Five Things You May Not Know About Birth Control

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers birth control one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century? Besides being the most reliable and effective way to avoid unplanned pregnancy, birth control also gives women the ability to time the pregnancies they do plan to have.

If you’re like many women in the United States, you’ve used birth control at least once in your life — and perhaps on a regular basis. Because birth control has come a long way since the pill was first introduced in the 1960s, the range of available options is wider than ever before.

Even so, no single birth control method is right for all women at all times — your needs change as you move through the various stages of your reproductive life. Here at Dr. Wendy Hurst in Englewood, New Jersey, we’ve helped countless women understand their options and find the form of birth control that best suits their needs.

Read on to learn some important facts about contraception that you may not already know.

Hormonal birth control comes in many forms

Oral contraception, aka the pill, is usually the first thing that comes to mind when discussing hormonal birth control. But while the pill may have been the first of its kind, it’s no longer the only hormonal contraception available.

The pill, which contains estrogen and progestin, prevents ovulation so that there’s no egg available for fertilization when you have sex. For women who shouldn’t take estrogen (including women who have had breast cancer, or women over the age of 35 who smoke), there’s a progestin-only “mini” pill that works by preventing sperm from reaching an egg.     

Some women like the fact that hormonal birth control can make their periods lighter and more regular, but they don’t necessarily like the idea of taking a pill at the same time every day. If that sounds like you, you may find a better match in the contraceptive patch, birth control shot, or vaginal ring.

The vaginal ring and the contraceptive patch, both of which release hormones at a slow, continuous rate, stay in place for three weeks at a time. With each of these methods, you take a week off before repeating the cycle. The birth control shot gives you an injection of progestin that lasts for three months, so you only need to get it four times each year.

IUDs are the most effective form of birth control

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped implement that’s placed in your uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. As a form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), IUDs are designed to stay in place for 3-10 years, depending on the type, but can also be removed at any time.

IUDs are the birth control method of choice for many women’s health specialists; in fact, female gynecologists and family planning experts are about seven times more likely than the average woman to choose an IUD as their primary form of birth control.

So what do these professionals know that you may not? For starters, IUDs are 99% effective — the only more effective form of birth control is complete abstinence. Secondly, IUDs provide long-lasting protection that you don’t have to think about for years at a time. Finally, IUDs are easy to reverse — when a gynecologist removes your IUD, you can start trying to conceive the very same day.  

There are two types of IUDs available. A hormonal IUD releases progestin, which helps thicken cervical mucus to block and trap sperm, while a nonhormonal copper IUD releases copper ions, which act as a highly-effective spermicide.

Only condoms offer protection against STDs

Various forms of birth control offer various rates of effectiveness for preventing pregnancy. For example, the pill and the vaginal ring are each 91% effective when used as directed, while the birth control shot is 94% effective, and an IUD is 99% effective.

Condoms, on the other hand, are just 85% effective at preventing pregnancy when used properly. While that may not seem as impressive compared to other contraception methods, condoms have one important advantage that you can’t get from any other form of birth control — they help protect against sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).   

Combining condoms with your main form of birth control is the best way to protect yourself from contracting an STD, particularly if you have more than one partner.  

There are two types of emergency contraception

We all know that half of life is planned, and the other half is filled with slip-ups, hiccups, and misadventures. If you find yourself worrying about the possibility of pregnancy following unprotected sex or birth control failure, such as a broken condom, you may still be able to prevent pregnancy by using emergency contraception.

First, it’s important to know that sperm can live inside your body for up to six days after sex. If you happen to ovulate within that time, the sperm can join with an egg and cause pregnancy.

Because pregnancy doesn’t usually occur immediately, however, it’s possible to prevent it from happening, as long as you use emergency contraception fairly quickly.

The most effective type of emergency contraception is a copper-releasing IUD — if it’s inserted by a doctor within 120 hours, or five days, after having unprotected sex, it’s 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The other type of emergency contraception is called the morning-after pill. It works by temporarily stopping your ovary from releasing any eggs. This method is most effective when taken within 72 hours, or three days, after unprotected sex. The sooner you take a morning-after pill, the better it works.

It’s important to note that the morning-after pill is used to prevent a pregnancy, not end one, and shouldn’t be confused with the abortion pill.  

More women use permanent birth control than you may think

Permanent birth control, also known as sterilization, is the second most popular form of birth control following the pill. It’s often the most convenient option for sexually active women who feel their family is complete. It’s also a valuable option for women who are certain that they never want to have children.

Dr. Wendy Hurst has performed hundreds of tubal ligation procedures for women who no longer want to worry about birth control. This quick and simple surgical procedure seals off both of your fallopian tubes so that your eggs can no longer reach your uterus. Because the procedure is done laparoscopically, it’s minimally invasive and requires little recovery time.

A tubal ligation works immediately and is 99.5% effective for preventing pregnancy. When you have a tubal ligation, you no longer have to think about — or pay for — daily birth control. Not having to worry about birth control can also help facilitate sexual spontaneity between you and your partner.

No matter where you are in life, there’s a birth control method that will work well for you. At Dr. Wendy Hurst, we’re ready to help you find it. Call our Englewood office today, or book your appointment online.

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