Untangling Birth Control: The Options and Effectiveness

birthcontrol    IUD

birth control

For thousands of years now people have been employing some type of birth control method.  And now, when it comes to birth control, women have more options that ever before.  But with so many options, how do you decide which option is best for you?  The most important first step is to weigh your options with your healthcare provider.  You’ll want to know how each form of birth control would work with your lifestyle, your health and your family history.

We have broken down the most popular options for you to help you decide.

IUD (INTRAUTERINE DEVICE)

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, t-shaped device that is inserted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy.  It is long-term, reversible, and one of the most effective methods available. There are 5 different brands of IUDs that are FDA approved for use in the United States and those are devided in to two categories: copper IUDs (ParaGard) and hormonal IUDs (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla). iud

The ParaGard IUD does not have any hormones.  It is wrapped in a tiny bit of copper and it protects for up to 12 years. The Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla all use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy.  The most popular of these options, Mirena, lasts up to 5 years. Both copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs prevent pregnancy by changing the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to an egg. If sperm can’t make it to an egg, pregnancy can’t happen.

The ParaGard IUD uses copper to prevent pregnancy. Sperm doesn’t like copper, so the ParaGard IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg. The hormones in the Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla IUDs prevent pregnancy in two ways: 1) they thicken the mucus that lives on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm, and 2) the hormones also sometimes stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), which means there’s no egg for a sperm to fertilize. No egg, no pregnancy.

One of the awesome things about IUDs is that they last for years — but they’re not permanent. If you decide to get pregnant or you just don’t want to have your IUD anymore, your nurse or doctor can quickly and easily take it out. You’re able to get pregnant right after the IUD is removed. IUDs are one of the best birth control methods out there — more than 99% effective. That means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant each year.

If you’re a busy person who doesn’t want to worry about remembering birth control, the IUD just may be for you. Once it’s in, you’re good to go for anywhere from 3 to 12 years.

IMPLANT (NEXPLANON)

nexplanonThe Nexplanon implant is a small rod (about the size of a matchstick) inserted under the skin in your arm.  The implant releases hormones into your body that prevent you from getting pregnant.  Your provider inserts the implant in your arm during a quick procedure and that’s it — you’re good to go for up to 4 years.

The hormones in Nexplanon work like the hormones in the Mirena IUD, preventing pregnancy in two ways: 1) they thicken the mucus that lives on the cervix, which blocks and traps the sperm, and 2) the hormones also sometimes stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), which means there’s no egg for a sperm to fertilize. No egg, no pregnancy. And also, like the IUD, Nexplanon can be removed at anytime to return to full fertility should you decide you are ready to get pregnant.

The implant is one of the best birth control methods out there — it’s more than 99% effective. That means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use Nexplanon will get pregnant each year. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The implant is so effective because there’s no chance of making a mistake. Since it’s in your arm, you can’t forget to take it, or use it incorrectly. It protects you from pregnancy all day, every day for up to 4 years.

THE SHOT (DEPO-PROVERA)

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do.

The birth control shot (sometimes called Depo-Provera, the Depo shot, or DMPA) contains the hormone progestin.  Progestin stops you from getting pregnant by preventing ovulation.  When there’s no egg in the tube, pregnancy can’t happen. It also works by making cervical mucusthicker. When the mucus on the cervix is thicker, the sperm can’t get through. And when the sperm and the egg can’t get together, pregnancy can’t happen.

When used perfectly, the birth control shot effectiveness is more than 99%, meaning less than 1 out of every 100 people who use it will get pregnant each year. But when it comes to real life, the shot is about 94% effective, because sometimes people forget to get their shots on time. So, in reality, about 6 out of every 100 shot users will get pregnant each year.

The better you are about getting your shot on time, the better it will work. But there’s a very small chance that you could still get pregnant, even if you always get the shot on time.

THE RING (NUVARING) 

NuvaRing is a small, flexible vaginal ring used to prevent pregnancy. You put it in for 3 weeks, take it out, then put a new one in a week later. It’s just as effective as the pill when used as directed, and you don’t have to think about taking it every day.

The NuvaRing works by stopping sperm from meeting an egg (which is called fertilization). Like most birth control pills, the ring contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which are similar to hormones our bodies make naturally. You wear the ring inside your vagina, where your vaginal lining absorbs the hormones. NuvaRing’s hormones stop ovulation. No ovulation means there’s no egg hanging around for sperm to fertilize, so pregnancy can’t happen. The ring’s hormones also thicken the mucus that lives on the cervix. Thicker cervical mucus makes it hard for the sperm to swim to an egg — kind of like a sticky security guard.

When used perfectly, the NuvaRing is 99% effective. But when it comes to real life, the ring is about 91% effective because it can be hard to be perfect. So in reality, 9 out of 100 ring users get pregnant each year.

THE PILL

pillThe birth control pill works by stopping sperm from meeting an egg (which is called fertilization). The hormones in the pill stop ovulation. No ovulation means there’s no egg hanging around for sperm to fertilize, so pregnancy can’t happen. The pill’s hormones also thicken the mucus on the cervix. Thicker cervical mucus makes it hard for the sperm to swim to an egg — kind of like a  security guard.

When used perfectly, the pill is 99% effective. But when it comes to real life, the pill is about 91% effective because it can be hard to be perfect and it canbe effected by other medications you are taking. So in reality, 9 out of 100 pill users get pregnant each year.

