Contraception Methods

To choose the best birth control option for you, you need to be aware of all your contraceptive options, and how each one delivers on what’s most important to you. Outlined below is a list of common birth control methods.

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods of birth control — such as the condom, the diaphragm and the sponge — work by physically preventing egg and sperm from direct contact.

Barrier methods aren’t as effective as some other methods of contraception), particularly hormonal methods. However, the benefits of these methods of birth control include:

  • They don’t require a prescription
  • They are relatively inexpensive and widely available
  • They are generally easy to use.

In addition, a condom helps prevent against STDs. When choosing a method of contraception, keep in mind that many hormonal and behavioral methods of birth control do not offer this benefit.

Behavioral Methods of Birth Control

Behavioral methods of birth control don’t involve purchasing a product or taking hormones. Most notably, their effectiveness varies, depending on the method you choose:

  • Abstinence is the single most effective way to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. However, it’s not feasible for everyone.
  • The lactational amenorrhea birth control method is reliable for up to six months after giving birth, but only applies to breastfeeding women.
  • Outercourse or the withdrawal method is not effective when used without other methods, such as with condoms or a hormonal method.

Hormonal Methods of Birth Control

The most popular hormonal method of birth control is commonly known as “the pill.” In general, the pill controls the levels of estrogen and progestin in the body, preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs. Other hormone-based birth control methods that work like the pill are the:

  • Birth control shot
  • Implant
  • Patch
  • Vaginal ring.

These methods are extremely effective when used properly — about 99 percent. Some drawbacks are that they require a prescription, and some have adverse side effects (particularly if you are over 35, obese or a smoker). Doctors recommend taking the pill at the same time every day to make it the most effective.

Emergency Contraception

The “morning after pill” can actually be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, but is most reliable within the first 12 to 24 hours. Healthcare professionals agree that it shouldn’t be used as a regular form of birth control.

Sterilization

A vasectomy involves cutting the both male vas deferens to prevent sperm from traveling outside of the scrotum. Female sterilization entails blocking, tying or removing the fallopian tubes to prevent the transfer of eggs into the uterine cavity. This form of contraception is permanent and is best for those who:

  • Are certain they don’t want to start a family
  • Are over 35
  • Have already had children.

Choosing a Method of Contraception

There are dozens of birth control methods to choose from. How can youdetermine which is the best birth control for you? Aside from effectiveness, consider the following factors:

  • Convenience: Some birth control methods are easier to use than others.
  • Cost: Some methods are more costly or must be purchased more frequently than others.
  • Family planning: Some methods of birth control make it more difficult to conceive once you stop taking it.
  • Health problems: Certain health problems, particularly STDs, may limit your options when choosing a method of contraception.
  • Potential side effects: Research each birth control method well to help you avoid any surprise side effects.
  • STD protection: If you’re worried about contracting an STD, the best birth control methods are abstinence or using a condom.

These are all factors to consider in selecting the best birth control method for you. Make sure to consult your doctor before initiating any form of birth control.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians Staff. (n.d.). Intrauterine device (IUD). Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the FamilyDoctor.org Web site: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/contraceptive/319.html.

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Staff. (2007). The intrauterine device. Retrieved February 7, 2010,from the ACOG Web site: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/BP014.cfm.

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals Staff. (n.d.). Female sterilization. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals Web site:http://www.arhp.org/crc/sterilization.html.

Liou, L. S.(n.d.). Vasectomy. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Medline Plus Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002995.htm.

Planned Parenthood Staff. (n.d.). Emergency contraception (morning after pill). Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the Planned Parenthood Web site: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/emergency-contraception-morning-after-pill-4363.htm.