When it comes to choosing birth control, there is no shortage of options available to women. What used to be a limited market now offers a variety of different methods depending on your health needs and personal preference. And while having more options is better, it can also make it more difficult to determine which method is right for you.
“Birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all. A visit with your gynecologist and a conversation about the many options are the best way to choose one that’s right for you,” says Katy Doroshow, DO, OB/GYN at Lankenau Medical Center.
Although, as Dr. Doroshow points out, a visit with your gynecologist is crucial to making the best decision about birth control, it helps to have some knowledge of your options prior to your visit. Below, we explore the pros and cons of some common methods, and what patient groups they might be best for.
Includes: Birth control pills, a vaginal ring, and a contraceptive patch, implant, injection or intrauterine device How it works: These options use estrogen and/or progestin to prevent pregnancy.
Who it’s best for: Women who are seeking reliable, long-term, but temporary, birth control options. Birth control pills are the only hormonal method that requires daily maintenance. For women who don’t want the responsibility of remembering a pill every day, the other hormonal options require less maintenance.
Includes: Male and female condoms, a contraceptive sponge, spermicides, cervical caps, and diaphragms How it works: Barrier methods create a physical barrier between sperm and egg cells so that fertilization cannot occur.
Who it’s best for: Women who want to avoid hormonal side effects as a result of taking birth control, or women with medical problems, like high blood pressure or diabetes, for whom certain methods may not be safe. These options may be less expensive and can be obtained without a prescription however, they are often less reliable.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Includes: Copper and hormonal IUDs
How it works: Both types of IUDs are inserted into the uterus in the doctor’s office and prevent fertilization by affecting the way that sperm move. Hormonal IUDs also work to change cervical mucus to form a barrier between sperm and egg, as well as preventing the release of an egg each month.
Who it’s best for: Women who are looking for a long-term, reliable, reversible birth control option. The non-hormonal, copper option may be ideal for women with certain medical conditions which prohibit the use of hormones. In addition to requiring less maintenance than most other options, IUDs are more effective than birth control pills, the patch, or the ring, and often have less side effects.
Includes: Tubal ligation, Essure, and vasectomy for men How it works: A tubal ligation blocks the passage of the sperm to the fallopian tubes, and can be done laparoscopically (minimally invasive), with a small incision following a vaginal delivery, or at the time of Cesarean section. Essure involves blocking the fallopian tube with a permanent insert, and a vasectomy involves blocking the man’s vas deferens, the tubes that transport sperm.
Who it’s best for: Women who are looking for a permanent way to prevent pregnancy. Sterilization is extremely effective, and is not meant to be reversed.
Although these options can seem daunting, Dr. Doroshow reminds women that, with most of these options, your birth control method can be adjusted if it is not working well for you.
“One benefit of having so many different options is that, as your reproductive and health needs change, your birth control method can change, too. If something isn’t working, you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects, or you think another method might be best, your doctor can help you make that transition,” she explains.
Talk to your doctor about which birth control method is right for you. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.