When it comes to preventing pregnancy, you have various options, so deciding the one that is right for you might be challenging. Additionally, choosing the right method for you involves considering multiple elements such as convenience, potential side effects, cost, and future pregnancy plans. There is no perfect birth control, but with the help of Elizabeth Eden, MD, FACOG., you can balance the advantages and disadvantages of the different options and make an informed decision. Below are the different types of hormonal contraceptives.
Most birth control pills have a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones hence their name, combined pills or combination pills. The combined pill reduces your risk of pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus, keeping the uterus lining thin, and preventing ovulation. Besides minimizing your risk of getting pregnant, the combined pill is known for other benefits, including making your menstrual bleeding regular, lighter, and shorter. It also lessens menstrual cramps and reduces your risk of anemia and ovarian cancer.
However, like other birth control methods, the combined pill has some downsides. One of the significant downsides is that to maximize efficacy; you need to take the pill every day and ideally at the same time. This can be difficult or inconvenient for some people. But when you take the combined pill properly, it is a highly effective form of contraception. The combined pill is also associated with side effects like breast tenderness, nausea, bloating, and mood changes; these typically improve within two to three months without treatment.
If you can’t or should not take estrogen, your healthcare provider may recommend progestin-only pills or the mini-pill. They appear to be as effective as the combined pill when taken at the same time every day.
The implant is a thin rod that your healthcare provider implants beneath the skin of your upper arm. It contains progestin hormone, gradually released in your body over three years. The implant offers at least three years of protection from pregnancy, but you can remove it earlier if you decide to get pregnant or prefer to discontinue its use. Your fertility returns rapidly after your doctor removes the implant. Your healthcare provider does both insertion and removal of the implant. You are most likely to experience irregular or unpredictable bleeding if you are on the implant.
The vaginal ring is made out of soft, flexible, synthetic material, and like the combined pill, it contains estrogen and progestin hormones. It is about 5cm in diameter and inserted in your vagina, where the hormones are absorbed into the bloodstream through the vaginal walls. The ring does not cause any discomfort when inserted properly. Once the ring is in place, leave it for three weeks and use your finger to remove it during the fourth week, during which you will experience bleeding. Compared to the pill, the vaginal ring causes fewer side effects like nausea and irritability. On the downside, using the ring makes you more susceptible to vaginal infections.
Other hormonal contraceptives include the skin patch, hormone-releasing coils, and the three-month injection.
If you have questions about birth control methods, consult your OB/GYN at Elizabeth A. Eden, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.