Choosing a method of birth control is a more complicated decision than it might seem. You need to consider many factors, including its effectiveness rate, whether or not you want to (or can) take hormones, and your concern about sexually transmitted diseases.
Maybe you’ve already chosen a method of birth control and have decided it isn’t working well enough. Or maybe you want a method you don’t have to consider as often. Dr. Alan Patterson offers this guide as a general overview of selecting the right birth control method for you.
Factors to consider
Many factors play a part in choosing a birth control method. Among them include the following:
Length of time you’ll take it
If your family may not be complete yet, you will want more easily reversible methods, such as the birth control pill or condoms (or both.)
Other issues that may need treatment
Birth control pills can often help with many common issues, including irregular periods, bad cramping, heavy periods, and even acne.
Whether you can take hormones
While hormonal birth control pills can often help with the above conditions, not everyone can take them. Maybe you’ve previously had a negative experience with the birth control pill (although you can try other pills, which have different formulations; some are even progestin-only, like the mini pill, or the only long-acting progesterone pill that is effective if you are not breastfeeding which is SLYND. You also may need to avoid hormones if you’re over 35, a smoker, or have heart conditions. The other advantage of SLYND is that this pill does not have a black box warning if you are over 35 and smoke, you can still take this pill. And Dr Patterson has samples of great brand-name pills which are often better than generic birth control pills and Dr Patterson’s office will direct you to a specialty pharmacy or a website where you can get brand-name pills at a very low cost.
Whether or not you can remember to take a pill
The birth control pill has an excellent effectiveness rate when used correctly. With perfect use, it’s about 99% effective. However, “perfect use” refers to remembering to take the pill every day at the same time of day, which is often difficult for many women. The overall effectiveness rate of regular use is still about 93%, so it provides excellent protection for most women, although it does carry a slight risk that you could get pregnant anyway.
In addition, you’ll need to consider any religious issues that may have an impact on your birth control choice, as well as the opinions of your partner.
Short-term options refer to ones that are easily reversible but require more regular use. These include the following:
- Birth control pills
- Male condoms
- Female (internal) condoms
- Cervical caps
- Birth control sponge
- Fertility awareness method
Birth control patches, vaginal rings, and shots are also considered short-term options. The patches must be replaced every week, but the shot lasts about 3 months.
If you’re not sure that your childbearing years are completely over yet, but you don’t want to think about birth control for a while, you have several available options.
One is the birth control implant, which offers 99% effectiveness and lasts for up to 5 years. If you decide you want to take it out sooner, you can expect your fertility to return, although, in some women, it doesn’t immediately come back and takes a few months. A big disadvantage of this method is that it has a very high incidence of breakthrough bleeding making many women want to remove it way before it expired.
Another option is the intrauterine device, which you may know by its acronym IUD. Today’s IUDs are much safer than they were in the 1970s and many insurance plans cover them. They last 3-10 years, so this is a good long-term solution.
Permanent methods of birth control
If you’re absolutely certain that you’re done having children, you may consider getting male or female sterilization.
For men, this procedure is called a vasectomy. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis in a urologist’s office, and generally, the recovery is pretty short and simple. The benefit of this procedure is that it is may be reversible if your partner ever changes his mind.
For women, the sterilization procedure is called a tubal ligation. In this procedure, the ends or a mid portion of your Fallopian tubes are burned, cut and tied off to close them. This prevents an egg from being released into your uterus. This is often done after a C-section but may also be done as an outpatient surgery. It does require more recovery time than male sterilization and is usually not considered reversible. But sometimes a tubal can be reversed with surgery. Now it is recommended if you have your tubes fixed is to remove the entire tube on each side, as by doing that it decreases the risk of tubal and ovarian cancer in the future. You should not have a tubal ligation or a vasectomy if you are not 100% certain you want no more children as either one may not be able to be reversed!
If you would like to consider a new birth control method, Dr. Alan Patterson can help. Contact his Coral Springs, FL office or request an appointment online.