Today more than ever, women have a wide variety of non-surgical contraceptive options for preventing pregnancy.
Research tells us that the most effective methods in preventing pregnancy are long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), which includes 5 types of intra uterine devices (IUDs) and the contraceptive implant (Nexplanon).
Benefits of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC)
LARCs are better at preventing pregnancy because:
- They are as effective as sterilization, meaning more than 99%, but they are reversible. As a comparison, birth control pills are about 92% effective.
- They work for YEARS at time (between 3-12 years, depending on the type).
- After they are inserted in the office, the women does not have to do anything to prevent a pregnancy (these methods are ‘forgettable’ and ‘low-maintenance’).
- These methods do not contain the hormone estrogen, which is one of the hormones commonly found in the pill, patch, or ring that can make birth control be less safe for women with other medical conditions.
- Finally, these methods are generally easy to remove, and patients will resume their natural fertility as soon as the LARC is removed.
Common Methods of Birth Control
LARCs are not for everyone, as some patients prefer to be on a birth control method they can control or prefer not to have something inside their uterus or arm.
Other common methods of birth control include:
#1 – Depo-Provera
Depo-Provera is an injectable medication that women receive every 3 months. This method lasts for at least 3 months, but not as long as the LARCs. Some women experience no periods on this method.
#2 – Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills
These are the traditional birth control pills, and they contain both estrogen and progesterone. There are dozens of brands on the market, but the big decision that patients need to make about birth control pills is deciding whether or not you want to take them continuously (skipping the placebo pills).
Skipping the placebo pills will eliminate periods. This is totally safe, and although there are some brands that offer this option, all pills can be used in this way if you simply skip the placebo or non-active pills.
#3 – The Patch
This birth control method also contains estrogen and progesterone. Women place a fresh patch on the skin each week, and then to experience a period, no patch is used for the 4th week. Women who do not like taking pills or who prefer to do something weekly (but not daily) often enjoy this method.
#4 – The Vaginal Ring
This method also contains both estrogen and progesterone. Women place the ring inside their vagina, and it remains there for 3 weeks. To experience a period, the ring is removed for a week, then a new ring is replaced in the vagina. Women who don’t like taking pills and prefer to do something about once a month (and not daily or weekly) often like this method.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control
There are other non-hormonal methods, like condoms (male & female), spermicides, and diaphragms, but these are notably less effective. It is very important to note that condoms are effective at preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections, so they should be used EVERY time when you are with a new partner or one whose infection status you don’t know!
Family Planning: Prevent Pregnancy Until You’re Ready
Overall, remember that in today’s world, there are lots of ways to prevent pregnancies and space them out until you are ready to start or grow your family. Your primary care provider or an OB-GYN would be happy to discuss these options with you.
If you’ve recently had a child, we recommend a spacing of 18 months to 5 years until you become pregnant with you next child. This will help to make sure mom and the new baby are healthy. For patients who are CERTAIN that they are done having children, a safe option is male and female sterilization – but keep in mind these methods are meant to be permanent.
If you’d like more information on LARCs and other methods, visit one of the following sites:
- Birth Control Methods, Bedsider
- Frequently Asked Questions About Birth Control, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Your Birth Control Options, Reproductive Access Project
About Matthew Zerden, MD, MPH
Dr. Matthew Zerden joined WakedMed Physician Practices as an OB-GYN hospitalist after earning his medical degree from Harvard University and completing his residency at the UNC School of Medicine in obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr. Zerden also completed a fellowship in Family Planning & Contraception at the UNC School of Medicine. He is dedicated to giving patients a low intervention birth while always respecting their preferences, dignity, and cultural beliefs. In his free time, Dr. Zerden enjoys traveling with his wife as well as taking in the local food and music scene.