There is no single birth control method that’s right for every woman. Knowing your options is an important part of the decision process, along with the understanding of what you and your partner want to achieve from birth control. To find the contraceptive method that best fits into your lifestyle, you want to think about things like convenience, effectiveness, cost and your reproductive goals, and include your health care provider in the conversation.
Your provider will review your health history for such things as smoking or a chronic health condition like high blood pressure or migraine headaches. These can make it less safe to use a birth control containing synthetic estrogen, such as an oral contraceptive or vaginal ring. Obesity is a health consideration as well, and may decrease the effectiveness of certain options.
“The best contraception for you is one that you and your partner are comfortable using, and that you are able to use consistently, correctly and safely,” says obstetrician/gynecologist Molly McStravick, M.D., who is on the medical staff at Texas Health Rockwall and Texas Health Women’s Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “Your preferred method of birth control may be one thing today and something different tomorrow; and it can be influenced by many factors, including your age and health history, your relationships, your goals for a family and your values.”
Birth Control Options
More than half of all U.S. women, about 65 percent between the ages of 15 and 49, use contraception at some point in their lives, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
“The contraceptive pill has seen an increase in usage in recent years, but other safe and effective options also exist,” McStravick explains. “If you are planning to become pregnant in the near future, you may want a method that’s easily stopped or quickly reversible. There are more long-acting methods if you want to prevent pregnancy until further down the road.”
- Barrier methods prevent male sperm from reaching an egg, thus helping to create a barrier to pregnancy. These include condoms for both men and women and diaphragms.
- Short-acting hormonal methods are considered as such because you have to remember to use them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Short-acting contraception includes oral birth control pills, the vaginal ring, skin patch and contraceptive injections. Most can be quickly stopped with a fast return to fertility.
- Long-acting hormonal methods are also reversible, and include hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs and the contraceptive implant. Long-acting methods last for anywhere from three to 10 years after insertion, or until you decide to have the device removed.
- Sterilization is a permanent method of birth control for those who are certain they do not want to get pregnant at any time in the future. Examples include tubal ligation for women and vasectomy for men.
- Emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill, is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception, however, should not be used as a routine contraceptive method.
These are just a few of the many birth control options available. To help you figure them all out, we’ve created a blog post with the help of Planned Parenthood that breaks down contraceptive methods along with their individual effectiveness. McStravick notes that the effectiveness of any method largely depends on its ease of use. A contraceptive that requires little effort, such as an IUD, contraceptive implant or sterilization, is typically associated with a lower pregnancy rate. In contrast, a method that requires diligence, monitoring fertile days or the practice of periodic abstinence is associated with a higher pregnancy rate.
“Effectiveness and convenience go hand-in-hand when it comes to birth control,” she says. “For some people, the most convenient form of birth control is one that is easy to use, has no bothersome side effects or does not disrupt the sexual experience. For others, convenience means no prescription is required. When choosing a method of birth control, consider how willing you are to plan ahead or follow a rigid medication schedule.”
The Cost Factor
The Affordable Care Act ensures that plans in the health insurance marketplace must cover FDA-approved birth control methods at no out-of-pocket cost, although some plans have exemptions. Some methods of contraception are inexpensive, while others are more costly. It’s a possibility you may have access to free contraception even before you meet your deductible. Talk to your insurance provider about your coverage, and then consider the expense as you make a decision.
The important thing to remember when it comes to birth control, says McStravick, is, “If you aren’t happy with your current method there are many different options to explore with your health care provider.”
To find an OB/GYN or learn about women’s health services available through Texas Health, visit Women’s Health.