Picking The Right Birth Control
Babies are cute and cuddly, but not everyone is on board with a baby on board. Thank goodness for birth control options — there are plenty of effective ways to avoid getting pregnant. (Yippee!)
As a matter of fact, every time you flip through a magazine, it seems there is another new birth control on the market. So how can you decide which method is the best for you?
The most important question is always, ``What's most important to you? One woman says, the answer is fewer side effects. Another, it’s a less painful period.
Birth control pills
One of the most commonly used birth control methods is “the pill.” Birth control pills regulate your hormones to control the menstrual cycle. You take three weeks of active pills. During the fourth week, you take placebo pills, which don’t have hormones. That’s when you get your period.
- Less painful and lighter periods.
- Reduced acne.
- Reduced risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.
- More than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Can omit the placebo pills to skip a period (though discuss with your doctor first).
- Slightly increased risk of blood clots, usually in smokers and women with a history of other medical conditions. (There is a special type of pill called the “mini pill” or progestin-only pill, which is safe for women with medical problems that prohibit the use of regular birth control pills.)
- Slightly increased risk of cervical cancer.
- Needs to be taken every day.
IUD (intrauterine device)
The IUD is an excellent birth control option for women who want to take action and not think about it again for a while. Your Ob/Gynae inserts a T-shaped device into the uterus during a quick in-office procedure. There are two forms of IUD, a copper version and a plastic version that contains hormones. IUDs work by making it nearly impossible for the sperm to reach the egg.
- More than 99% effective.
- Lasts three to 10 years before needing to be replaced.
- Hormonal IUDs: Can make periods lighter or even nonexistent (copper IUDs do not have that benefit).
- Hormonal IUDs: May reduce risk of endometrial cancer.
- Requires a pelvic exam before insertion.
- Insertion may be uncomfortable or even painful.
- Risk of perforating the uterus during insertion (though that occurs in one of 1,000 women).
- Unpredictable spotting for several months after insertion.
The condom serves as a barrier that prevents sperm from entering the uterus.
- The only birth control method that also protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Can be used with other birth control methods for STD protection and improved protection against pregnancy.
- 20% failure rate.
It’s a small plastic rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm deliver a constant supply of pregnancy-preventing hormones into the bloodstream for three years.
- Similar to those of hormonal IUD.
- Highly effective.
- No pelvic exam required.
- Inserted during a quick in-office procedure.
- As with the IUD, can cause unpredictable bleeding.
- Could cause heavier periods, though in some cases periods are lighter.
If you’d prefer that an overflowing diaper bag not be in your immediate future, talk to your primary care doctor or Ob/Gynae to find the birth control method that fits your lifestyle.