How to Find the Right Type of Birth Control For You
Birth control is commonly used by women for a variety of different reasons. Aside from preventing pregnancy, birth control is used to ease cramping and heavy bleeding associated with menstrual periods, relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS), treat acne, and much more. As birth control is widely used, it is best to stay informed on the different forms that are available. That way, you can compare all of the different options that are available to you and make the best choice that aligns with your lifestyle and future plans.
What are the different types of birth control?
Before diving into the different types of birth control, it is important to note that only hormonal birth control (the pill, patch, ring, injection, and IUD) and the copper IUD will be covered here. These all require a prescription from a medical doctor. Other forms of birth control such as barrier methods (condoms, sponges, and diaphragms/caps), permanent contraception (vasectomy and tubal ligation), and emergency contraception (levonorgestrel/Plan B, ulipristal/Ella, and copper IUD) will not be covered in great detail.
The Pill (Various)
This form of birth control is one of the most well-known and commonly used. Birth control pills are to be taken at around the same time on a daily basis, with each monthly pack containing enough medication for a 28-day cycle. These pills are usually comprised of estrogen and progestogen, but may only be comprised of progestogen when breastfeeding or if estrogen is unable to be used. These combinations of hormones prevent ovulation from occurring, thicken cervical mucus and alter the lining of the endometrial surface to prevent fertilization from occurring. Ultimately, this makes the pill about 91% effective in preventing pregnancies in a given year.
It is, however, important to note that side effects such as breast tenderness, spotting, weight gain, appetite, and mood changes may occur and are most common when first starting this drug therapy. As well, the risk of migraine headaches, blood clots, and estrogen-related cancers (e.g. breast cancer) is increased over the long term. Prior to starting any hormonal form of birth control, the doctor will assess your medical history to ensure that it is safe and effective for you.
The Patch (Evra)
Similar to the pill, birth control patches are applied weekly for a 28-day cycle and contain both estrogen and progestogen. Weekly applications make it easier to stay adherent. This is beneficial for both the prevention of pregnancy as well as the minimization of side effects such as spotting and breakthrough bleeding. Something to keep in mind is that the patch may not be effective for females weighing over 90kg. Just like the pill and the ring, the patch is about 91% effective in preventing pregnancies each year.
The Ring (Nuvaring)
The birth control ring is inserted vaginally on a weekly basis for a 28-day cycle and contains estrogen and progestogen. Adherence is improved with once-weekly insertion and the presence of the ring does not affect intercourse. Although there is a reduction in side effects such as spotting and breakthrough bleeding due to improved adherence, the ring may increase the incidence of nausea and vaginal inflammation. The ring is about 91% effective in preventing pregnancies each year when used on its own.
The Injection (Depo-Provera)
The birth control injection, given in the form of a shot, is administered every 90 days. It contains a progestogen called medroxyprogesterone acetate, which means that this form of birth control is an option for those who are either intolerant to or cannot take estrogen. Receiving a shot at the doctor’s office every 90 days means that those with limited privacy or adherence issues are able to benefit. With an effectiveness rate of about 94%, the birth control injection is slightly more effective than the pill, patch, and ring at preventing pregnancy.
Compared to the pill, patch, and ring, the injection has a different set of side effects that are associated with the progestogen component. These include irregular periods (most common), headaches, weight gain, and decreased bone density that is reversible. As well, delayed fertility may occur as the contents of the birth control injection are long-acting.
Hormonal Intrauterine Devices (IUDs, Various)
This form of birth control is considered long-acting, making it a more reliable form of contraception due to its safety and ability to be left in place for up to five years. The hormones help to thicken cervical mucus and alter the lining of the endometrium to prevent fertilization, as well as prevent sperm from surviving in the birth canal. Hormonal IUDs are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancies annually, making it the ideal form of birth control, should it be required over the long term. Insertion is performed by a doctor following a thorough assessment of medical history.
As the release of hormones occurs in the body, side effects such as spotting, breast tenderness and headaches may occur. Other more serious side effects such as pelvic inflammatory disease, perforation of the uterus, and expulsion are extremely rare. Hormonal IUDs may cause a decrease or even a cessation in menstrual bleeding, which may be beneficial for some.
Copper IUDs (Various)
Copper IUDs are also an effective form of long-acting contraception, with their effectiveness sitting at above 99% in preventing pregnancies annually. The main difference between copper and hormonal IUDs are that copper ions promote inflammation in the uterus, reducing the chances of fertilization and subsequent implantation, while hormonal IUDs do not promote inflammation and work differently. As copper IUDs are non-hormonal, they represent a suitable alternative for long-acting contraception if hormones are unable to be used. The main side effect of copper IUDs is that the inflammation causes heavier, longer, and more painful menstrual periods for a majority of those who use them.
It is extremely important to consider your own medical history, family planning goals, and general lifestyle in making the best decision for yourself. Finding a form of birth control that works for you is not always going to be easy! After speaking to your doctor about the different available options, it is simple and convenient to get birth control delivered to you in a discrete and private manner via EasyDrugs. As well, licensed pharmacists are available during the daytime to speak to you if you have any concerns or questions about birth control.
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