There is no “right” method of birth control that’s going to work for everyone. Each person’s body will react differently because of their specific body’s hormones and estrogen. People take birth control for various reasons and while a particular oral medication may work for one person, it may have negative side effects for others. This is why it’s important to understand what you’re looking for from a contraceptive before taking birth control.
There are permanent methods (sterilization), temporary ones (patches), and there are different forms of application (patches, IUDs, etc). Not everyone who takes birth control is sexually active. Beyond preventing pregnancy, birth control can help reduce acne, prevent cancer and treat PMS, among other benefits.
Learn more about the different types of birth control methods available to you below.
Types of contraceptives
IUDs – Copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs
- Pros: small, lasts for years, 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
- Cons: can cause longer and heavier periods, can only be inserted or removed by a physician, insertion can be painful
Hormonal Methods– Hormonal IUD, implant, shot, patch, ring, birth control pill.
- Pros: can relieve PMS, 99% effective, prevents acne
- Cons: nausea, bleeding between periods, depression
Barrier methods – Male condom, female condom, birth control diaphragm and cervical cap, birth control sponge, spermicide
- Pros: can prevent STIs, can be used in combination with other birth control methods, temporary option
- Cons: requires planning, 70-75% effective, reduces risk of genital ulcer diseases, can only be used once
Sterilization – Vasectomy or tubal ligation
- Pros: permanent, won’t affect your hormones, won’t cause onset menopause
- Cons: permanent, difficult to reverse, does not protect against STIs
Emergency contraception – Copper IUD, emergency contraception pill (morning-after pill)
- Pros: single dose, convenient, no serious side effects
- Cons: only effective for a short period, not suitable for women with health issues, side effects such as vomiting
Fertility Awareness – Ovulation method
- Pros: low-cost, no medication necessary, no side effects
- Cons: does not protect against STIs, 76% effective, must keep careful records
How to choose the right method of birth control for you
With so birth control options, it’s hard to narrow down the best one. Thankfully there’s no single “best” one—there’s the one that works “best” with your body. Sit down and think about what your priorities and needs are: are you looking for a temporary or a permanent solution? What are the risk factors involved? Do you have any health complications that may affect the efficacy of certain methods? Your women’s health doctor will be your best resource. Consult with them about your options and find the best solution together.
Alternative uses and benefits of birth control methods
Apart from preventing pregnancy, birth control has many other health advantages. Doctors often prescribe birth control for people who aren’t sexually active because it has health benefits for those with severe acne, PMS and endometriosis, among others. It’s also known to prevent ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Learn more about the alternative uses and benefits of hormonal birth control below.
- Acne – Hormones called androgens increase the production of sebum, an oil your skin produces. When you have too much sebum, you can have more bacteria growth and clogged pores, which lead to acne. Birth control pills with estrogen and progesterone reduce androgen production, and, therefore, acne
- PMS – Since birth control pills prevent ovulation, they improve PMS because the pills prevent hormone changes
- Endometriosis – Birth control reduces the production of estrogen and this reduces endometriosis symptoms because it makes periods lighter and decreases the growth of endometrial tissue inside and outside of the uterus
- Cancer prevention – Birth control pills and hormonal IUDs can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer
Birth control vs Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Can birth control protect you from STIs? Depends on the method. The only way to fully protect yourself from pregnancy and STIs is to practice abstinence. Apart from abstinence, male condoms, apart from being 85% effective in preventing pregnancy, can prevent STIs, including HIV. Female condoms, while not as effective, can prevent some STIs.
Other birth control methods, such as non-barrier methods, like birth control pills, IUDs and other hormonal treatments, don’t prevent STIs. Along with birth control, you should consider wearing a condom to protect yourself from contracting STIs.
How to get on birth control
You will need to consult with your women’s health doctor if you want access to birth control methods that aren’t available without a prescription. Because they know your medical history, they are your best resource because they know how your body reacts to changes and medications. If you’re considering more permanent options, such as sterilization, an IUD or an implant, you will need to set an appointment with your women’s health doctor because those will require medical procedures.
Sexual health services are available at a low cost or free at many clinics, so it is easy to access birth control if needed. In addition, pharmacies, drugstores, and some grocery stores sell ECPs (morning-after pill), condoms and birth control sponges.
- Widely available methods (don’t require a prescription): male condoms, female condoms, ECPs (morning-after pill), birth control sponge
- Types of contraceptives that require a prescription: birth control pills, patch, diaphragm and cervical cap, shot, ring
- Methods that need a medical procedure: sterilization, IUD, implant
To seek women’s health services, visit a Valleywise Health Medical Center. Call 1 1-833-VLLYWSE to book an in-person or virtual women’s health appointment today.