Choosing the Best Birth Control Method for You

Dr. Angela Seabright
Elise LaPointe

| 4 min read

Birth control pills
All birth control methods can help you avoid an unplanned pregnancy, so what should you consider when determining the right method for you? Here is a list of the benefits and disadvantages of the most effective contraceptive methods to help you decide which option best fits your needs.
The IUD, or intrauterine device, is a T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus. You can choose from either a non-hormonal copper or a hormonal IUD. The non-hormonal option uses copper as a spermicide, and the hormonal IUD uses progestin to thicken the mucus in the cervix and thin the walls of the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. The benefits of IUDs include:
  • Can last for years, up to 10 if you choose a non-hormonal IUD
  • Don’t have to think about it once it’s implanted
  • Won’t feel it
  • Nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy
Some disadvantages are:
  • A health care provider has to insert the device
  • Periods can be heavier (especially in the first three months)
  • There will be discomfort when it’s first implanted
  • Pelvic infections and perforation of the IUD into the uterus are possible
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
The birth control pill is consumed at the same time daily, and there are two different options. The combined pills contain estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation, and the progestin-only pill causes changes in the cervix and uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. The benefits are:
  • Easy to use
  • Safe
  • Fertility will normalize once the pills are no longer being taken
  • Can offer other benefits such as reduced menstrual cramps, acne and risk of some cancers
The downsides are:
  • It must be taken every day around the same time to be effective, which can be tricky for busy women to remember
  • Can cause sore breasts, nausea and headaches
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
The birth controlshot injects progestin every three months, which prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month and changes the structure of the uterus and cervix to keep sperm from reaching an egg. The benefits are:
  • Once the shot is received you don’t have to think about birth control for the next 12 weeks
The disadvantages are:
  • You must get the shot on time otherwise it will no longer be effective
  • You go to the doctor’s four times a year to receive the injection
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
The birth controlpatch looks like a band-aid and delivers the hormones that prevent pregnancy. It is placed on either the stomach, upper arm, butt or back and is worn for three-week periods and one week patch-free. The benefits include:
  • You don’t have to think about it for three weeks
  • When used correctly, the patch has a failure rate of less than 1%
  • Can regulate your period and ease menstrual cramps
  • Can reduce acne, bone thinning, cysts, cancer and PMS
The disadvantages are
  • You will have to wear a band-aid type patch for three weeks at a time
  • You must remember to replace the patch at the same time
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
A vaginal ring is a small ring placed in the vagina that is worn for three weeks at a time. It works the same as the birth control patch or pill where on the fourth week there are no hormones in your system, so your menstrual cycle can begin. The benefits include:
  • Can independently insert the ring (no trips to the doctor’s)
  • Don’t have to think about it for three weeks
  • Can help regulate periods
  • Reduces acne, bone thinning, ovarian cysts, PMS and the risk of certain types of cancers
The disadvantages are:
  • Have to remember to insert a new ring at the same time every fourth week
  • Possible side effects such as sore breasts, headaches, nausea and spotting between periods
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
While these methods are all longer-term methods to prevent pregnancy, it’s important to note that none of these protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a variety of ways to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including abstinence, vaccination against HPV and using condoms every time you engage in sexual activities.
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Photo credit: Pixabay

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