Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 21, 2020
Are you interested in starting birth control medication? Great! Before you get started, it’s critical to know all the details about the contraceptive care process, and Pandia Health is here to make sure you have all the facts.
Benefits of Birth Control
Birth control not only helps prevent unwanted pregnancies but it also can reduce painful periods, regulate menstrual cycles, and heal hormonal acne. Whether you are sexually active or not, being on birth control is one of the safest and smartest ways you can take control of your body and life physically, mentally, and financially.
There are so many different contraceptive methods out there to choose from so if you’re struggling to figure out which is the best birth control for you, we’ve got you covered!
The doctors and Patient Care Advisors at Pandia Health are happy to assist and find the right birth control solution for you, delivered straight to your door. Sign up today and get birth control sent to your mailbox with FREE delivery and automatic refills.
What to Consider when Choosing Birth Control
First, let’s talk about your options for birth control. There are oral contraceptives such as the pill which you take daily; other longer-term and reversible options include the patch, ring, implant, the shot, and the IUD.
Factors like high blood pressure, smoking habits, and a history of breast cancer in your family are important factors for you and your doctor to consider before choosing the right method.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance covers the cost of birth control; however, it’s a good idea to check if it only pertains to specific brands. For instance, without insurance, oral contraception can be around $50 per month and the IUD is roughly $1,000.
Luckily, Pandia Health accepts most forms of insurance and can help you determine which contraceptive method works best while taking into account your physical, mental, and economic circumstances.
The most popular forms of birth control in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, are oral contraception, tubal ligation, and condoms. Statistically, nine out of 100 women who use oral contraception will become pregnant — while this percentage is much higher than methods like the IUD or the implant, it’s actually due to human error, not a defect of the birth control itself.
While different forms of birth control vary in their results, longevity, and side effects, condoms are a surefire way for everybody to stay safe. It’s critical to always use condoms as they not only prevent pregnancy but also protect against STD!
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Different Types of Birth Control
The Ring – Let’s start with the vaginal ring. The ring stays in the vagina for one month; if you would like to get your period, just leave it in for three weeks and take it out for one week after that. Once that fourth week ends, insert a new ring. If you want to stop getting your period, simply change the ring each month without taking it out during that fourth week.
One potential downside to the ring is that you may experience some discharge. If desired, you can take the ring out for up to three hours during sex — but be sure put it back in after or else the birth control won’t be effective.
The Patch – Next up is the patch which can be placed anywhere on the body (excluding your inner arm and breast), similar to a bandaid. This method requires more frequent attention as you must change it every week. With this form, you don’t have the option of skipping your period as the high level of estrogen in the patch can increase your risk of blood clots.
Other than that, it’s very safe and easy to use — just put it somewhere on your body for three weeks (using three different patches) and then take it off during the last week when you’ll have your period.
The Pill – With the patch and the ring, there is only one version of each; the pill, however, has 40 different varieties so if one kind doesn’t work for you, there are 39 other potential suitors! The catch is that you must take it every single day; luckily, if you’re on a regular combination pill, you have a three to five hour leeway period so you don’t have to take it at exactly the same time.
For progestin-only pills, though, you do have to take it at the same time each day in order for it to work. Regardless of what kind of pill it is, it’s best to take it as close to the same time as possible daily to maximize effectiveness. Plus, the birth control pill decreases a woman’s risk of uterine, ovarian, and colon cancer!
Certain forms of contraception can make periods lighter, shorter, and more regular — or eliminate them altogether. Amanda Lendler, MSN, CNM, and a Yale certified nurse-midwife, explains that during the menstruation cycle, the uterus creates a lining to prepare for pregnancy.
“Hormonal birth control may decrease the lining built up during a menstrual cycle, leaving little or no uterine lining to shed each month… there is little or nothing to bleed each month, and there’s no harm in that.”
With Pandia, you can #SkipTheTrip to the Pharmacy and pause your period with birth control! If you are on the pill and want to skip your period, simply don’t take the last week of pills in your pack (these are the placebo ones); instead, start the next pack straightaway. If you do want to have a period, just take the last week of placebo pills. If you have an IUD or the implant, the frequency of your periods may decrease or be stopped altogether, although the effects vary from person to person.
