If you’re a woman of child-bearing age and not looking to get pregnant, you have to protect yourself by abstaining from sex or using birth control. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming. But our team of caring doctors at Memorial Women’s Specialists in Houston, Texas, can help. Here’s what they want you to know.
Ask yourself these questions
Before choosing a birth control method, ask yourself some questions about your lifestyle and needs:
- Are you sexually active? If so, are you in a monogamous relationship or do you have multiple partners?
- How often do you have sex?
- Do you have any health conditions?
- Are you regimented with your daily schedule or are you more carefree?
- Do you want children? If so, how soon?
Then, ask yourself these questions about birth control.
- How well does it work?
- Is it hormonal or non-hormonal?
- Does it have any side effects?
- Will it fit in with my lifestyle?
- Is it easy to use?
- Does it reduce the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases(STDs)?
There are many different types of birth control. Read on to learn more about them. Please schedule a consultation with your OB/GYN at Memorial Women’s Specialists to review your medical history and personal preferences, and help you determine which methods are appropriate for you.
Long-acting reversible contraception
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is great for busy women who don’t want to think about birth control for years at a time. They are very reliable and cost-effective long term options.
Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) (name brands: Mirena, Liletta, Kyleena)
The IUD is a small, T-shaped device about the size of a quarter that’s placed in your uterus by one of our doctors. It can prevent pregnancy for up to five years by releasing progestin, a hormone that prevents ovulation (egg growth and release) and temporarily thins the uterus lining (making it unfavorable for pregnancy while the IUD is in place). Most patients have lighter cycles with it, and some have no cycle at all while it is in place.
Non-hormonal IUD (name brand: Paragard)
This IUD is made of copper. When inserted into your uterus, it causes a mild inflammatory response by your body that makes it toxic to sperm. It can prevent pregnancy for about 10 years. If you have heavy or painful periods, this is not a good choice for you. It is hormone-free.
Implant (name brand: Nexplanon)
This small plastic rod is implanted under your skin in your upper arm by one of our doctors. It releases progestin and prevents pregnancy for up to three years. We numb the area before insertion, and most patients tell us their flu shot hurts more. It is a highly effective birth control.
IUDs and implants can be easily removed at any time. So, when you’re ready to start a family, you just let us know.
Pills, patches, rings, and shots
These birth control methods are good for women who like to maintain a strict schedule. When they aren’t used properly, they’ll be less effective and you could get pregnant. These methods contain hormones. Your OB/GYN at Memorial Women’s Specialists can review your medical history with you to determine if these methods are appropriate for you.
The pill must be taken at the same time every day to be most effective. Some pills contain estrogen and progestin, some just contain progestin. They prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucous so sperm can’t reach an egg.
You place the patch on your body (buttocks, arm, back) for up to three weeks, then remove it to have your period.
Rings (name brands: NuvaRing and Annovera)
You insert the ring into your vagina for three weeks and remove it to have your period. Then insert a new one and repeat the process. Rings contain estrogen and progesterone.
Shots (example: Depo-Provera)
Progestin shots are given every 90 days in our office. Most patients have much lighter cycles, and some have no cycles while taking the shot. It could take up to a year to get pregnant after stopping the shot.
If you’re certain you don’t want to have children or are done having children, sterilization may be for you. These minor surgical procedures are considered permanent. In some but not all cases, they may be surgically reversed, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get pregnant.
Tubal ligation (BTL) or removal (salpingectomy)
In this type of permanent birth control procedure, your fallopian tubes are cut, blocked, or removed, so eggs never make it from your ovaries to your uterus. This procedure is done in the hospital, as an outpatient surgery.
In this birth control procedure for men, the tubes that carry sperm are cut or blocked so sperm never make it from the testicles to the penis.
Barrier methods of birth control
Barrier methods stop the sperm from reaching the egg so fertilization can’t happen. Some are used as-needed while others can be inserted up to 24 hours before having sex.
Female or male condoms
This type of birth control is a fast and easy choice when you’re caught up in the moment. They are made of latex or latex-free for those with allergies. They also reduce the risk of STD transmission, which is an added bonus. Condoms can break or leak, and they don’t work if they are not used properly.
This form of birth control is a good choice for planners. It’s a reusable, soft disk made of silicone and placed in the vagina up to 6 hours before having sex. It should be used with spermicide to kill sperm, and spermicide may need to be reinserted/reapplied. However, it can be knocked out of place by rough sex, making it less effective. Some patients find the spermicidal jelly messy.
The sponge is filled with spermicide and placed into your vagina up to 24 hours before having sex. It soaks up all the sperm but must be left in place for a few hours afterward to be most effective. Then it’s thrown away. The sponge may increase the risk of vaginal irritation or infection. It must be properly placed and removed intact.
Contraceptive gel can be inserted shortly before sex, and reapplied if needed. It is less effective than long-acting birth control and can be messy for some patients.
Hopefully this information makes your birth control choice a bit easier. Just remember, if you try one and don’t like it, you have many other options. Schedule a consultation with our experts at Memorial Women’s Specialists today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.