Women’s Health A-Z
Choosing the right form of birth control for your body and for your lifestyle can be challenging. Discussing your contraception options with your physician can help make your decision easier.
Why Use Birth Control?
Prescription birth control methods are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. Certain types of birth control may also help alleviate pre-menstrual mood changes, regulate women’s periods, decrease periods, or eliminate them altogether, among other benefits. Birth control does not prevent sexually transmitted infections, however, and you should still use a condom to prevent STDs.
Hormonal Birth Control
- Birth control pills: Birth control pills use hormones to prevent pregnancy. When used perfectly, pills are 99% effective. With typical use, they are 91% effective. Women using pills must take one pill every day. There are many different types of birth control pills available that have varying levels and types of hormones, so it is best to talk to your physician about what type may be right for you.
- Injection: Birth control injections use progestin to stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy. When used perfectly, the shot is 99% effective. It is 94% effective with typical use. The shot remains effective for three months, and patients must receive their next injection on time in order to continue pregnancy prevention.
- Vaginal ring: This is a small, bendable ring that the patient inserts into her vagina. The ring releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. The ring is 99% effective with perfect use and 91% effective with typical use. A woman using the ring will leave it in for three weeks, take it out for the fourth, and then insert a new one.
- Birth control patch: A birth control patch is stuck to the skin and releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. The patch is 99% effective with perfect use and 91% effective with typical use. Patients using this method use a new patch each week for three weeks, and then they go without a patch for the fourth week.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
Intrauterine devices are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. They are small devices that are placed in the uterus by a physician, and they release either copper or progestin to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are an especially good option for women who are not planning on becoming pregnant for several years as they are effective for 3-10 years, depending on the type of IUD chosen, once placed. They may also be good options for women who struggle to or don’t want to worry about taking a pill every day. Should you decide you would like to conceive or switch methods, a doctor may remove your IUD at any time.
Permanent Birth Control
Both men and women have options for sterilization as a way to prevent pregnancy. For women, a doctor may perform sterilization using minimally-invasive, laparoscopic surgery to tie off or cauterize the fallopian tubes. Women may also choose a non-surgical option where micro-inserts are placed in the fallopian tubes, which causes scar tissue to block them and prevent pregnancy.
Emergency contraception, often referred to as the “morning after pill” can be taken after intercourse in order to prevent pregnancy from happening. Most emergency contraception options are available without a prescription at your local pharmacy. Emergency contraception is most effective if you take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. The sooner the better.