What is Birth Control?
Birth control is defined as any method that prevents pregnancy. There are many different methods for both male and female birth control. Birth control often depends on a person’s preference and what is most comfortable for them. Some methods are used only during sex, while other options are taken daily to prevent pregnancy.
In the world of birth control, there are several more options for females than males. Women will likely try more than one form of birth control until they find one that suits their lifestyle.
Hormonal Birth Control
There are six commonly used forms of hormonal birth control. They may contain various levels of progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) and estrogen. Progesterone is the hormone that prevents pregnancy, and the estrogen component helps control menstrual bleeding. These hormones work to prevent ovulation in the body, which releases eggs from the ovaries. They may also thicken the uterus lining or change the mucus at the cervix to prevent sperm cells from entering.
In general, hormonal birth control options have a high rate of efficacy when used properly. If you use a difficult method for you to use correctly, you may be at risk of unintended pregnancy. The six types of hormonal birth control include:
1. The pill All oral contraceptives are typically referred to as “the pill.” Three types of birth control pills contain hormones, like progestin and estrogen.
- • Combined estrogen-progesterone pill
- • Progesterone only
- • Extended use combination pill
Some benefits of the pill include its rapid reversibility, regulation of menstrual bleeding, decreased menstrual pain, decrease in menstrual migraines, and decreased endometriosis symptoms. Using birth control can also decrease your risk of ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer. You must take your pill every day for full pregnancy prevention. Some believe this is a disadvantage to the method because research shows that more than half of people using the pill forget to take one each month.
2. The patch The patch delivers estrogen and progesterone through the skin. This patch is made of thin plastic that can be placed on the abdomen, arm, buttocks, or upper torso. It is important to put this patch on clean and dry skin and replace it once a week. Typically you wear patches for three consecutive weeks, followed by one week where no patch is worn. People prefer this method because it is convenient and only requires once-a-week dosing. Breast discomfort, skin reactions, headache, and nausea are common side effects of the patch.
3. The ring The ring delivers the same hormones as the patch but through a circular piece of plastic placed in the vagina. The ring is inserted and left inside the vagina for three weeks, followed by one week where no ring is used. It has similar benefits to the patch due to its weekly dosage and the same general side effects. The ring can also be removed for up to three hours without compromising its efficacy.
4. The shot The shot is an injectable contraceptive that contains progestin depot medroxyprogesterone acetate. The shot is administered by your doctor every three months, making it even more convenient than the shot or the patch. If people do not want estrogen in their birth control, this is a viable option. Other benefits include:
- • Decreased endometriosis pain
- • Decreased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- • Reduced risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
- • Decreased PMS symptoms
- • Decreased cramps
5. The implant By percentage, the implant is one of the most effective forms of birth control. A thin rod is inserted under the skin in the upper arm and lasts for three years. The implant only contains only progesterone. Many prefer the implant because you can just set it and forget it. The implant will be inserted during an in-office procedure, and you may experience some swelling, bruising, and pain. In most cases, removing the implant takes less than two minutes in a doctor’s office.
6. Hormonal IUD The IUD (intrauterine device) is a T-shaped device implanted in the uterus. The IUD only contains a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel and is implanted at your doctor or women’s health facility. People prefer this method because it can last three to seven years, depending on the type of IUD you receive. The procedure is often quite painful, but some women feel that the long-lasting quality of the method outweighs the uncomfortable implantation. Copper IUDs are also available but contain no hormones at all. Copper is a natural spermicidal substance and can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.
7. Barrier Birth Control This type of birth control creates a barrier to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Male condoms are the most common method. Latex condoms are inexpensive and around 98% effective when used perfectly.
A female condom is a flexible plastic tube that is inserted into the vagina. These condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and are 80% effective in preventing pregnancy. Other barrier methods for women include the diaphragm, cervical cap, and cervical shield.
As the name suggests, emergency contraception is not a regular form of birth control. It is only used after unprotected sex or if your condom breaks. They are also regularly referred to as “morning-after” pills. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy when taken three to five days after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it, the more effective it is.