TLDR: The best birth control for you is the one that you can remember to use and that fits your lifestyle and your risk tolerance. In general, the fewer times you have to think about it per month, the less likely it will fail. It’s only natural to want to best you can get. And it is no different for birth control. But on this intimate and personal topic, comparing options is not always easy.
What does “the best birth control for me” mean?
Birth control is not one-size-fits-all. We all have different risk tolerance for pregnancy, health conditions, and comfort levels in touching our body parts. To make an informed decision on the best birth control method for you, ask yourself and your provider the following 4 questions about each method:
- How effective is it in preventing unintended pregnancies?
- How much effort does it require to use it?
- What are the potential side effects, based on your health conditions?
- What are the extra health benefits?
There is no wrong or right answer choice in to “which birth control is best for me?” However, facts will help you and your provider decide what works best for you.
To get started, we gathered the main facts about the most popular birth control methods for you. Starting from the MOST effective at preventing birth control and going to the LEAST effective.
In the US, 4.5% of men had a vasectomy, blocking the tubes that allow the sperm to get into the semen anymore. 14.3% of women have had a tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy. Tubal ligation blocks the fallopian tubes so egg and sperm can’t meet.
These are the most effective methods with over 99% effiectiveness.
However, these methods require surgery. And above all: they are permanent. You cannot be fertile again after them (without artificial help such as egg collection, IVF, etc), which is a big side effect to take into consideration if you still want to have children. And as with any surgery, complications can occur.
Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC):
An IUD is a small T-shaped device placed in the uterus that comes in 2 types: copper and hormonal.
They are over 99% effective. So this brings big peace of mind. They are MORE effective than tubal ligation (having your tubes tied!)
IUDs must be placed by a healthcare provider. After that, the copper one can work for 10 to 12 years, and the hormonal one for 3 to 5 to 7 years (depending which one you choose and per FDA or WHO). And unlike sterilization, they can be removed when you want to have kids. You should be back to normal fertility within 1 cycle!
Risks associated with getting an IUD are low. Rarely, they can fall out or if the provider is inexperienced or the uterus is abnormally located, there is a 1 in 1000 risk of perforation of the uterus.
Negative side effects of the copper IUD: more painful periods, heavier bleeds. Some women have reported copper toxicity which resolved with removal of the IUD.
Benefits of the hormonal IUDs: 30% of women lose their monthly bleed on the hormonal IUDs and women love that side effect.
Some fear it could be painful when the IUD gets placed but here are some tips from Dr. Yen (Pandia Health’s CEO/Co-Founder) that can make the procedure more comfortable.
Implant birth control = Nexplanon
The birth control implant aka Nexplanon is a matchstick sized rod (4 cm) inserted under the skin of your upper arm.
It’s 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
It contained etonogestrel which is a progestin. It works for 5 years.
Every 12 weeks, you get an injection of medroxyprogesterone acetate, a drug that blocks ovulation.
It is 94% effective and can be deemed low maintenance as you only need to see your provider every 12 weeks.
Side effects are irregular bleeding, the munchies and a decrease in bone density, making your bones more at risk of breaking. To mitigate this risk, make sure you adopt a diet with enough calcium and Vitamin D and do weight-bearing exercise.
The birth control pill:
Most birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin, two hormones naturally present in the female body. Their main action is to stop ovulation.
The birth control pill is 91% effective.
You’ll need a bit of discipline to take your pill every day. You will also need a prescription which you have to get from seeing a provider (doctor, NP, PA) once a year, and then you’ll have to keep track of the refills to avoid running out.
The pill can have some side effects like nausea or irregular bleeding, but these usually go away within 2 to 3 months. If you are older than 35 and a smoker, or have a family history of blood clots, it is important to share this info with your provider because the pill can increase your risk of blood clots. If your BMI is over 25, the efficiency of the pill can be reduced.
Do you worry that the pill may make you gain weight or impact your fertility holding you back? Ditch these myths now! and watch our video by Dr. Yen here:
Besides, birth control pills come with positive health benefits: they make your period more regular, lighter and less painful, and can even allow you to skip them altogether. They can reduce your acne. The risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer is lower among those who take the pill. The pill can also treat PCOS.
This is why 70% of birth control pill users take the pill for health reasons in addition to preventing pregnancy.
Like the pill, it contains estrogen and progestin that it releases to the skin of your belly, upper outer arm, buttocks, or upper body .
It is as effective as the pill – 91% – and comes with the same pluses and minuses.
You only have to change it once a week. 3 weeks with a patch and 1 week off or you can do 12 weeks on the patch and 1 week off. Each patch has 7 days of medication so you HAVE to change the patch every week.
The birth control ring:
Also called the NuvaRing, it is a small, flexible ring you place inside your vagina. It releases the same estrogen and progestin hormones as the birth control pill and the birth control patch.
It is comparable to them in terms of efficiency, side effects, and added benefits.
You only have to change your ring every 3 to 4 weeks. To skip monthly bleeds, just change the ring every 4 wks-1 month (it has 35 days of medicine in it). To have a bleed each month, just take it out after 3 wks, have no ring for 1 week (during that time you will have a withdrawal bleed) and put in a NEW ring after that week off the ring.
Male condoms have an efficacy rate of 82% and female condoms of 79%. They require the cooperation of both partners and discipline to put them on before any contact between penis and vagina.
There are a few things you must make sure not to do with condoms: like reusing, doubling up, or using oil-based lubricants.
The only side effect can be an allergy to latex, and if so, just use condoms made from a different material.
The bonus of condoms is that they are the only method that will protect you against STDs. So it is recommended to use them on top of other birth control methods.
This means when having sex, the male partner has to pull out before ejaculating, so semen won’t get anywhere close to the vagina.
When done right, it is 78% effective.
It requires faith in your partner’s ability to control himself and pull out before climax/ejaculation. Even if you believe in your partner’s abilities, human error happens more often than not. Also, it is important to know, as soon as the penis is erect, there is pre-ejaculate that contains sperm. Research has shown that there can be 200,000 to 20 million sperm in this pre-ejaculate.
This is why using another birth control method on top of this one is STRONGLY suggested.
Also, withdrawal won’t protect you from STDs.
It works by tracking the female reproductive cycle to determine which days a woman is fertile. You then abstain from heterosexual vaginal sex during these days.
When done right, it is 76% effective.
To be done right, you will need a lot of discipline: you will have to check your temperature every day first thing, check your cervix mucus every time you go to the toilet, and chart your menstrual cycle on a calendar to predict your next ovulation. It will NOT work if your periods are irregular.
There are no side effects to it because it is 100% natural. On the plus side, it will give you more awareness about your body, but natural family planning won’t protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Hopefully, this information has helped you see more clearly now what looks like the best birth control method for you?
FREE help from Pandia Health: Never Run Out of birth control!
The top reason why women miss their birth control is because they don’t have it at hand.
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These above information is for general informational purposes only and are NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.