Contraception, more commonly known as “birth control,” is a term used to describe many different methods of preventing pregnancy. Some women may choose to take a daily pill, while others prefer using condoms or a skin patch. Regardless of the method, every type of birth control comes with its own potential benefits and risks.
Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control is a method of preventing pregnancy that works by blocking and/or releasing hormones within the brain. In turn, this prevents the release of an egg during ovulation. Some hormonal methods also change the qualities of cervical mucus or the lining of the uterus, both of which make it difficult for sperm to travel to the egg.
Examples of hormonal birth control methods include pills, skin patches, insertable vaginal rings (all of which contain both estrogen and progesterone), hormonal shots, and some implant methods. Each of these require a prescription from a physician.
Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)
There are two main types of long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS), intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the Nexplanon® implant. IUDs can either contain progesterone or be hormone-free (copper IUD) and, once inserted in the uterus by a physician, can prevent pregnancy from three to 10 years depending on which type of IUD is placed. This type of birth control is easily reversible, requiring a simple removal of the device. Nexplanon® is a small implant inserted in the upper arm that can stay in place for up to three years. It can also be removed at any time.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control
There are many other types of birth control, including barrier methods (e.g. condoms), natural family planning, and abstinence. For a comprehensive overview and to compare different types, visit the Office of Women’s Health online.
When choosing a birth control method, there are some things you might want to consider. Do you have other health conditions that may be affected by birth control use? Do you plan to start a family in the near future? Are you willing to take a medication every day, or do you prefer less effort and maintenance? The answers to these questions will help you and your physician choose the best method for your reproductive needs.