Contraception, or birth control, is most effective when it fits with a woman’s lifestyle. What’s best among birth control methods differs from woman to woman. What’s best for one woman may not be right for another, and individual needs may change over time.
Choosing a method of birth control is a personal choice and can be a difficult one to make. In order to select the right method of birth control for oneself and one’s partner, it is important to know the options available.
Birth control options are divided into hormonal vs. non hormonal, short acting vs. long acting and barrier.
Hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy by interrupting ovulation or the release of the egg from the ovary. Hormonal contraceptives can help with painful periods (dysmenorrhea) and heavy periods (menorrhagia) and they can either be short acting or long acting.
- Short acting hormonal – Examples of short acting hormonal contraceptives include birth control pills (oral contraceptives), hormone-containing vaginal rings (NuvaRing), hormone-containing dermal patches and hormonal contraceptive injections (Depo-Provera). These are considered short-acting methods because they are used on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
- Long-acting hormonal – Examples of long-acting hormonal contraceptives include the hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) Myrena, Liletta, Kyleena, Skyla, Paragard and the contraceptive implant Nexplanon. These are considered long-acting because they last for 3-5 years after insertion (depending on the device) or until the decision is made to remove the device. A Long acting non hormonal contraceptive is the copper IUD (Paragard) which is effective for up to 10 years or until the decision is made to remove the device.
- Barrier methods are methods that prevent passage of sperm into the cervix. Examples include condoms, diaphragm, and cervical caps. The condom provides the most effective protection against sexually transmitted infections.
- Spermicide or vaginal gels are non-hormonal options for contraception. Spermicide kills sperm or prevents them from moving. Vaginal pH regulator gel, Phexxi, stops sperm from moving, so they can’t reach the egg to fertilize it. These products are placed in the vagina just before intercourse.
- Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control that interrupts the fallopian tubes in women and the vas deferens in men. Methods of female sterilization include tubal ligation (tying of the tubes) with removal of a portion of each tube, salpingectomy (complete removal of the tube), and tubal occlusion with Falope rings, clips, or bands. These methods are performed surgically either just after delivering a baby or at a later time. Male sterilization is by vasectomy, which is usually performed by a urologist in their office or in an outpatient surgical center.
- Fertility awareness focuses on knowing which days of the month are the fertile days, often based on basal body temperature and cervical mucus. To avoid pregnancy, sex is be avoided on those days, or a barrier method of birth control should be used.
- Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill” are over the counter hormonal medications that prevent ovulation and/or destabilize the uterine lining thereby preventing fertilization. Emergency contraceptives include Plan B, Aftera, My Choice, Take Action, My Way, etc and are taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. These methods are effective anywhere from 75 to 89% of the time.
In addition to knowing the options available for contraception, it is important to be aware of their safety, effectiveness, availability, affordability, acceptability, and accessibility: each of which need to be considered by women, men, or couples at any given point in their life when choosing the most appropriate contraceptive method.
We at Adaptive Gynecology are here to help you find the right contraception for you and your partner.
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