Your great-great-great grandmother probably had to rely on your great-great-great grandfather’s self-control in order to control her family size. Withdrawal and other forms of natural birth control are among the reasons that couples used to have so many more children than they do now.
Luckily, you have more freedom than your ancestors did when it comes to planning and achieving your ideal family size. However, different forms of birth control offer varying levels of protection, ease, and safety.
At Elite Gynecology in New York City, our caring and knowledgeable gynecologists, Molly McBride, MD, and Tamara Guichard, MD, help you make the choice that’s right for you, right now. If you’re ready for birth control, here are some things you should know.
You still need condoms
Unless you’re in a strictly monogamous relationship, and each of you is free of sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STIs and STDs), you still need to use a condom when you have sexual intercourse. Although most other forms of birth control range in effectiveness from 86-99% against pregnancy, they offer 0% protection against STIs and STDs.
You can choose from male condoms, which your male partner wears over his penis, or female condoms, which you wear inside your vagina. Male condoms alone and female condoms alone are 85% and 79% effective against pregnancy, respectively. They also reduce the risk that you and your partner share bodily fluids during sex.
Even though condoms are necessary for safer sex, they don’t completely reduce your risk for STIs and STDs. You must check them for holes before wearing them. They can also leak.
In addition, some STIs aren’t transmitted by bodily fluids. Both herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) can be transmitted by fingering, dry humping, and other forms of intimate touch.
Your choice should match your lifestyle
Whether you have sex daily or intermittently, there’s a form of birth control for that. When your sex life is regular, you might benefit from birth control methods that are relatively permanent or don’t need to be attended to often, such as:
- Birth control patch, 93% effective
- Birth control shot, 96%
- Birth control pill, 93%
- Birth control implant, 99%
- Vaginal ring, 91%
- Intrauterine device (IUD) 99%
An IUD can stay in place for 3-12 years at a time. Implants last 5 years. Other methods need to be taken daily (pills) or replaced or administered at regular intervals (implants, patches, and shots).
If you don't have sex on a regular basis, or if you’d rather avoid hormones or an IUD, you might choose a barrier method that you can take with you and use at will.
Some choices include:
- Condoms, 79-85% effective
- Cervical cap with spermicide, 71-86%
- Birth control sponges, 78-86%
- Spermicide alone, 79-86%
- Diaphragm with spermicide, 87%
A drawback to at-will forms of birth control is that you may not always have your method with you when you need it. During your contraception consultation, we help you decide which method is best for your lifestyle and needs.
Hormonal birth control has extra benefits
Hormonal birth control is highly effective against pregnancy, and it offers extra benefits, too. Hormonal birth control can regulate your periods. If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it may alleviate your symptoms.
Benefits of hormonal contraception include:
- Lighter or no periods
- Less pain and cramping
- More regular periods
- Fewer acne breakouts
- Helps with thinning hair
- Helps with unwanted facial hair
- Manages endometriosis
- Reduces ovarian cysts
Hormonal birth control has been shown to protect against uterine cancer. Also, if you normally have heavy periods, the lighter periods you experience on hormonal birth control reduce your risk of anemia.
You can get emergency contraception, too
If you forget or don’t have birth control, you’re at risk for an unwanted pregnancy every time you have intercourse. If you do have unprotected sex and don’t want a baby, you still have options. We offer emergency contraception at our offices.
In addition to oral medications that prevent pregnancy, we might also recommend a copper IUD. Copper IUDs don’t contain hormones. However, they not only prevent pregnancy beforehand, they can also prevent fertilization and implantation when inserted within five days after unprotected intercourse.
You can get pregnant when you’re ready
Unless you’ve opted for permanent sterilization, all forms of birth control are reversible. You simply stop using barrier methods and most hormonal methods. If you have an implant or an IUD, however, your doctor must remove it.
Find the right birth control for you, right now by contacting our office nearest you — in Midtown East, Murray Hill, New York City, or Forest Hills, New York — or use our online appointment button.