The main side effects that come with starting any new form of birth control are nausea, acne, and increased appetite. Inserting the ring or using the patch right before going to bed helps avoid any sickness; for the pill, it’s best to take it with your largest meal of the day. The nausea will likely fade after two or three months. If you find yourself munching more often and getting more acne, talk to a doctor to find a solution.
There are some rare risks associated with birth control. Reactions to combined hormonal birth control include an increased risk of blood clot, stroke, and heart attack, all of which are higher among women who smoke and who are over the age of 35, or who have multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Don’t let this scare you though — it’s true that some forms of birth control carry health risks, but there is a higher number of complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth than with contraceptive methods.
Long Acting Methods
Now, let’s discuss the non-oral, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods.
The IUD – An IUD is a small piece of plastic in the shape of a “T” that is inserted into the uterus via the cervix. There are various brands like Kyleena, Mirena, and Skyla, all of which release progestin, which changes the cervix and uterus to prevent sperm from getting through to an egg.
The hormonal IUD protects against pregnancy for three to seven years, depending on which one a woman chooses. Paragard, which is a hormone-free copper IUD functions the same way and can be used for up to 12 years.
People who have the IUD have reported that the insertion can be painful, although some said they didn’t feel anything at all; the whole process takes about five minutes and may cause some spotting for 2-3 days following the procedure.
The Implant – Next, let’s talk about the implant, commonly known as Nexplanon; it’s a rod about the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin of the upper inner arm. It releases progestin and prevents pregnancy for up to five years by stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus.
According to Nancy Stanwood, MD, MPH, chief of Yale Medicine Family Planning, both the implant and the IUD pose less than a 1% risk of pregnancy in a year.
With the IUD and the implant, you can choose to have either one removed at any point — whether you don’t like it, you want to get pregnant, or for any other reason. Aileen Gariepy, MD, MPH, a Yale Medicine obstetrician-gynecologist, notes that it will “not affect your future fertility. Just because the method lasts for five or seven, or more years does not mean you have to have it in all of those years. That is just the amount of time it offers protection.”
If you’re concerned about infertility, know that birth control does not affect it in the long run; when you are on birth control, you are infertile because the hormones are working to prevent pregnancy. After you come off of it, your fertility status is not affected at all! The only exception is that some methods like the shot take longer to leave your system than others so you should plan ahead when you want to start a family.
Another component you may want to consider when beginning birth control is the possibility of weight gain or loss. Neither the pill nor the patch causes a significant difference in weight for most women; if you do gain weight while on birth control, it is most likely due to outside factors and not directly linked to the contraception.
The only caveat to this is if you get the Depo-Provera shot which causes weight gain in about a quarter of women who use it as the hormones in it activate signals in the brain that control hunger. However, if you do gain weight, it is most likely water weight and not fat!
Given all of this information, you may be wondering when the best time is to start taking birth control. Typically, women begin taking it at age 16 or whenever they become sexually active; however, there is no right or wrong age to start.
Plus, there are many other benefits to birth control that don’t have to do with sex — contraceptive methods can help treat endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, heavy periods, and acne.
If any of these conditions negatively interrupt your life, consult with a doctor and discover your options for the best birth control. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, recommends the IUD or the implant as the first-line choice for young women who are sexually active.
What’s most important to remember is that birth control is not a one-size-fits-all product. There are so many different factors to consider and one method might work better for you than for your friend, your sister, or your aunt. Your body is unique and you must take care of it so it can take care of you!
Ready to start your birth control journey with Pandia Health and get that #PandiaPeaceofMind? Our expert doctors can currently prescribe birth control to those in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, MI, MN, NV, NY, OH, IL, TX, TN, PA, and WY; they can also transfer over an existing prescription no matter where you are in the country. Set it and forget it with the most trusted provider for birth control delivery and never run out of birth control on our watch!
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.