THE PATCH

The transdermal contraceptive patch is a safe, simple, and affordable birth control method that you wear on the skin of your belly, upper arm, butt, or back. Put a new patch on every week for 3 weeks, and it releases hormones that prevent pregnancy. Then you get a week off before you repeat the cycle. The birth control patch prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from meeting an egg (which is called fertilization). Like most birth control pills, the patch contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which are similar to hormones our bodies make naturally. You wear the patch on certain parts of your body, and the hormones are absorbed through your skin. The patch stops your ovaries from releasing eggs (called ovulation). No ovulation means there’s no egg hanging around for sperm to fertilize, so pregnancy can’t happen. The patch’s hormones also thicken the mucus on your cervix. Thicker cervical mucus makes it hard for sperm to swim to an egg — kind of like a sticky security guard.

If you use it perfectly, the patch is 99% effective. But people aren’t perfect, so in reality, the patch is about 91% effective. So 9 out of 100 patch users get pregnant each year.

STERILIZATION

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure that permanently closes or blocks your fallopian tubes. Every month, an egg leaves one of your ovaries (called ovulation). The egg moves through one of your fallopian tubesfor a few days, waiting for sperm to come fertilize it. Pregnancy happens if a sperm cell meets up with one of your eggs, and the fertilized egg implants in your uterus. When the fallopian tubes are blocked after a tubal ligation, sperm can’t get to an egg and cause pregnancy. Tubal ligation is sometimes known as sterilization, female sterilization or “getting your tubes tied.” There are a few different types of sterilization procedures. Talk to your doctor about the types of sterilization and which option would be best for you.

You still get your period after tubal ligation — you just can’t get pregnant. Tubal ligation is really great at preventing pregnancy — more than 99% effective. This means that fewer than 1 out of 100 women who are sterilized will get pregnant each year. That’s as good as it gets when it comes to pregnancy prevention.

ABSTINENCE

The definition of abstinence is when you don’t have sex. Abstinence prevents pregnancy by keeping semen away from the vagina, so the sperm cells in semen can’t get to an egg and cause pregnancy. If you’re abstinent 100% of the time, pregnancy can’t happen.

The following methods, while practiced by many people around the world, are not suggested by our office to prevent pregnancy.  These methods all have a higher failure rate and the work required to make them effective, typically cause much more human error than the above listed options.

CONDOM

Condoms are small, thin pouches made of latex (rubber), plastic (polyurethane, nitrile, or polyisoprene) or lambskin, that cover your partner’s penis during sex and collect semen. Condoms stop sperm from getting into the vagina, so sperm can’t meet up with an egg and cause pregnancy.

Condoms also prevent STDs by covering the penis, which prevents contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and limits skin-to-skin contact that can spread sexually transmitted infections.

If you use condoms perfectly every single time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect, so in real life condoms are about 85% effective — that means about 15 out of 100 people who use condoms as their only birth control method will get pregnant each year.

DIAPHRAGM

A diaphragm is a form of birth control that’s a shallow cup shaped like a little saucer that’s made of soft silicone. You bend it in half and insert it inside your vagina to cover your cervix. In real life diaphragms are about 88% effective — that means about 12 out of 100 people who use a diaphragm will get pregnant each year. That’s because people don’t always follow the directions correctly, or they don’t use their diaphragm every single time they have sex.

FEMALE CONDOM

Female condoms — also called internal condoms — are little nitrile (soft plastic) pouches that you put inside your vagina. They cover the inside of your vagina, creating a barrier that stops sperm from reaching an egg. If sperm can’t get to an egg, you can’t get pregnant. The female condom also helps prevent sexually transmitted infections. They’re about 79% effective — that means about 21 out of 100 people who use female condoms as their main method of birth control will get pregnant each year.

CERVICAL CAP

The cervical cap covers your cervix, stopping sperm from joining an egg. In order for a cervical cap to work best, it must be used with spermicide (a cream or gel that kills sperm). For people who’ve never given birth, the cervical cap is 86% effective — that means that out of 100 people who use the cap, about 14 of them will get pregnant within a year. For people who have given birth, the cervical cap is 71% effective — that means that out of 100 people who use the cap, about 29 of them will get pregnant within a year.

FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD

Fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are ways to track your ovulation so you can prevent pregnancy. FAMs are also called “natural family planning” and “the rhythm method.” FAMs are about 76-88% effective: that means 12-24 out of 100 couples who use FAMs will get pregnant each year, depending on which method(s) are used.

SPONGE

The sponge is a round piece of white plastic foam with a little dimple on one side and a nylon loop across the top that looks like shoelace material. It’s pretty small—just two inches across—and you insert it way up in your vagina before you have sex. The sponge works in two ways: It blocks your cervix to keep sperm from getting into your uterus, and it continuously releases spermicide. The sponge is realistically 88% effective for women who’ve never given birth — 12 out of 100 sponge-users who’ve never given birth will get pregnant within a year. The sponge is 76% effective for women who have given birth — so 24 out of 100 sponge-users who’ve given birth will get pregnant within a year.

WITHDRAWAL (PULL OUT) METHOD

Pulling out is exactly what it sounds like: pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. If semen gets in your vagina, you can get pregnant. So ejaculating away from a vulva or vagina prevents pregnancy. But you have to be sure to pull out before any semen comes out, every single time you have vaginal sex, in order for it to work. But pulling out can be difficult to do perfectly. So in real life, this method is only about 78% effective, about 22 out of 100 women who use withdrawal get pregnant every year — that’s about 1 in 5.

So, are you ready to stop worrying about pregnancy? We’re here to help you figure it all out.  Schedule an appointment anytime to discuss your options and find the right birth control method for you!

birth-control-effectiveness

Book an Appointment

  • * All indicated fields must be completed.
    Please include non-medical questions and correspondence only.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.