If you have a uterus, this one’s for you. And if you are without a womb, you may as well stay tuned. It’s about time birth control becomes a topic of universal discussion, regardless of your reproductive organs.
So, to jump right in — birth control is tricky.
Some forms of contraception have hormones, others don’t. Some make your menstruation cycle longer while others cut your period in half, or cause it to totally disappear. And it doesn’t stop there. The list of side effects are quite long, with some of the more common being that of weight gain and increased breasts size.
How birth control affects you is dependent on a couple of factors. First, the hormonal composition of the contraception you use. Generally speaking, the more hormonal the method, the more change your body is inclined to experience.
Nevertheless, birth control is an essential part of society, and an aggressive player in the fight for women’s rights… but that’s a talk for another day. So, in the meantime, familiarize yourself with many forms of contraception, their most common side effects and critical pieces of information on each.
Welcome to the birth control breakdown.
Oh the glorious pill. Chances are that you’ve heard of her.
In fact, in 2015 – 2017, 12.6% of the 72.2 million women aged 15 to 49 in the United States were popping one of these bad boys daily.
When taken correctly, the pill can be up to 99.9% effective. Their effectiveness can be attributed to hormones. And not only do the hormones differ from brand to brand, but every woman’s body will react differently to these hormones. Many women report change in ovulation patterns and intensity.
The most commonly used birth control in the US is the combination pill. This pill combines estrogen and progesterone in order to stop your ovaries from releasing eggs. It also causes changes in your cervix and uterus that lower your chances of pregnancy.
The most common side effects of taking birth control pills include nausea, sore or swollen breasts, small amounts of blood (spotting) between periods, lighter periods, mood changes, and mild headaches.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember about oral contraceptives is that they must be taken at the same time every day. If you forget to take them one day and plan on being intimate, be sure to use a condom.
Safe sex is the best sex.
The IUD (Intrauterine Device) is one of the longest lasting and effective birth control methods on the market. There are both hormonal and non hormonal IUDs available.
This tiny, but mighty figurine is a little bigger than a quarter. It is medically inserted into your uterus. And quite truthfully, this is what puts most people off from going with this method of birth control. You may experience pain or discomfort for up to a week post-insertion. This pain and discomfort are comparable to period cramps. Additionally, you may spot for up to 6 months after the IUD is nestled into your uterus.
The Liletta, Kyleena, Mirena, and Skyla are the most popular hormonal IUDs available. They release a small amount of progesterone into your body (no more than the pill would). These types of IUDs tend to make your period lighter and may be a good option if you are no stranger to a heavy flow.
The non-hormonal option is ParaGard, more commonly known as the copper IUD. The copper triggers your immune system to prevent pregnancy. It can cause your periods to be heavier, especially at first. ParaGard also lasts substantially longer than the other options.
Here’s a breakdown on the lifespans of each option:
- Skyla – 3 years
- Kyleena – 5 years
- Liletta and Mirena – 6 years
- ParaGard – 10 years
The most raved about benefit of the IUD is often hassle-free, stress-free sex. Since the IUD is in your uterus, it is the most direct birth control option. It doesn’t require a daily task and is effective for significant periods of time.
Lastly, IUDs are typically covered by insurance. If you do not have health insurance and are an aspiring owner of this uterine accessory, the bill can run anywhere between $500 and $1,300 when paying out of pocket. If these numbers shook you like a storm of period cramps, no worries. Simply call the Planned Parenthood nearest you. One of their staff will share options for financial support.
Arm Implant (Nexplanon)
The arm implant available in the US is called Nexplanon. It is called the arm implant because it is literally implanted under the skin in your inner arm. Don’t worry, this is done by a medical professional. The procedure is simple; you are numbed in preparation for the implantation.
The implant is often referred to as a rod. It is about the size of a matchstick and contains the hormone etonogestrel.
Similar to the pill and certain types of IUDs, the arm implant works by releasing small amounts of hormones into your body. These hormones affect your pituitary gland and communicate to your ovaries not to release eggs. It also makes the mucus in your cervix thicker, which makes it harder for sperm to swim to any released eggs in your uterus.
The implant, just like the IUD, is more than 99% effective. It can last up to 3 years before needing to be replaced. Additionally, this birth control method may lead to lighter periods, and even the disappearance of your period all together.
The Shot (Depo-Provera)
This injectable birth control method, commonly called the Depo shot, is injected into your buttocks or arm every 12 weeks. It works by thickening your cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from successfully getting to the egg.
Unlike the arm implant and IUDs, the Depo shot is an effective method of birth control that does not require a foregn item.
However, it is important to keep in mind that some people are not eligible for this option. If you have experienced a stroke, heart disease, lupus, breast cancer, liver disease, or unexplained vaginal disease, the Depo shot is likely a no go for you.
The most common side effects for this contraceptive include irregular menstrual periods no periods at all, headaches, nervousness, depression, acne, changes in appetite, weight gain, excessive growth of facial and body hair, hair loss, and osteoporosis.
Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing)
This form of birth control is a small, flexible, plastic ring that is about two inches wide. You insert it into your vagina once a month. The NuvaRing prevents pregnancy by continuously releasing synthetic estrogen and progestin, which are absorbed by your bloodstream.
The insertion and removal process of the vaginal ring is easy. First, you pinch the sides of the ring and insert it into your vagina. According to the NuvaRing website, there is not a specific position it needs to be in to work, just push it up your vagina until you feel resistance. After three weeks, remove the NuvaRing by hooking your finger under the edge of it and gently tug. You should get your period the week that you remove the ring.
It is important to remove the ring exactly three weeks from insertion. For example, if you insert the ring on a Monday, you need to remove it exactly three weeks from that Monday.
Some cons of this contraceptive include the ring falling out during sex, while straining on the toilet or while you are on your period. It does have less negative side effects than other methods, such as spotting between periods, nausea, and breast tenderness. It may cause vaginal irritation, infections, or both.
Birth Control Patch
The birth control patch is a hormonal contraceptive method containing estrogen and progestin. You place a patch on your skin (on your buttocks, upper outer arm, lower abdomen, upper body) once a week for three weeks. On the 4th week, you do not use a patch, as that is your menstruation week.
This method is very easy to enact, but the list of potential side effects isn’t the shortest. These include an increased risk of blood-clots, heart attack, stroke, liver cancer, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, spotting, skin irritation, tender breasts, menstrual pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, mood swings, weight gain, dizziness, acne, diarrhea, muscle spasms, vaginal infections and discharge, fatigue, fluid retention, and more.
Just like all other options, talk with a medical professional to see if the birth control patch is the best option for you.