Choosing the right birth control option
If you have ever considered a method of birth control, you know there are a lot of options ranging from the economical withdrawal or fertility awareness methods, to the more expensive intrauterine devices. Each method is unique, and not every method is going to work well for every person. I am here to simplify the contraception search for you.
There are sixteen unique contraceptive methods listed below.
How do you know which one to pick? Let’s consider your family planning.
A common method of contraception is the combined hormonal pill for females. This pill works by tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant, and therefore preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries. If you are able to remember to take the pill every day, this option may be right for you. You can choose between regimens that will have you with a monthly period, a period every three months, or sometimes even delay your period indefinitely. Contraception pills are a very popular method of birth control and are covered by most prescription insurance plans.
If you are certain you do not want to get pregnant in the next few years, and you do not want to take a daily pill, options include an intrauterine device (IUD) or the progestin-only implantable rod. IUDs are inserted by a healthcare professional through the cervix, into the uterus. Both the copper and hormonal IUDs prevent sperm from meeting with a female egg. The IUD can last for up to 5 years and remains in place until you are ready to have it removed. The progestin IUD contains hormones that may trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant, which also prevents the release of an egg from your ovaries. The implantable rod is also inserted by a healthcare professional and remains in your upper arm up to 3 years; it can be removed earlier if you want to get pregnant.
Another contraceptive option is the progestin injection.
This hormonal shot is administered by a healthcare professional every 12 weeks. When selecting this option, be sure that you do not want to get pregnant in the near future; it may take up to a year after stopping the shot to become pregnant.
Self-administered non-pill options include a vaginal ring and a topical patch. A new ring is inserted vaginally each month. It remains in place for three weeks, and is then removed for the fourth week and you will have a period. The topical patch must be changed every week for three weeks, and the fourth week of each cycle is patch-free (when you get your period).
If you participate in high-risk relationships where you are worried about contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), remember that most methods of birth control will NOT protect you; consider using a barrier form of birth control such as the male or female condom.
If you have had sexual intercourse, and either forgot to use contraception, or you think the contraception may have failed (i.e. the condom broke), you may wish to use the emergency contraception pill as soon as possible within 72 hours after intercourse. The emergency contraception pill is available over the counter at a pharmacy, regardless of your age.
If you prefer to avoid any type of hormonal contraception, the copper IUD and the male condom have the highest rates of efficacy. Spermicide alone and fertility awareness have the lowest efficacy rates.
If you need quick access to contraception, and you are unable to neither visit a healthcare provider nor obtain a prescription, the best options for you are the male or female condoms, the sponge, or the emergency contraception pill.
The chart below summarizes the available methods of birth control.
You can ask your prescriber about contraception, or your community pharmacist is always available to answer questions on contraception or other medications.
|Method of birth control||Typical effectiveness(2)||Perfect effectiveness(2)||Protection from STIs(1)||Requires health care provider visit(1)||Quickly reversible(1)|
|Combined hormonal daily pill||92%||99.7%||No||Yes||Yes|
|Emergency contraception pill||75-89%||No||No||Yes|
|Progestin- intrauterine device (IUD)||99.8%||99.8%||No||Yes||Yes, but must be removed by a healthcare professional|
|Progestin-only implant||99.05%||99.05%||No||Yes||Yes, but must be removed by a healthcare professional|
|Copper intrauterine device (IUD)||99.2%||99.4%||No||Yes||Yes|
|Diaphragm with spermicide||88%||94%||No||Yes||Yes|
- Method Match. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. www.arhp.org/methodmatch
- Shrader SP, Ragucci KR. Chapter 62. Contraception. In: DiPiro JT, Talbert RL, Yee GC, Matzke GR, Wells BG, Posey L. eds. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach, 9e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. http://0-accesspharmacy.mhmedical.com.crusher.neomed.edu/content.aspx?bookid=689&Sect ionid=45310515. Accessed July 22, 2015.
- Birth Control. Planned Parenthood. www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control
Dr. Peter J. Rice (see below)
Beth Carter, PharmD:
Beth is a graduate of the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy and a community pharmacy resident at University of Colorado and King Soopers Pharmacies.