In This Section
Today, there are many options as it relates to birth control. To select the one that is best suited to your needs, and those of your partner, you should consult with your OBGYN.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are a form of oral contraception that generally contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin, and are taken daily to prevent a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. They also help to prevent pregnancy by causing the cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm from fertilizing an egg. Birth Control pills are safe, effective, and convenient, though they may be less effective for women who are overweight. Additionally, vomiting and/or diarrhea may keep the pill from working properly to prevent pregnancy. If a woman is concerned about this, a backup method of birth control should be used.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An IUD is a contraceptive device that delivers small amounts of hormone directly to the uterus. It is a form of birth control that remains in the uterus and can last for up to 5 years. It is a small, T-shaped, plastic device that is both soft and flexible, and is put into place by a gynecologist during a visit to your OBGYN. An IUD works through several different actions that include thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, inhibiting the sperm from reaching or fertilizing an egg, and making the lining of the uterus thin. While they are 99% effective with regards to birth control, a gynecologist can remove the device if a patient is looking to become pregnant immediately.
Birth Control Patch
Used correctly, the patch is as effective as birth control pills are in preventing pregnancy. The patch is a form of birth control that a patient wears on the skin and looks like a small bandaid. The hormones it contains (estrogen and progestin) are similar to those used in birth control pills but are absorbed through the skin. The patch works by suppressing the pituitary gland which, in turn, prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Since the patch contains a dosage which is 60% higher than that delivered by the pills, there is the risk of side effects such as blood clots. Because of this, it is essential that patients using the patch do not smoke. The patch can also be used to treat irregular periods, menstrual cramps, or endometriosis.
A vaginal ring is a form of contraception that is soft, flexible, and worn in the vagina. The key benefit of the ring is that a patient does not need to take it daily to get complete monthly protection. In a given one month period, the ring must be inserted into the vagina, removed after 3 weeks, and a new ring inserted no more than 7 days later. The hormones it contains (estrogen and progestin) are similar to those used in birth control pills. However, unlike birth control pills, they are absorbed directly into the blood stream through the vaginal wall, delivering a consistent level of medication improving effectiveness and limiting side effects.
A diaphragm is a thin, rubber, dome-shaped device with a springy and flexible rim. Inserted into the vagina by the patient, it fits over the cervix and is held in place by muscles in the vagina. The diaphragm is designed to hold spermicide in place over the cervix to kill sperm. To maximize the effectiveness of the diaphragm it should be left in place for up to 6 to 8 hours. The effectiveness for birth control ranges from between 86-94%. If one chooses to use a diaphragm, it must be fitted in a clinic. Additionally, weight changes, vaginal surgery, and pregnancy can affect the way a diaphragm fits, requiring that a medical provider check it to make sure it fits properly and to determine if a new size is needed.
Permanent Contraception (Tubal Ligation)
Tubal Ligation is a procedure that seals off a woman’s fallopian tubes that carry an egg from the ovaries to the uterus. By blocking these tubes, where fertilization usually occurs, sperm is unable to reach the egg to fertilize it. The procedure seals the fallopian tubes with thread, bands, clips, an electric current, or small implants. Patients should be aware that the procedure provides permanent birth control and is NOT reversible.
Condoms are a barrier form of birth control that physically block the sperm from entering the vagina. They are the only form of protection that can help to stop the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like HIV, and prevent pregnancy. A condom is a latex or polyurethane sheath that is closed at one end and fits over a man’s penis. Condoms are also available for females and have a flexible ring at either end. One end is closed and inserted into the vagina and the other end is open with the ring remaining outside the vagina. To help assure protection, users should read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.