What Contraceptive Options are Available to Me?
With a vast array of different contraceptive options available to you, how do you know which is best for you? Does one method offer more benefits over another? How do you decide on what option or options would be best for you and what factors might influence your decision?
To help you decide the best contraceptive method for you, here is information on the various options available to you.
Condoms are inexpensive, easily accessible and when used properly, offer 98% effectiveness at preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately, people make mistakes sometimes so this figure in the real world is closer to 85%. Because of this, condoms are best used in combination with another contraceptive method.
Although not foolproof, condoms are one of the only options available to you to that can also protect you against STDs, such as HPV or chlamydia, so if you have more than one sexual partner or STDs are a risk for other reasons, condoms are often recommended even when using another method of birth control.
Birth Control Pills
Birth Control Pills are an excellent choice for contraceptive as they're convenient, offer few side effects, and have a host of positive benefits besides just being a means of contraception.
Hormonal birth control pills are good for those who want the peace of mind knowing that as long as they take the pill as directed, they are protected from pregnancy. If ever you decide you want to get pregnant, you can stop taking the pill right away and normal fertility will be resume nearly immediately.
As a hormonal method of contraception, these do not protect you against STDs.
Birth Control Shots
Birth Control Shots offer similar benefits to the pills and a 99% protection rate against pregnancy. Shots offer added peace of mind knowing that you will not have to worry about forgetting to take a pill every day; to remain effective, shots should be taken every 3 months.
Although not as immediately reversible as pills, shots can be stopped at any time and normal reproductive function should return without issue! Shots also offer similar beneficial side effects to pills.
Birth control shots are a hormonal method of contraception and do not protect you against STDs.
Intrauterine Devices (IUD)
With an even higher rate of pregnancy protection than the pill or the shots, Intrauterine Devices IUD, offer an over 99% rate of pregnancy protection.
A more long-term option, even than birth control shots, IUDs can remain effective from between 3 to 10 years depending on which type you decide to go with.
For women over the age of 35, IUDs are recommended over birth control pills or shots due to the increased risks of blood clots from the latter.
IUDs do not offer protection from STDs so make sure to take this into consideration.
Not quite as effective as the previous methods, diaphragms offer a pregnancy protection rate of only 94%. Still better than no protection, they offer an easy means of contraception without any long-term commitments like with hormonal birth control options.
Diaphragms do not protect against STDs.
Also known as the Morning After Pill, emergency contraception offers you the option of protection after unprotected sex.
If you ended up having unprotected sex or if you are not confident that your chosen form of contraception was used properly, emergency contraception is available to prevent an unwanted pregnancy for up to 5 days after sex.
Not to be relied on as the sole means of contraception, it is best to use a combination of the aforementioned options such as condoms and/or hormonal birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancy and to only use this method if absolutely necessary.
Tubal Ligation offers a permanent means of contraception where by the fallopian tubes are tied, blocked, or cut to prevent pregnancy.
Unlike the previously mentioned means of contraception, tubal ligation is a surgical procedure which is not without its potential risks. It’s best to weigh your options before pursuing this permanent means of contraception and make sure you are confident that this is the right choice for you.
This form of contraception is best for those who already have kids or are sure that they will never want to become pregnant in the future. It is best to hold out for as long as possible before pursuing permanent contraception as it is difficult, if not impossible, to reverse and is more likely to fail, the earlier you have it.
Choosing a method of birth control is an important and personal decision. Learning about all your options is important to make a confident choice on which method of contraception is right for you.
Dr. Crystal M. Newby, MD is a physician at Kansas City ObGyn. She received her medical degree from the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine. Dr. Newby married her fellow Kansas native high school sweetheart and they have 3 daughters.