Finding the right birth control method can be a bit daunting. There are so many options available today, how does one possibly choose? The great thing, however, is you can find the method that fits your body, lifestyle, and goals. This nifty Birth Control 101 makes sense of the options today and what might be right for you.
Remember, your choice of birth control is completely your own. Whatever priorities you have in your decision are valid and important. You do you. Your body, time, and energy are so valuable. Your birth control shouldn't control your life. It should bring peace of mind and keep you safe and healthy. Also important to note: your body may respond differently than others so take horror stories from friends with a grain of salt.
Let's get started!
Factors to consider
How effective is it?
If you are seeking birth control, chances are you have a need that you want taken care of, whether that's adult acne (I swear I'm an adult despite this chin zit), preventing pregnancy, or something else. You'd also probably like the method to be effective. When used properly most birth control methods are highly effective. Some require a little more effort than others, which leads to the second factor to consider.
Is convenience important?
Some birth control methods, like the pill, require daily thought. For some people, this is not a problem: you have an astute internal clock or trustworthy alarm. For others, days are busy, you've got stuff on your mind, and you don't want to deal with remembering to take a pill. Wherever you fall on that spectrum is totally fine. For those who want a low-maintenance method, there are plenty of good options. For example, the IUC only requires the occasional check for strings after insertion and can remain effective for between 3-12 years depending on which you choose.
What are the possible side effects?
Some birth control methods contain estrogen or progesterone, which may cause more side effects. This can include bleeding, cramping, acne, weight gain, breast tenderness, mood swings, all of the wonderful things. It's important to consider your tolerance of these potential side effects. Again, birth control is not one size fits all. The pill might work great for a friend, but make you break down and cry when the vending machine is out of your favorite pretzels. Either way, that's OK. There is an option that’s right for you.
Does it protect against sexually transmitted infections?
Barrier methods are the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections. If your partner has not had an STI test, it is important to use a condom every time you have sex. If condoms are uncomfortable during sex, lube is a great option.
Now that you've considered what's important in your decision, here are the options available today. Keep in mind, the cost below is an estimate and depends on where you get it but almost all are covered by insurance!
Hormonal IUC (Mirena)
Advantages: 5 years of protection, reduces menstrual blood loss
Common side effects: can expel or perforate
How to use: inserted by doctor
Cost: up to $540 but typically covered by insurance
Non-hormonal IUC (Paragard, Copper T)
Advantages: up to 12 years of protection, less than 1 percent of women get pregnant
Common side effects: can cause heaving bleeding or cramping
How to use: inserted by doctor
Cost: up to $540 but almost always covered by insurance
Advantages: single injection lasts up to 3 years
Common side effects: can cause spotting
How to use: injected one time
Cost: up to $824 out of pocket but typically covered by insurance
Injectable (DMPA/Depo Provera)
Advantages: no known drug interactions
Common side effects: can cause weight gain, temporary decrease in bone density and delayed return to fertility
How to use: shot every 3 months
Cost: around $89/shot
Pills (oral contraceptives COCs or POPs)
Advantages: many different brands to choose from, can control your period
Common side effects: can cause weight gain, breast tenderness, nausea, headaches or mood swings
How to use: daily pill
CHC: Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
Advantages: regulates period, can choose when you want to have your period
Common side effects: can cause cysts
How to use: inserted once a month
CHC: Patch (Ortho Evra, Xulane)
Common side effects: can detach or cause skin irritation
How to use: a patch worn for one week, 3 patches in a box
Barrier methods (external or internal condoms, diaphragm)
Advantages: protects against STIs, do not contain hormones
How to use: worn one time for sex
Cost: $.60/condom, 3 for $6 female condoms, $3/dental dam
Emergency contraception (EC, Plan B, Next Choice)
Advantages: no follow-up exam required
Common side effects: will throw off period
How to use: taken after sexCost: $38+ depending on where you get it