There are a number of options for contraception available to women who want to prevent pregnancy. The type of birth control you choose is a personal decision. Only you (with the help of your doctor) can decide which method is best for you. You have to consider your health history, lifestyle, and preferences to choose wisely.
Types of Birth Control
Some types of birth control can be obtained over the counter but many require prescriptions. Others require surgical procedures. To learn more about the effectiveness of different methods, check the CDC’s guide to contraception.
Hormonal Birth Control
Many types of birth control use the female reproductive hormones estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. These types of birth control require a prescription from your doctor.
Casually referred to as “the pill,” oral contraceptives are a common type of hormonal birth control used by women. Birth control pills usually contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. However, there are options that use only progestin.
Hormonal birth control can also be taken transdermally (through the skin) with a patch. The patch is worn on the arm, lower abdomen, or buttocks. It releases progestin and estrogen into the bloodstream. The patch is replaced weekly.
Vaginal rings are another common type of hormonal birth control. The ring is inserted into the vagina for three weeks. Then it is removed for the week of your period. It releases hormones while inserted.
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus through the cervix by your doctor. The IUD releases small amounts of hormones to prevent egg fertilization. If an egg were to somehow be fertilized, it also prevents it from implanting in the womb. IUDs can provide extremely effective birth control for 3 to 6 years depending on the device you get.
Hormonal birth control can also be given via injection. These shots contain progestin and are given in either the arm or the buttocks every three months.
Hormonal implants are thin rods placed under the skin of the upper arm. The implant contains progestin and lasts for 3 years.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control
Some women prefer birth control methods that don’t include the use of hormones. There are several options for non-hormonal birth control that can be effective when used properly.
Barrier Birth Control
As the name suggests, barrier birth control methods provide a barrier that blocks the sperm and egg from meeting for fertilization. Types of barrier birth control include:
- Male condoms
- Female condoms
- Contraceptive sponges
- Cervical caps
This type of IUD does not have any hormones. Instead, the copper wrapped around the device is toxic to sperm. This prevents the sperm from traveling through the vagina to fertilize an egg. It also prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. It is effective about 99% of the time.
Spermicide is a chemical that is inserted into the vagina to kill or paralyze sperm. It is available over the counter at many drug stores. Spermicide comes in different forms like gels, foams, and suppositories. Spermicide is often used with barrier birth control.
This type of birth control is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. The gel affects the pH level of the vagina so that sperm cannot travel to the egg. It can also be combined with barrier methods.
Fertility awareness birth control methods rely on a woman understanding her monthly fertility pattern. The woman tracks her menstrual cycle and identifies the days of the month that she is fertile. On those fertile days, she and her partner abstain from sexual intercourse or use other forms of birth control.
Permanent Birth Control
Permanent birth control is sometimes referred to as sterilization. The permanent birth control procedure used for women is called tubal ligation. This is commonly referred to as “getting your tubes tied.”
During the procedure, the fallopian tubes are cut, tied, or blocked. This prevents eggs from traveling from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes. It also blocks sperm from traveling up the fallopian tubes to the egg.
If you have sex without birth control or if your birth control method failed, emergency contraception is an option. Emergency contraception can be effective but is NOT a regular method of birth control. There are emergency contraceptive pills that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. But the sooner you take them, the better.
Contact Green Valley OB/GYN
If you have questions about choosing the right type of birth control for you, contact your gynecologist. Green Valley OB/GYN has been providing the highest quality of obstetric and gynecological care for over 70 years, offering a comprehensive list of services, including preventive care and family planning. To set up an appointment or talk about your health, call us at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.