With so many birth control options available, how can an individual decide what approach is best for them? To determine the best contraception for you, talk with your health care provider about your preferences and lifestyle. He or she can help you make this decision.
There are many types of contraception available, but generally, contraception comes in two forms: hormonal and nonhormonal.
Hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation in women by thickening cervical mucus, inhibiting sperm from reaching the egg, and by thinning the lining of the uterus so a fertilized egg cannot implant.
Hormonal birth control options available to women include a combination estrogen and progesterone pill, a progesterone only pill, vaginal ring, implants, a hormone patch, progestin injections, or hormonal intrauterine device.
Each method has benefits and drawbacks. For instance, contraception pills must be taken at the same time each day. Combination pills are more effective, but not all women can tolerate estrogen. Progesterone only pills may cause breakthrough bleeding.
Hormonal contraception also carries a risk of potential blood clots, depending on a woman’s age and lifestyle. The risk is also higher in women who have already experienced blood clots.
Another factor to keep in mind is that none of these options protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Only male and female condoms prevent STDs.
Barrier methods of birth control prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Barrier forms of contraception include male or female condoms, diaphragms, sponges, cervical caps or shields, and spermicidal foam.
The effectiveness of a particular barrier method depends on proper use. For instance, a condom worn incorrectly can increase the chances a pregnancy will occur.
Permanent sterilization is also an option for those who have completed their families. For women, tubal ligation seals fallopian tubes with electrical current, clips or bands. This does carry a small risk of a tubal pregnancy, however.
A nonsurgical method, performed in a doctor’s office, uses implants to block the fallopian tubes.
For men, vasectomy is available. This surgery prevents the release of sperm during intercourse.
It’s important to remember that, aside from abstinence, no birth control method is 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. While some methods offer better protection than others, most every form of contraception comes with pros and cons.
Each individual must consider these factors when deciding what birth control option is best for them.
Dr. Jean Howard is a practicing family medicine doctor who sees patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and is a member of its medical group, Adventist Health Partners.