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August 13, 2019 • OB/GYN
Choosing a birth control method can be confusing, especially because you have many potential options to consider.
Every method of birth control (contraception) varies in its effectiveness as well as the potential risks or side effects it carries. When evaluating your choices, start by considering your lifestyle, your plans for parenthood and your values. However, you must also consider your personal medical history, health status and any other factors that affect which types of contraceptives are right for you.
Barrier methods of birth control include:
Some of these options require the use of a spermicide, but all barrier methods are more effective when combined with spermicide.
Among these options, male condoms are the most effective barrier method for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Contraceptive barriers pose the lowest risk for side effects; however, they are also the least effective of the available methods. On average, barrier methods are approximately 88% effective for preventing pregnancy, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Options for hormone-based birth control include:
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)Implants
These methods deliver carefully measured does of hormones into the body to prevent ovulation (a part of the menstrual cycle in which a mature egg is released from the ovary). Hormonal contraceptives carry some risks for mild side effects, such as breast tenderness, headaches and nausea. In some cases, hormone-based birth control can cause more serious problems, including hypertension and blood clots.
With a 91% average reliability rate, hormonal contraception is more effective than barrier methods, when used as directed.
IUDs are small, T-shaped devices that a healthcare practitioner inserts into the uterus. Depending on the type of IUD you select, it should last between three and 10 years. The two types of intrauterine devices are:
Copper — by releasing small levels of copper into the uterus, this type of IUD interferes with the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg.
Hormonal – by releasing small amounts of hormones into the uterus, this type of IUD thickens cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching or fertilizing an egg.
IUDs are highly effective, with a reliability rate above 99%. They pose some risk of mild side effects (cramps, spotting, heavier periods) and a low rate of more serious side effects such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infection.
Your OB/GYN provider can help you explore these and other options and explain the effectiveness, risks and benefits of each more fully. Your OB/GYN provider will also explain how each method may affect your ability to conceive in the future if you plan to have children.
Your doctor will also discuss your medical history and any relevant family history that could increase your risk of developing a problem. Factors such as smoking, obesity and family (or personal) history of breast cancer may limit some of your options for safe, effective birth control.
Choosing the best type of birth control for your body is important to your overall health and well-being, and can help you achieve your personal reproductive goals. Schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN today to ensure that you’re making the best possible choice for you.
“Birth Control.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Choose the Right Birth Control.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“A Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for Your Lifestyle.” University of Michigan Health.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.