Birth Control: What Works for Your Body

Neeru Singh, MD
November 7, 2020
5 min read

More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.

Some 60% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method.

Source

When it comes to your body, only you know what does and doesn’t work. However, when it comes to birth control, finding the right one for you and your needs can feel overwhelming. Be sure to talk to a healthcare provider about what you’re looking for and to make sure it checks off all your healthcare boxes. Remember, contraception can do more than just prevent pregnancy: It can also help manage periods, balance hormones, and provide other health benefits.

Whether you’re new to the birth control game or a seasoned contraception vet, here’s a guide to help you walk through what’s what.

BARRIER BIRTH CONTROL METHODS*

*Please note: No forms of birth control offer protection from STIs.

CONDOMS: When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy (not to mention protecting you and your partner from STDs). Talk about good odds! Think of using condoms like wearing a seatbelt: even if you’ve never been in a car accident, you never think twice about putting one on.

CERVICAL CAPS + SPERMICIDE: A cervical cap is just that…a cap for your cervix. To make it the most effective, you must add spermicide to the cap. Spermicide is full of chemicals that kill off the sperm before they are able to implant an egg. Some things to keep in mind when it comes to the cervical cap: It is only 86% effective and works best on women who have never given birth.

DIAPHRAGM+ SPERMICIDE: Just like a cervical cap, a diaphragm also covers your cervix during sex to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. However, it’s larger than a cervical cap and has to be bent in half to insert into your vagina. It also works best when paired with spermicide.

HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL

BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: A pill a day helps keep pregnancy at bay (and can regulate your periods and help prevent acne, too). When it comes to classic birth control methods, the pill is usually the first thing that comes to people’s minds. Not only is it effective, but has lots of other health benefits as well. However, you do have to take it every day (preferably at the same time) for it to work. Also, some pills have estrogen so if your body doesn’t react well to estrogen, you can be placed on progesterone-only contraception.

BIRTH CONTROL VAGINAL RING: When used correctly, the birth control ring is 91% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy. So how does it work? The birth control ring (think NuvaRing) is a small ring that is inserted into your vagina and releases hormones into your body. These hormones not only stop an individual from ovulating but also thickens the mucus on your cervix so sperm can’t get to an egg, no matter how hard it swims! A ring lasts up to five weeks, but it’s important to talk to your provider about a schedule that works for you. Some side effects of the ring include spotting, period changes, sore breasts, and nausea. You need a prescription for the ring.

BIRTH CONTROL SHOT (DEPO-PROVERA): Like the ring, the birth control shot (depo shot) also stops ovulation. It’s 91% effective and lasts for up to three months. Some things to keep in mind: You must schedule follow-up shots for it to continue to be effective and the hormones in the shot can cause side effects like spotting, weight gain, depression. Talk to your provider about any concerns before scheduling an injection.

BIRTH CONTROL PATCH: The patch also releases hormones that help prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. You stick it on your skin like a band-aid and it lasts up to one week. Like the pill, it’s important to remember to replace it on time.

LONG-TERM CONTRACEPTION

INTRAUTERINE DEVICE (IUD): A great long-term birth control method is the IUD. This tiny device packs a mighty punch and some can last for up to 12 years. IUDs are inserted into your uterus by a doctor or nurse. Some people feel a pinch or cramp, but the overall procedure is painless for most.

IUDs are broken into two groups: hormonal and non-hormonal. It’s important to talk to your provider about the pros and cons of each before choosing the right one for you. Hormonal IUDs release progestin and can work for up to 7 years. Some people choose this option because hormonal IUDs have been proven to help control some people’s periods (or stop their periods altogether). Non-hormonal IUDs are wrapped in copper and have been proven to work for up to 12 years. They do not contain hormones and have been known to cause heavier periods.

Once you remove the IUD, your body will adjust to how it was before and you can get pregnant right away.

BIRTH CONTROL IMPLANT (NEXPLANON): Birth control implants are a great alternative to birth control pills. This matchstick-sized rod is 99% effective and lasts for up to five years. The implant is inserted into your arm by a healthcare provider and releases progestin, a hormone that stops eggs from leaving the ovaries (which can also make your period lighter or disappear altogether). You can have a doctor take the implant out at any time and you can get pregnant relatively quickly after you have it removed.

OTHER FORMS OF BIRTH CONTROL:

EMERGENCY BIRTH CONTROL (MORNING AFTER PILL): This pill can be used up to 72-hours after intercourse. It should not be used as a regular form of birth control.

VASECTOMY: A vasectomy is a surgery that blocks the tubes in the male’s scrotum so sperm can’t be released. It’s 99% effective and, while meant to be permanent, can be reversed.

TUBAL LIGATION: This is a surgical procedure that permanently blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from being released. Not only can be highly expensive, but it’s permanent and should only be considered if an individual is 100% sure they don’t want to ever get pregnant.

NATURAL BIRTH CONTROL METHODS

PULL OUT METHOD: The pull-out method involves “pulling out” the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation can occur. For maximum efficiency, it’s recommended to still wear a condom even when withdrawing to make sure semen doesn’t make its way into the vagina.

FERTILITY AWARENESS (FAMS): Also known as the rhythm method, FAMs involves tracking your menstrual cycles so you know when you’re ovulating or most fertile. There’s a variety of ways to track your menstrual cycle.

WOMEN’S HEALTH & WELLNESS AT CARBON HEALTH

No matter where you are on your life journey, Carbon Health’s healthcare providers are here to help support you through all your women’s healthcare needs. Book an appointment today to talk to a provider about what you’re going through and they will be there to help, support, and guide you through your health journey.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Neeru Singh, MD

Neeru Singh, MD, is a Medical Director at Carbon Health. As a primary care physician, she enjoys educating and guiding patients on important health decisions.

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