What everyone should know about birth control, from the types to effectiveness
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Different types of birth control prevent pregnancy in different ways. And not all are equally effective. Incorrect use from human error is usually the culprit. For example, condoms break, expire, or can slip off, which is why they're only 82% effective compared to a semi-permanent implant, which is over 99% effective.
Here's what you need to know about the different types, how they work, and how effective they are at preventing pregnancy.
Types of birth control
Different types of birth control prevent pregnancy in different ways:
- Natural: Two common examples include the withdrawal method (also known as "pulling out"). Or tracking when a woman is most fertile and avoiding sex during that time.
- Barrier: Barrier methods block sperm from passing through the cervix and include male condoms, female condoms (diaphragms), and certain types of hormonal birth control.
- Short-acting hormonal method: A type of hormonal birth control, like the pill, patch, and vaginal ring, that prevents eggs from being released or from traveling into the fallopian tubes. It can prevent pregnancy anywhere from 24 hours to a few weeks after use.
- Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC): Often a type of hormonal birth control that includes implants and intrauterine devices (IUD) and can prevent pregnancy for many years, up to a decade.
- Permanent sterilization: A surgical procedure that prevents pregnancy permanently. Both types of surgery — vasectomies, for men, and tubal ligations, for women — are reversible in most cases.
- Emergency contraception: Plan B can be used in the case of an emergency, but it must be taken within 24 hours of unprotected intercourse for optimal effectiveness.
When choosing the type of birth control that's best for you, there are some factors to consider like sexual activity, ease of use, availability, and cost.
For instance, if you have multiple partners, you should use a birth control method, like condoms, that protects against sexually transmitted infections. Or if you're a woman who prefers to have a regular period once a month, then you should consider birth control pills instead of an implant or IUD.
However, ease of use is equally important. If you opt for the pill, that means you must remember to take the pill at the same time each day, with the knowledge that it can lead to an accidental pregnancy if you miss a dose. That sort of pressure can be stressful and burdensome for some.
Availability and cost are also important factors. Condoms are more readily accessible and cheaper than the pill or an implant. But they're also less effective. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of each kind of contraception:
How effective is birth control
Besides abstinence, no birth control options are ever 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. Birth control can expire, people use it incorrectly, and procedures can go wrong.
For example, oral contraceptives are 99% effective if you take them perfectly. But in reality, people skip pills or don't take them on time, which diminishes their effectiveness. This chart shows how effective different birth control methods are with typical use, accounting for human error:
It's important to remember that even methods that seem reliable can sometimes fail, like an IUD. You can get pregnant with an IUD if it has not been properly inserted, if it becomes dislodged, or if you have a uterine abnormality.
You can even get pregnant with your tubes tied, though it's very rare. This procedure, known as tubal ligation, is considered the most sure-fire way for women to prevent pregnancy, but there is still room for human error in the procedure.
Additionally, women who have had tubal ligation surgery are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy, which is a type of miscarriage that happens when a fertilized egg attaches outside of the uterus.
Other benefits of birth control
Doctors may prescribe birth control — particularly hormonal birth control — for more than just pregnancy prevention.
For example, birth control can help acne, because of how it may reduce the amount of androgen, a hormone, in your system. Androgen levels spike during puberty and pregnancy, which may cause you to produce more oil on, and under, your skin that can lead to acne.
Birth control can also help with cramps because it can thin the endometrial lining of the uterus that's shed during menstruation. When this lining builds up it can cause intense contractions, so thinning it out can help relieve painful period cramps.
It's unlikely that birth control will make you gain weight. If you're just starting birth control, you may gain a few pounds. But that extra weight most likely isn't from fat, it's from fluid retention — aka water weight — and it's only temporary.
The only birth control method that is likely to make you gain weight is Depo-Provera, a hormone shot that has been shown to increase hunger and cause women to gain 5.4 pounds after one year of use and up to 13.8 pounds after four years.
How to get birth control
You can get basic birth control, like condoms, at any local grocery or pharmacy. However, you will need a prescription to get hormonal birth control like the pill or an IUD.
Most people get a prescription by visiting a doctor or going to a local
Most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act cover the cost of birth control and doctor's visits related to birth control. If your insurance does not cover your doctor visit, the cost can range from $35-$250. If you are buying birth control online, you can typically get it for free with insurance but without insurance, the prices can range widely.
Plan B Pill
Plan B, sometimes referred to as the "morning-after pill," is an over-the-counter form of emergency contraception you can take after having unprotected sex.
Plan B is supposed to prevent pregnancy before it starts, but it doesn't always work. Plan B is most effective when taken within 24 hours. If you take it within 72 hours, you have up to an 89% chance of preventing pregnancy.
The side effects of plan B may last around four days after taking it. On the first day, you may experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, and pelvic pain, which will gradually diminish over time. Menstrual changes may also occur, so you shouldn't be too worried if your period comes earlier or later than you expect it to.
While there's no limit on how many times you can take Plan B, it shouldn't be your go-to form of birth control. If you find yourself using Plan B regularly, consult a doctor to discuss other methods.
The right birth control for you depends on what method best fits your lifestyle. You want to consider factors such as effectiveness, side effects, and upkeep when making your decision.
Keep in mind that while barrier methods like condoms might be easier to acquire, the more effective methods such as an IUD require a visit to a doctor. The best thing you can do is to talk to a medical professional about what method is right for you.Read the original article on Insider
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