Birth control methods

For a woman, or even a couple, choosing a birth control method is a very important decision. Fortunately, today, there are many safe and effective birth control means available to us. It is important to keep in mind, when making this decision, that each woman’s needs are different. The things to consider are cost, effectiveness, convenience, and whether or not it works for you. One woman may not do well on one type of birth control and do great on another type; a different woman may have just the opposite problem. There is anything from patches and oral pills to condoms and hormone-releasing device that can be placed in a woman’s uterus, called an IUD (intrauterine device); in between, there are many other options available. To get more information on the various birth control methods, talk with your healthcare provider.

Abstinence is the act of refraining from having sex. Period. Obviously this is a 100% reliable form of birth control. In addition, it prevents sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). All in all, abstinence is easy, safe, and convenient. What’s more, abstinence is completely free!

Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are taken every day to prevent pregnancy; they are made of the same hormones in the woman’s body that cause ovulation, or the ovaries to release eggs. They are either made of estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone)—called combination pills—or with progestin only. The hormones work in a way to prevent ovulation; a woman cannot get pregnant if there are no eggs for the sperm to attach to. These hormones also work by thickening the cervical mucus, making it nearly impossible for the sperm to get through. To get the most effectiveness out of the pills, it is important to take it at the same time every day; talk with your doctor about medications that could make the pill less effective. Birth control pills are 96% to 99% effective if taken properly, but they do not protect against STDs. They cost about $15-$50 per month. The pill is safe for most women.

Birth Control Patch
The patch is something that sticks to the skin to prevent pregnancy. A new patch is placed on the skin every week for three consecutive weeks, followed by a patch-free week (to allow for a period). The patch works the same way as the pills, releasing the hormones that prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus. It is most effective when placed on the skin at the same time every week to keep the hormone levels constant; the patch does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The patch costs anywhere from $15-$50 a month.

Birth Control Implant (Implanon)
The implant is a matchstick-sized rod inserted in the arm to prevent pregnancy; it must be inserted by a healthcare provider. It is pretty expensive up front, between $400 and $800, but it lasts for 3 years. Implanon works by releasing progestin, which prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, and therefore, prevents ovulation. It also helps thicken the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from swimming through. Talk to your doctor about the safety of the birth control implant; implanon is very effective. Less than one woman out of 100 will become pregnant every year. It does not protect against STDs.

Birth Control Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
The vaginal ring is a small ring that a woman inserts once a month for 3 weeks to prevent pregnancy. Once again, it costs anywhere from $15-$50 per month. It has the same hormones as birth control pills and works in the same manner. It works the best when it’s left in for 3 weeks, taken out for one week, and then a new one is reinserted. Talk to your doctor about certain medications that can decrease its effectiveness.

Birth Control Shot
The shot lasts for 3 months and costs $35-$75. The shot contains progestin only and works the same way as the other birth control methods. It is most effective when a shot is administered (by a healthcare provider) every 12 weeks.

Believe it or not, women who are breastfeeding are typically protected against pregnancy up until 6 months after childbirth. If a child is breastfed exclusively, a woman’s hormones are changed and she does not produce the hormone necessary for ovulation. It is most effective when a woman does not substitute other foods for breast milk, feeds her baby at least every 4 hours during the day and 6 hours at night, and when she has not had her period since giving birth. It is 100% safe and 100% free.

There are both women’s and men’s condoms that can be used for birth control and as a method to prevent STDs; they are extremely cheap ($1 or less per condom for males; $4 or less for female condoms). Male condoms are worn on the penis to prevent sperm from going through the vagina; female condoms are essentially a pouch inserted into the vagina to catch the sperm.

A diaphragm is a shallow latex cup inserted into the vagina to catch sperm and prevent pregnancy by blocking the opening of the uterus. It must be used with spermicide to be the most effective. However, the diaphragm is slightly less effective than other forms of birth control; about 6 in 100 women will get pregnant every year using one. Talk to your doctor about certain things that may make the diaphragm unsafe. It costs between $15 and $75.

Morning After Pill (Emergency Contraception)
This is a pill used to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. It costs between $10 and $70. It can be used by “accidentally” not using contraception, forgetting to take the pill, or even if a condom broke. Accidents happen! It releases progestin and works the same way as the other methods of hormonal birth control do. IT DOES NOT CAUSE ABORTION. The more time that goes by, the less effective this pill is.

This is a small “T-shaped” device that is placed into the uterus by a healthcare provider, and prevents pregnancy by affecting the way that the sperm move; they also contain progestin, and in this way, work similar to birth control pills. There are currently two types of IUDs: Mirena (contains progestin and works for 5 years) and Paraguard (contains copper and works for 12 years). The cost is between $500 and $1000. They have the same effectiveness as other methods of birth control.

Sterilization for Men or Women
There is sterilization available for men (vasectomy) and for women (tubal ligation). A tubal ligation involves blocking the woman’s fallopian tubes; the cost is between $1,500 and $6,000. There is another type or permanent sterilization for women, called Essure; it involves placing tiny coils in the fallopian tubes in the hope that scar tissue will grow around them. A vasectomy involves blocking the tubes in a male that carry sperm; it costs between $350 and $1,000.

Withdrawal (Pull Out Method)
This is called the “pull out method” because the male pulls out his penis before he ejaculates into the vagina. It works by keeping the sperm out of the vagina. For those who always do this, about 4 in 100 women will become pregnant each year. There are no side effects and it is cost free!

Last updated on Oct 20th, 2010 and filed under Reproductive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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