Birth Control: The Pros, Cons, and FAQ’s
From the Ancient Egyptians to modern-day citizens, birth control continues to be a widely discussed and debated topic. Whether you refer to it as birth control, contraception, or pregnancy prevention, there’s a lot of information online about the different types of birth control, which one is the best for you, and lots of myths/stereotypes. I created this blog post to be used as a “Master Key” of birth control information. I have only utilized scientifically-proven information from reputable sources.
In order to properly discuss birth control, we have to do a brief history lesson. The first recorded use of birth control was in Ancient Egypt. They recorded use of honey and acacia leaves placed in the vagina to block sperm from fertilizing the female’s egg. Coitus interruptus, or the “pull-out method,” has its historical beginnings in the Book of Genesis and the Koran, as well as early Perisan civilizations. While reading about the history of these contraceptive inventions, it was interesting to read which substances were used to prevent pregnancy. The strides that the scientific community have made in the previous century have been monumental for the safety of women’s reproductive systems while preventing conception at the same time. More recently, there have been birth control movements since the 19th century. With the invention of the pill in the 1950’s and the FDA approval for contraceptive use in 1960, millions of women had access to contraception they thought was safe. While there would be many years of controversy and backlash from religious organizations as well as countries that suffered through the initial clinical trials, it was still a big stepping stone to get where we are today.
Most of the above contraceptive options I discuss below involve manipulating your natural hormones with false hormones. In the last decade more research has proven that the birth control pill and other hormonal contraceptives are linked to:
Increased inflammation which can lead to:
To learn more about Post Birth Control Syndrome from an expert, read this article by Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Here is a great article highlighting NON-hormonal forms of birth control.
These procedures prevent a woman from ovulating and a man from producing sperm. These procedures are non reversible, so great time and care of planning is required to make this kind of decision. Most commonly, women have a tubal ligation procedure (“getting their tubes tied”) and men have a vasectomy.
This procedure is permanent, so if you are not wanting to get pregnant for the rest of your life this is the best option. There is no chance of pregnancy for women because the fallopian tubes are tied off, meaning that the egg and sperm cannot reach each other.
While you are not able to conceive, a woman will still have her period each month which maintains her natural hormonal cycle.
There is no protection against STD’s. Proper testing and communication between partners (and using condoms) are very important to prevent partners from getting an STD.
The permanency of this procedure could be seen as a pro and a con. There are many factors to take into account before getting any sterilization procedure. Have discussions with your healthcare professional about your lifestyle, health, and future goals.
If you asked anyone about birth control, chances are the only one they’ll know of is “the pill.” There are two different types of birth control pills. The difference lies in the hormones that are released. Some birth control pills only release progestin, while others release a combination of hormones. Combination pills are the most common. If a woman takes her birth control pill at the same exact time each day, there is a 99% pregnancy prevention rate. The hormones in the pill prevent ovulation from occurring.
The birth control pill is effective and relatively affordable. This makes it accessible to many women.
The pill is also prescribed to women that are dealing with acne, severe menstrual cramps, and increased bleeding during their periods. Your period will lighten and become more bearable, according to this article from Healthline.
The convenience is a big plus for many women. The pack is small, so it can fit in a purse or bag. Setting an alarm on your phone will help you remember.
Taking a pill everyday at the same time can be hard for some people. Because the efficacy is dependent on staying on a strict schedule, some women find it to be stressful and hindersome to their normal schedules.
No STD protection.
Common side effects include spotting between cycles, sore breasts, and nausea. These side effects generally go away after a few months, however. (If you’re one of the few that has side effects lasting more than 3 months, then you have an assortment of other contraceptive options that I will discuss in the following sections).
Can affect mood, weight and future fertility.
IUD stands for Intrauterine device. It is one of the most common and effective forms of contraception. It is effective, and you don’t have to worry about taking medication everyday because the implant will always be in your uterus. The reversal process is easy as well if you change your mind. There are two types of IUD’s: copper IUD’s and hormonal IUD’s. Copper IUD’s don’t have hormones; instead they are wrapped in a tiny bit of copper. Sperm doesn’t like copper, so it prevents sperm from reaching an egg completely. Hormonal IUD’s use progestin to prevent pregnancy. Like birth control pills, there is no ovulation (no egg = no conception).
There are also five FDA-approved brands for IUD’s:
- Paragard (up to 12 years of protection, copper IUD)
- Mirena (up to 7 years of protection, hormonal IUD)
- Kyleena (up to 5 years of protection, hormonal IUD)
- Liletta (up to 7 years of protection, hormonal IUD)
- Skyla (up to 3 years of protection, hormonal IUD)
Copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception. If it is placed in your uterus 5 days after unprotected sex, it is 99.9% effective. It is more effective than the morning-after pill.
It lasts for years and you can get it, forget about it, and be protected against pregnancy.
Like the birth control pills, the (hormonal) IUD lessens your period and makes symptoms more bearable.
There is no STD protection.
Insertion procedures can hurt.
There can be negative side effects (heavy bleeding and cramping) for 3-6 months.
This is another “get it and forget it” form of birth control. The arm implant is also referred to as Nexplanon. A doctor places this implant inside your arm. It is small and thin, about the size of a match. The pregnancy protection lasts for up to 5 years. This is another method that uses progestin to stop ovulation and prevent fertilization. This option is not permanent and can be removed by your doctor.
More than 99% effective.
LIke an IUD, you don’t have to worry about it.
No STD protection.
Irregular bleeding can last for 6-12 months after insertion.
There may be temporary pain at the insertion site.
This is an every three months option for women to receive a progestin shot from their doctor. If taken every three months, there is a 99% prevention rate.
Quick and easy, as well as private. No discreet packaging in your bag to worry about.
Decreases period flow, and sometimes eliminates it all together
Additional cost may be required for an exam before you get your first shot. Depending on your insurance, you may incur an additional cost.
If you choose to stop receiving the shot in order to get pregnant, you may see a delay of 9-10 months before you get pregnant.
There are two types of vaginal rings. Both have the same function, the release of hormones 24/7 to prevent pregnancy and needs to be replaced periodically. The NuvaRing needs to be replaced every five weeks on average, and can also be used to manipulate your cycle to skip your period altogether. ANNOVERA lasts for one year, and is taken out 7 days out of your 28 day cycle.
Reduces acne and severity of cramps.
You can get pregnant right away after stopping use of the ring.
Like the pill, if you do not stay on schedule for replacing your ring, you will have a higher chance of conceiving.
Only 91% effective if used correctly. It’s still good prevention, but not as effective as other options.
The patch can be worn on your stomach or back. It needs to be changed every week. This works the same way as other birth control methods - stopping ovulation by the body’s absorption of hormones like estrogen and progestin.
When used correctly is it 91% effective.
Helps reduce acne and PMS-related cramping.
There’s only a small delay (on average) after you stop using the patch that most women can conceive.
You have to change the patch on time.
Higher maintenance than an IUD or implant.
*If you took sex education in school you’ll remember this, but abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy 100%*
The topic of birth control is vast and full of information (both reputable and non reputable). Choosing a contraceptive method that works for you takes lots of research and conversations with your partner and healthcare professional. In order to make an informed decision, you need all the information. I hope I provided that in this blog, but if you have any inquiries schedule a consult with me, Carly Neubert BA, NC.