Oral contraceptives are commonly referred to as birth control pills. These include the combination pill and the mini pill. The combination pill contains both estrogen and progesterone, while the mini pill contains only progesterone.
With perfect use the combination oral contraceptives are over 99% effective. But with typical use they are 90% effective. How well it works depends how well you use it. The mini pill is less effective, but is a good option for women who are breastfeeding, or if estrogen is contraindicated or not tolerated.
IUDs are a popular birth control method in which a small, T-shaped device is inserted into your uterus in a quick and simple procedure. Once it’s in position, the IUD protects you from pregnancy from three to 10 years, depending on the type of IUD.
There are two main types of IUDs: progesterone-containing IUDs and the copper IUD. The copper IUD works by killing sperm. The progesterone IUD functions by thickening the cervical mucous, which slows sperm motility, and thinning the endometrium. The progesterone-containing IUDs also decrease menstrual flow and are often used in women with heavy or painful menstrual bleeding.
Nexplanon is a plastic implant the size of a matchstick that is inserted into the upper arm, where it provides three years of pregnancy prevention. It contains a form of progesterone called etonogestrel. The Nexplanon implant prevents pregnancy in several ways. It stops the ovary from releasing eggs (ovulation), and it thickens cervical mucous to prevent sperm from reaching the eggs for fertilization. It is over 99% effective.
Depo-Provera is a birth control injection which is administered once every three months. Depo-Provera contains the hormone progestin, which works in two ways to prevent pregnancy:
Emergency contraception, also called postcoital contraception, is a form of birth control that may be used by women who have had unprotected sex or used a birth control method that failed, such as a condom. The treatment is generally reserved for emergency situations and is not a regular method of birth control.
Emergency oral contraception is used to prevent pregnancy, not end one. It works primarily by delaying ovulation.
Sterilization is a permanent, safe, and highly effective approach for birth control. These methods are meant for people who are sure they do not desire a pregnancy in the future. They have a typical failure rate of less than 1%.
Permanent sterilization methods include:
Birth control is not one-size-fits-all. A woman who has difficulty remembering to take birth control pills may do better with something that she doesn’t have to remember daily. Women who are concerned about hormones may prefer a barrier method like a condom, diaphragm, or an IUD.
Condoms are always recommended to protect against sexually-transmitted diseases and are a better choice for a woman who is not monogamous. Long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs and subdermal implants, are a good choice for those who want a consistent form of protection which can last a few years. Sterilization is better for those who don’t wish to have children at all or are finished with growing their family.
Birth control can have risks, and the most important is the risk of failure. Implants and IUDs have the highest effective rating, while spermicides used alone have the lowest.
Birth control pills may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer. Some forms or dosages may affect blood pressure, cause blood clots, or increase migraines. However, many can be used safely and effectively with the guidance of your doctor.
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