Only you know when it is the right time to have a baby. The doctors at Novant Health Bradford Clinic OB/GYN are here to advise you on both temporary and permanent birth control methods, and to help you choose the one that is right for you.
Birth control, or contraception, is the term used to describe a medication or device used to prevent pregnancy. Choosing the "best" type of birth control requires that you know a little about each method, how it works and whether you and your partner will use that method. Some types of birth control are reversible, meaning you can get pregnant when you stop using it. Other methods are permanent, which means that you cannot usually get pregnant again.
To decide which birth control method is right for you, read about each type and discuss the options with your physician.
Reversible birth control methods
Oral contraceptive pills
Numerous forms of oral contraceptive pills (OCP's) exist. They work mostly by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg by the ovaries). Most pills are made of two hormones called estrogen and progestin. They can differ both in the type of hormones they contain as well as in the amounts of hormone they contain. OCP's are taken on a daily basis and, when used correctly, are approximately 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The pill may reduce cramping and shorten the number of days of bleeding during the menstrual period. The pill may also help lessen the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Some common side effects of birth control pills are nausea, headaches, breast tenderness and bloating. Most symptoms typically improve after using the pill for two or three months.
Vaginal contraceptive ring
The vaginal contraceptive ring, or NuvaRing®, is a thin, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina. The ring slowly releases hormones into the body through the vagina that prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries). When used properly, the vaginal ring is approximately 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. These hormones are the same ones used in most birth control pills. The ring is left in the vagina for 3 weeks. It doesn't have to be in a specific position in the vagina. You remove the ring after 3 weeks and your period will start. After 7 days, you insert a new ring.
The vaginal ring's side effects are similar to those of the pill.
The only injectable method of birth control currently available in the United States is medroxyprogesterone acetate (brand name: Depo-Provera®). This is a progestin hormone which is long-lasting. It is injected deep into a muscle, such as the buttock or upper arm, once every three months. It is very effective, with a failure (pregnancy) rate of less than one percent.
The most common side effects of Depo-Provera® are irregular or prolonged vaginal bleeding and spotting, particularly during the first three to six months. Up to 50 percent of women completely stop having menstrual periods after using it for one year.
This is a single rod implant called by its brand name, Nexplanon®. The flexible rod is placed under the skin of the upper arm by a physician. The rod releases a progestin, and provides three years of protection from pregnancy as the progestin is slowly absorbed into the surrounding tissues. Insertion and removal can be done in a physician's office. Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect.
An IUD is a small device shaped like a "T" that is placed by a physician in your uterus. There are two types.
The copper IUD goes by the brand name ParaGard®. It releases a small amount of copper into the uterus, which prevents the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. It fertilization does occur; the IUD keeps the fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus. It is effective for up to 10 years after placement, but can be removed anytime with immediate return to fertility. The copper IUD is approximately 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The hormonal IUD goes by the brand name Mirena®. It releases progestin into the uterus, it thins the lining of the uterus and causes the cervical mucus to thicken so sperm can't reach the egg. It is effective for up to 5 years after placement, but can be removed anytime with immediate return to fertility. The Mirena® IUD is approximately 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
A new condom must be used each time before intercourse and it should be applied to the penis when the penis is erect. When used appropriately the male condom is approximately 97% effective in preventing pregnancy. Male condoms are also the only contraceptive devices that can protect against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are an especially good choice if you or your partner is also having sex with other people.
Female condoms aren't as effective as male condoms, but they may be a good choice if a man won't use a male condom.
Permanent birth control methods
Permanent birth control, or sterilization, is when a man or woman has an operation to permanently prevent pregnancy. If you're sure that you don't want to have children or you don't want more children, sterilization may be the right choice for you.
Also called "getting your tubes tied," tubal ligation involves closing off a woman's fallopian tubes so eggs can't travel through them to reach the uterus. It is usually performed as an outpatient surgical procedure.
Men are sterilized with a vasectomy. The man's vas deferens (sperm ducts) are closed off so sperm can't get through.
Emergency birth control is used to keep a woman from getting pregnant when she has had unprotected vaginal intercourse. "Unprotected" can mean that no method of birth control was used. It can also mean that a birth control method was used but did not work - like a condom breaking.
Emergency contraception consists of taking two doses of hormonal pills 12 hours apart. They work by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg or keeping the sperm from joining with the egg. For the best chances for it to work, start the pills as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It should be started within 72 hours after having unprotected sex. The pills are available without a prescription at most drug stores.