Different Types of Birth Control
Updated: Sep 21
Today’s day and age has us wanting more options for everything, and this is mostly a good thing. However, with options comes the need for research, education, and an overall feeling of safety and trust for the products that we consume. This is especially true when it comes to what we put on or in our bodies. You may be overwhelmed about switching birth control methods, or maybe you’re coming out of childbirth and want to try something different than what you’ve used in the past. It’s good to have options, but it’s even better to be informed about those options. Here are some of the most common forms of birth control, and some of their risks and benefits as well as their drawbacks.
Short-acting hormonal methods
Short-acting hormonal methods such as the pill, patch, shot, or vaginal ring, are birth control that your doctor prescribes that you remember to take every day or month. The shot requires that you get a shot from your doctor every 3 months.
Benefits of short-acting hormonal methods
Very effective - if used effectively, patients have a 90-97% efficacy against pregnancy
Makes menstrual periods more regular and lighter.
Makes you less likely to get ovarian and uterine cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and anemia.
Can be prescribed or refilled VIA telehealth appointment (birth control pill)
Drawbacks of short-acting hormonal methods
Doesn’t protect against STIs
May have side effects such as weight gain, tiredness, and possibly a decrease in bone density
Can’t be used by women with certain medical problems or by women taking certain medications.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives or “LARC” methods
Long-acting reversible contraceptives, or “LARC” methods, are birth control your doctor inserts one time so you do not have to remember to use birth control every day or month. There are 4 types of LARCS that are used: the contraceptive implant, the contraceptive injection, the intrauterine device (IUD), and the intrauterine system (IUS). LARCs last for 3 to 10 years, depending on the method. This method of birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancy up to 20 times better than birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings.
Benefits of long-acting reversible contraceptives
99% effective - fewer than 1% of women who use them become pregnant.
No need to maintain routine- there is no need to take pills, shots, or a patch with regularity, which makes maintenance virtually nonexistent.
May reduce period symptoms - LARCs are known to reduce menstrual pain and bleeding, anemia, and endometrial hyperplasia.
Easily removable - once removed, your ability to become pregnant is immediate.
Drawbacks of long-acting reversible contraceptives
No protection from STDs- you’ll still need to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
Not a match for patients with a history of chronic medical illness - if you have a history of diabetes, hypertension,or abnormal cholesterol, you may have complications, or at the very least require additional medical attention.
Not recommended for any patient with recent pelvic infection - you may not be cleared medically to receive LARC implant if you've had signs of a pelvic infection 3-6 months prior.
Barrier methods are types of birth control that you use each time you have sex such as condoms, diaphragms, the sponge, or a cervical cap. Barrier contraceptives are relatively safe because they do not introduce hormones into a woman’s body.
Benefits of barrier methods
Easily obtained - you can purchase barrier contraceptives at any pharmacy, grocery store, convenience store, or online store.
Prevent the spread of STDs when used properly
Safe for women who may have health issues preventing them from using other birth control methods
Drawbacks of barrier methods
Effectiveness can be compromised from user or manufacturer error - if a barrier contraceptive is damaged or not used properly, pregnancy can still occur.
Reduced sensitivity during sex - barrier methods can either reduce sensitivity during sex, or be uncomfortable.
Can only be used once - barrier contraceptives are mostly disposable, meaning you will have to regularly re-up your supply based on sexual activity.
Tubal ligation or vasectomy
These forms of contraception sound a lot more intimidating than they really are. You may hear tubal ligation being referred to as “getting your tubes tied.” Depending on where you are in life, and whether or not you want to have another pregnancy down the road, an important factor to consider is that this form of contraception is permanent. If you are okay with the finality of tubal ligation or a vasectomy, you can rest assured that it works. Less than 1% of women get pregnant after tubal ligation, and the same goes for a vasectomy.
Benefits of tubal ligation
Tubal Ligation does not cause side effects that birth control pills do, like mood swings, weight gain, headaches, cramps, heavier periods, or spotting.
You don’t need to remember to do anything - you don’t have to put in a diaphragm, take a pill, use a condom, or count days on the calendar to avoid pregnancy.
Tubal ligation may lower your chances of ovarian cancer.
Drawbacks of tubal ligation
It’s permanent - depending on who you ask, the finality of tubal ligation may seem daunting. If you think you might change your mind about pregnancy at some point, it may be in your best interest to consider other alternatives.
It doesn’t protect against STDs - you’ll still need to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
Pregnancy - it’s rare but tubal ligation can fail.
So many questions to consider
Getting your choice of birth control pill shouldn’t mean taking time off of work, visiting an in-person clinic, and receiving an uncomfortable physical examination if your health history doesn’t require it. Start a telehealth visit to speak with a doctor or a nurse practitioner about refilling a birth control pill prescription, switching prescriptions, or get a prescription for the first time with a video visit.