphragm: 88-94%
- Internal condoms (for women): 79-95%
- External condoms (for men): 85-98%
Two types of birth control (intrauterine devices and the implant) aren’t on this list because they don’t require daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly attention.
If you want the most convenient and effective method, then you should consider long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). The LARCs include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control implants.
These methods are just as effective as permanent sterilization and free of potential user error. We insert the IUD or implant once, and then they can stay in place for 3-10 years, depending on which device you get.
During that time, they continuously prevent pregnancy. But if you decide you want to have a baby, we can easily remove the device in the office and you can start trying to get pregnant right away.
Some IUDs and the implant contain hormones. If you prefer a method without hormones, you can get a copper IUD.
As you can see, you have many variables to consider. We're here to answer your questions and help you sort through your birth control choices.
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