Whether you’ve been on the pill since you were a teenager or are only now beginning to explore your birth control options, it’s important to be educated as to what you decide to put in your body, and to trust. With multiple methods available to prevent pregnancy, we reached out to Dr. Raquel Dardik, gynecologist at NYU Langone Health for her expert insight into the world of contraception.
Selecting the Right One
When exploring the available options, it’s important you make the right decision for you now, and your goals for the future. Dr. Dardik explained, “Selecting the right birth control for any woman depends on a combination of factors.” These factors include when (or if) the woman plans to conceive in the future, what type of convenience or dosing they prefer, and side effects they can tolerate.
Another important factor in determining the right method for you is your prior medical history or any conditions you might have. “For example, women with clotting disorders should not use contraception containing estrogen, and women with large or distorted uterus may not be good candidates for an IUD,” Dr. Dardik elaborated.
Pills, patches, rings and implants, oh my! There are lots of available options extending beyond the pill or the condoms that you might be accustomed to. Here, Dr. Darik outlined each one, how they work, and any side effects or risks.
The Pill, The Patch, and the Ring:All these methods have a combination of estrogen and progesterone (in varying doses) and work by suppressing ovulation. While their timing and delivery method vary (pills are daily, patch is weekly, ring is monthly) they can all have common side effects such as break through bleeding, headaches.
Birth Control Implant (Nexplanon):This a long acting, reversible contraceptive method that contains progesterone only, not estrogen. Its main advantage is that once it’s placed it remains effective for several years. However, it does require placement and removal by a qualified professional, and with that comes the associated risks of the procedure. Because of its hormone content, progesterone, it can also have systemic side effects including bleeding, bloating, etc.
Intrauterine Device (IUD):There are three IUD options, the Mirena and Skyla which contain progesterone and once which is copper. All three devices provide excellent contraception for varied lengths (Mirena for 5 years, Skyla for 3 years and, Copper for 10 years). Side effects of the IUD range from break through bleeding and ovarian cysts and/or acne (in progesterone IUD) but a tradeoff for those is a very light or absent period and cramps. The copper IUD might bring a heavier or crampier period, although it generally doesn’t give irregular bleeding.
All IUDs of course require insertion and removal by a professional, and do have risks associated with the placement and removal. Of those, Dr. Dardik says, “Mirena and Skyla have grown in popularity among women for their ease of use and minimal side effects.”
Another available option is Depo Provera, which is a progesterone shot. While more permanent options for couples that do not have a desire for children include vasectomy or tubal ligation (“tube tying”.) And of course, condoms and diaphragms are barrier method options, too.
Dr. Darik concluded that, “Overall if children are not in the near future and for women who desire ease of use, the long acting reversible methods of contraception are ideal,” as they have a reasonable side effect profile and confer the best protection overall.
To help determine the best course of action for you and your partner, it’s always best to have a discussion with your gynecologist to review your specific and personal goals, concerns medical history, and any questions you might have.