Women’s Health

Birth Control Options Available to You

Now that the Supreme Court has removed women’s constitutional right to abortion, having access to other methods of birth control is more essential than ever.

Thankfully, individuals and couples who want to plan their families and take control of their reproductive health have many options available when it comes to contraception, each with its own advantages and considerations.

Your Options

According to Planned Parenthood, there are 18 unique options for preventing pregnancy. Most are for women but there are a few for men, and they include everything from abstinence to surgery. You should choose the best one for you based on effectiveness, frequency, cost, and whether you need your health care provider to prescribe it.

Barrier Methods

These include male and female condoms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges, and diaphragms.

  • Condoms — Male condoms are usually made of latex and go over the penis. They capture the man’s ejaculation making them 87% effective. They also protect against sexually transmitted infections. Female condoms cover the inside of the vagina and work the same way as a male condom. They are 79% effective. That increases when used with other forms of birth control. Use a new condom every time you have sex.  
  • Cervical cap — It must be inserted deep into the vagina to cover the cervix, blocking access to the egg. It is up to 86% effective when used with spermicide. You need a prescription, and they can cost up to $90. Use a new one each time.
  • Diaphragm — You can use your diaphragm multiple times as long as you take care of it, and there are no holes or tears. It must be used with spermicide. Apply the spermicide no more than two hours before sex. You can keep your diaphragm in for up to six hours. Just add more spermicide. You need a prescription. They are 83% effective.
  • Sponge — It fits against the cervix to block sperms’ access to the egg. It also has spermicide. Spongesare between 78% and 86% effective. Put one in each time before sex.

Short-acting Hormonal Methods

These include birth control pills, patches, injections, and the vaginal ring. People who can become pregnant have to use these daily, monthly, or every three months.

  • The pill — There are two kinds: combination pills that have estrogen and progestin; and progestin-only pills. The combination pills are the most common. Taken daily, they prevent ovulation so there is no egg to fertilize. It does NOT protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and you will need a prescription.
  • The patch — It sends estrogen and progestin through the skin to stop ovulation when used on schedule. It must be changed weekly on the same day to be up to 93% effective. You need a prescription.
  • The ring — There are two brands but they essentially work the same way: put them inside the vagina and remove them monthly. One brand you replace monthly, the other you reinsert each month for up to a year. Both require a prescription. When used properly they are up to 93% effective.
  • The shot — It’s an injection of Depo-Provera taken every three months. It is 96% effective if taken on time, and contains progestin and prevents ovulation.

Long-lasting Hormone Devices

There are some longer-term options that still leave the door open for children but require less calendar watching. These birth control methods for people who can become pregnant include intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants.

  • The implant — You have it inserted in your arm and it releases hormones that stop you from ovulating. It’s about the size of a matchstick and you don’t have to think about it for five years. You can have your doctor remove it if you decide you want to get pregnant. It is 99% effective.
  • The IUD — That stands for intrauterine device. There are two types: copper and hormonal. The IUD goes into the uterus and stops sperm from going past either with hormones or copper. Copper IUDs are sometimes used as an alternative to the morning-after pill. IUDs are effective birth control for eight to 12 years.

Other Methods

Let’s start with the extreme methods of sterilization. There is tubal ligation for women and a vasectomy for men. Women have their fallopian tubes cut to prevent eggs from traveling to the uterus. Men have their vas deferens cut, preventing sperm from entering their semen so there will be no sperm when they ejaculate during intercourse.

The fertility awareness method is a way to track signs of fertility. You can combine several methods like tracking your temperature, checking your vaginal discharge, and charting your menstrual cycle to determine when you’re ovulating and avoid sexual intercourse during those times.

Some couples practice withdrawing, where the man pulls out of the woman’s vagina before ejaculating. This is only 78% effective as there can still be sperm that slips in right before ejaculation. It is most effective when combined with another form of birth control.

Mothers have used breastfeeding as an extremely effective form of birth control, but it has to be done perfectly to work. The newborn must be fed every four hours during the day and every six hours at night. Following this schedule keeps mom from ovulating – and she can’t get pregnant if she’s not ovulating. This method, called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) is 98% effective up to six months after the baby is born.

Finally, there is abstinence. No one can get pregnant if they’re not having sexual intercourse. They could be participating in other forms of sexual activity, but abstaining from intercourse is 100% effective.

Questions and support

AltaMed can answer your questions about birth control, offer counseling, provide pregnancy testing, information on safe sex, STIs and HIV tests and treatment, pap and HPV tests, or anything related to your sexual or reproductive health. We can also connect you with community resources.

Call (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.

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Birth Control Options Available to You