Women have different reasons for using birth control, but with all the available options it can be difficult to find the “right” one that works for your lifestyle and your biology. Teresa Tomaszewski, Physician Assistant at Pullman Family Medicine, breaks down the different types of birth control and how they work.
“The main types of short-term birth control include the barrier method, such as a male or female condom, short-acting hormonal methods such as the intramuscular injection, the progestin-only oral contraceptive pill, a combination oral contraceptive pill which includes a combination of estrogen and progestin, a patch, and a vaginal ring,” she states.
Longer acting methods of birth control can last from three to ten years in duration. These consist of an implantable rod and an intrauterine devices—of which different types exist. The copper IUD has no hormones and can last for up to ten years. Brand names Kyleena and Mirena are low-dose progestin IUDs that last from three to six years.
There are also permanent methods for birth control, including a vasectomy for men or a tubal ligation or hysterectomy for women.
The Pros & Cons of Different Types of Birth Control
Of course, with each method of birth control comes pros and cons. For example, using the barrier method (condom), women don’t have to take a daily pill, they don’t have to undergo an office procedure to insert a device, and it can prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. The downside is that users have to be able to apply the condom before sexual intercourse for it to be effective.
The benefit of short-acting hormonal methods is that if your plans change and you want to try to conceive, you can cease these methods and return to fertility relatively quickly. The disadvantage may be accountability and/or adherence. Depending on how often you want to take a pill, or use a patch or the ring, the frequency and timing might be cumbersome for some women.
“Longer-acting methods negate that disadvantage, as you don’t have to take a pill every day, or think about replacing the patch or going in for an intramuscular injection,” explains Tomaszewski. “A con is that it does require a short office procedure to insert the device, and being that it is long-acting, if your plans for fertility or trying to conceive change, you would have to have the device removed.”
An advantage with permanent methods such as vasectomy or tubal ligation is just that: it’s permanent. You don’t have to think about it. A drawback is that it does require a medical procedure, which is often irreversible in vasectomy and tubal ligation—and completely irreversible with hysterectomy.
Ask Your Healthcare Provider to Help Determine which Contraceptive is Right for You
A woman’s best approach is to visit with her healthcare provider to determine which method is appropriate for her unique circumstances. Tomaszewski notes that the most common questions asked by providers will help identify and determine the best option:
- How often will you be wanting to take the birth control or the contraception?
- How effective does the method need to be at preventing pregnancy?
- Does it have additional benefits such as reducing menstrual bleeding or cramping?
- Are there non-contraceptive benefits you are looking for?
- Do you need a private method? Are you trying to conceal being on birth control or contraception?
- What effect does this method have on future fertility?
It’s important for women to know that the method they are on today or tomorrow does not have to be the same method they are on the rest of their lives. Methods can change along with a woman’s lifestyle, in order to align with her goals and plans.
There are also non-contraceptive benefits. “Depending on the method, you could potentially have a lighter period or no period at all, you could have reduced menstrual cramping, you can have decreased acne, and even a reduction in the risk of some reproductive cancers. So, including that in the discussion with your healthcare provider is a good idea when trying to determine which method is best for you,” shares Tomaszewski.
For more information about your birth control options, listen to the full podcast by Teresa Tomaszewski here, or schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider today.
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