Those of use who live in North America are fortunate in many ways, one of which happens to be that we have choice! More specifically, we have more than a dozen contraceptive (birth control) options available to us!
I have noticed, however, that many people are not aware of the multitude of options available to them. So, let’s talk about them! This is the first in a brief series of blog posts which feature different contraceptive options. In each post, I will list and give a brief overview of different contraceptives.
Contraceptives are typically broken down into a three main categories: hormonal methods, non-hormonal methods, and natural methods. This post discusses hormonal methods.
Hormonal Methods: Used by females, these methods prevent conception (pregnancy) by altering the woman’s hormonal state.
Also known as “Oral Contraceptive”, the Pill is widely used and often misunderstood. Millions upon millions of women rely on the Pill, making it one of the most prescribed medications in the world. Taken every day by mouth (at the same time is best), the pill is highly effective. It works by preventing ovulation, thickening mucus and thinning the uterine lining.
The pill does NOT protect against STIs and should be used with condoms.
When used perfectly the pill is 99.9% effective; however, most of us aren’t perfect and there is a 3% user failure rate. The pill isn’t for everyone, though, so talk to your doctor if you’re interested.
Available since 2004 (Canada), the patch (aka Evra) is a relatively new method of birth control. The patch is exactly that — a 4cm x 4 cm patch that sticks to a woman’s skin, releasing hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones are the same type as those found in the pill, and the patch works in the same way (preventing ovulation, thickening mucus and thinning the uterine lining). Each patch is worn on the skin for seven (7) days — one patch per week for three weeks, followed by a week off.
The patch does NOT protect against STIs and should be used with condoms.
The patch has the same effectiveness for the pill — over 99% when used perfectly, and about 97% with typical use. The patch may be good for women who have trouble remembering to take the pill every day. Like the pill, the patch is not for everyone — talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
The ring (NuvaRingTM) is another relatively new birth control method. The ring itself is made of a soft, flexible, clear plastic and is just over 5cm in diameter. It is inserted into a woman’s vagina, where it slowly releases hormones for three (3) weeks. The hormones are the same as those found in the pill and the patch.
The ring works in the same way as the pill and the patch — it prevents ovulation, thickens mucus and thins the uterine lining. It does NOT provide a physical barrier to sperm and it does NOT provide protection from STIs. It should be used with condoms.
The ring has the same effectiveness as the pill and the patch — over 99% when used perfectly, and about 97% with typical use. The ring may be a good option for women who have trouble remembering to take the pill every day, because it is left in the vagina for three weeks. As with all contraceptives, the ring is not for everyone — talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Also known as Mirena, the IUS is a highly effective, long-term birth control option. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and can be used for up to five (5) years.
The IUS is a T-shaped device with a small cylinder containing the hormone levonorgestrel. Because it is worn internally, the IUS must be inserted into the uterus by a doctor. Once in place, the cylinder slowly releases the hormone, which thins the lining of the uterus and thickens cervical mucus.
Once in place, the IUS offers reliable, long-term and reversible contraception without the use of estrogen. It may be a good choice for women who are seeking long-term contraception without having to worry about it on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Once removed by a doctor, a woman’s ability to become pregnant returns.
The IUS does NOT provide protection from STIs — it is important that women using the IUS use condoms to prevent infections.
As with all contraceptives, the IUS is not for everyone — talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
Depo-Provera®, also known as “the birth control shot”, is another type of hormonal birth control. It does not contain estrogen, making it an option for women who cannot use other hormonal methods because of the estrogen. Given by needle every 12-13 weeks, it is 99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, Depo causes loss of bone density and is usually only recommended for women who cannot use other contraceptive methods.
Depo works by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg and thinning the lining of the uterus. As with other hormonal methods, Depo does NOT offer protection from STIs and should be used with condoms.
Talk to your doctor to get more information about Depo Provera.