Before taking any birth control, it is important to understand how birth control works and what it could mean to your health to practice various forms of birth control. Understanding the different types of contraceptive options that are available is critical in making the best decision for you. It’s also valuable to understand how your body works and to track your monthly cycles.
Types of Contraception Include:
Hormonal Birth Control methods work by releasing small amounts of lab-created estrogen and progestin hormones. The hormonal contraceptive stops the body from releasing eggs or creating changes that keep sperm from reaching eggs. Hormonal birth control methods do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases/infections.
Birth Control Pills (BCP):
Birth control pills require the daily intake of a pill and come in combined and progestin-only pills. While both are effective, the combination pill (estrogen and progestin) is more closely associated with adverse side effects’ while the minipill (progestin only) is typically considered more stringent with dosage times (the pill must be taken within 3 hours of the time it was taken the previous day, as opposed to the more lenient 12 hours with combined pills.)
The ring is a small, fexible piece of plastic that is inserted into the vagina to provide birth control. It works like the pill by releasing hormones, but only needs to be inserted once a month.
Effectively a combined pill in patch form, patches require a prescription and have a specifc method to their usage that must be followed carefully for maximum effcacy to be retained; they are extremely effective, with failure rates of only 0.3% with perfect use, but are also subject to many of the same side effects that combined pill contraceptives have.
Contraceptive Injection (Depo-Provera):
An injection akin to the use of progestin-only pill, it has the advantage of requiring application only once every three months and failure rate of just 0.2% with perfect use but is disadvantaged by the possible loss of bone density in the user, which may or may not return following discontinuation of use of this form of contraception.
Long-Acting Removable Contraception
The implant is a very small fexible tube inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. It is invisible and prevents pregnancy for up to 4 years. The implant releases progestin. It requires a minor clinical procedure by a healthcare professional to insert or remove the implant.
An intrauterine device:
Also known as an IUD, which usually takes the form of a small T-shaped fexible plastic device inserted into the uterus through the cervix. Their primary mechanism of action is to prevent fertilization by causing a profound change in the amount and viscosity of cervical mucus, making it impenetrable to sperm.
There are two types of IUDs that are FDA approved for use in the USA. One is copper wrapped and utilizes no additional hormones. Side effects may include increased cramping and menstrual bleeding. The second type of IUD is impregnated with progestin (the hormone in BCP). There are varying doses of progestin released with each of the four brands of hormonal IUD. Side effects may include loss of menstrual fow. Longevity of the devices range from 3-12 years. Fertility is restored immediately upon removal of the device.
Latex or otherwise, female and male condoms are effective forms of contraception and are not subject to the side effects of hormonal birth control or the use of an IUD – they are, however, not foolproof and can be defeated by improper use, breakage and slippage. Condoms are typically used in conjunction with another form of birth control, such as spermicidal lubricants or even hormonal birth control/IUD. Condoms are effective in minimizing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases/infections if utilized properly.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility Awareness Contraception
NFP is a method of birth control that does not use any drugs or devices. It combines the calendar/rhythm method, the basal body temperature method, and the cervical mucus method. The fertility awareness method is used both as a means of preventing pregnancy and as a way to target the most fertile time for getting pregnant. When fertility awareness is used correctly and consistently, it may reach rates of effectiveness around 90%. The effectiveness depends on your diligence to track and record your fertility pattern and your commitment to abstain from sexual intercourse or use a barrier form of birth control during your fertility window. Average use shows a failure rate of approximately 25%. If you are committed to tracking and recording your fertility information, you can achieve much higher success rates. NFP is ineffective at preventing STD/STIs.
Remember that STD/STIs are still fully transmissible with most forms of contraception except for the use of condoms (and there is still a risk there given breakages/slippages) so be aware that your use of birth control, even perfect use, may prevent pregnancy but will not necessarily prevent the transmission of disease. It is worth noting that some couples “double up” on birth control, such as using the pill or other chemical form of contraception with condoms – this has the effect of improving net effectiveness of birth control but never completely mitigates the chance of pregnancy; rather it lowers it to a value that approaches zero. For additional education about birth control, call to speak with an Obria staff member. Please note, however, that Obria Medical Clinics do not dispense birth control.
It is recommended that before taking an emergency contraceptive you speak with a medical professional. At Obria, we are happy to speak with you about how this type of contraception works and what it could mean to your health.
For additional information, view our locations to get in touch with an Obria staff member near you.