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Understand Your Birth Control Options

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | September 9th, 2015

With all the various contraceptives available, it may be difficult to determine which one is best for you. There are pills, patches, and devices galore. Your lifestyle, medical history, and your plans regarding children and pregnancy are all important factors that can help determine the best type of birth control for you.

Oral Contraceptives

There are three types of oral contraceptives and each have their own perks and items to make note of. Most contraceptive pills prevent the ovaries from releasing and egg and also thicken the mucus in the cervix. And with most contraceptive pills, they are most effective if taken at the same time every day, so this may not be best for women who aren’t confident they can remember to take it every day.

  • Combination Pill – The combination pill uses estrogen and progestin to suppress ovulation. The combination pill may be a good option for women who are looking for shorter, lighter, & regular periods.  Some combination pills can help with the endometriosis symptoms. This pill isn’t ideal for smokers, those above the age of 35, and those who suffer from migraines.
  • Progestin- only pill  – Progestin-only pills are mostly used by nursing mothers, women with risks of blood clots, or other conditions that prevent them from taking estrogen. Generally, this option is safer for smokers, diabetics, and heart disease patients. Others may choose this method to address concerns of drug interactions.  Progestin-only oral contraceptives aren’t for those with liver disease or those who have had bariatric surgery.
  • Extended-Cycle pill – Extended cycle pills allow women to have a period every three months and use a method called menstrual suppression. This method may be best for those who want to delay or eliminate menstruation and want to be able to adjust their cycle at particular times. Some women may seek this method to alleviate painful menstruation.

It is important to note that this type of contraception is generally more expensive than other pill contraceptives. And some women do not like not having an indication of being pregnant or not.

Vaginal Ring

This plastic, flexible device is used to provide estrogen and progestin similarly to the way the pill does.  The ring is placed in the vagina and kept there for three weeks and then taken out for one week to have a regular period.

The use of a vaginal ring is best for those who don’t mind inserting the ring by themselves and seeking to find a method that requires little maintenance.  A perk of this method is that the vaginal ring uses a lower dose of hormones.

The method isn’t ideal for women who smoke, have blood clots, or have certain cancers. Storing the ring can be interesting considering that if it is stored for more than 4 months, it needs to be refrigerated.


This rubber, dome shaped, device covers the cervix and is used with a spermicide to prevent conception. Also, the device has to be fitted by a doctor.  When used correctly, a diaphragm can be 94% effective.

This method can be used by women who are nursing. Diaphragms have no hormonal effects, and are immediately effective. Diaphragms may not be the best for those whose weight fluctuates more than 10 pounds at a time. This significant weight change means that you will have to get refitted by a doctor. This method isn’t for those who are prone to bladder infections and those who have had toxic shock syndrome.


IUD’s are surgically implanted copper devices that prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Some implants also release hormones. IUD’s are more than 99% effective and can be effective for up to 10 years.

This method may be better for those who have given birth because when the device is implanted, the uterus expands. And IUD can be a good fit for women who have a history of ecotopic pregnancies or have a history of irregular bleeding and pain. IUD’s can be used by women who have diabetes, are breast-feeding, and have a history of endometriosis.

One thing to consider is that IUD’s have a high cost of removal. Those who are seeking to have kids within the next few years may want to look into another option. Women who get an IUD may experience cramping and spotting. There is also a risk of the IUD getting expelled from the uterus (pushed out) or the IUD puncturing the uterus.

Male Condom

Probably one of the most common types of birth control is the male condom.  Condoms protect against pregnancy and STD’s. Condoms are fairly easy to obtain, but aren’t as effective as other forms of birth control.

If you or your partner is allergic to latex, you may have to look into other options. There are lambskin condoms, but they do not protect you from STD’s. Also, be sure to use water based lubricants so that they don’t break down the latex condom.


The birth control is a patch that releases hormones to prevent conception. You place the hormone releasing patch on your body and change it weekly. Then after three weeks, go patch-free.

Using a birth control patch has benefits such as having a regular, lighter, and shorter periods.  And using the patch is simple and convenient. This option may not be the best for those who are at risk for blood clots. Delivering the hormones via a patch means that there is 60% more estrogen being absorbed in comparison to the pill.


An implant is a flexible tubular device that is inserted into your upper arm and can last up to three years.  It is about the size of a match and releases progestin.

A contraceptive implant can be used while breast-feeding. However, there are certain medications that make a contraceptive implant less effective. Some HIV medications, St. John’s wort, TB medications, and certain yeast infection medications can reduce effectiveness. This may not be the best option for women who are overweight.


Sterilization can happen in a couple of ways. There is a surgical procedure that can block the fallopian tubes or a non-surgical technique in which small coils are inserted into the fallopian tubes.

Sterilization is designed to be a permanent solution. If you plan on having children or feel that don’t know whether you want children, consider other options. You want to be 100% sure about your decision before you decide to continue with this method.

Natural Family Planning

Many couples choose to use natural family planning as a way of avoiding sex during the window where fertilization is most likely to happen.  This requires paying attention regularly to your body to know what part of your cycle you are in.  You can learn more about this technique in one of our past blog articles here.

There are so many options of birth control that it may be confusing to find the best one for you. Be sure to talk to your doctor and do some research on your own.  There is a lot of information about each method, so take your time and consider your options.