The Basics of Birth Control

When it comes to the wide-ranging field of birth control, it’s natural for many women these days to be left feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what kind of birth control is right for them. At HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN, Salinas doctors, patients have a wide variety of options to explore when it comes to finding the birth control that works best for them — whether it’s hormonal methods like birth control pills, intrauterine devices, barrier methods like condoms, natural family planning, or sterilization, HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN’S gynecology doctors can help women of all ages explore their options and find the method or methods that they are most comfortable with. HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN can also educate women about emergency contraception, like the over-the-counter Plan B option.

Some women may not know this, but even if you have not yet started having your period, or if you are getting close to menopause, you could still be running the risk of pregnancy if you are engaging in unprotected sex. Statistics show that each year approximately 85% who don’t use birth control have an unplanned pregnancy, and in the United States about half the pregnancies every year are unplanned.

Birth Control Methods

So what are some of your options when it comes to birth control? Getting a brief introduction into the methods will likely give you a better idea of what type of birth control is best for your specific needs and preferences.

  • Barrier Methods – Generally speaking, barrier methods do not prevent pregnancy as effectively as hormonal methods or IUD’s, and they must be used EVERY TIME that you have sex. Barrier methods Include condoms, sponges, and diaphragms. Condoms have the advantage of protecting against some types of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Hormonal MethodsBirth control that uses hormones is statistically very good at preventing pregnancy. Hormonal methods include birth control pills, the vaginal ring (Nuva Ring), the patch (Ortho Evra), the Depo Provera injection, and Implanon, the single-rod implant. Some of these methods must be used every day. Others are longer-acting; Implanon lasts 3 years.
  • Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) – IUD’s are inserted into your uterus, work for 5-10 years at a time, and are a very safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. They are as effective as sterilization methods but are reversible. The Mirena IUD contains a hormone that can help with heavy periods and cramping. The Paragard IUD is hormone-free.
  • Natural Family Planning – Also referred to as “fertility awareness”, Natural Family Planning can be effective provided that you and your sexual partner are extremely careful, and are especially mindful of what times of the month are best to engage in sexual activity. Women practicing natural family planning are strongly encouraged to keep good records so as to know when they are fertile; and for times when you ARE fertile, you will need to abstain from sex, or use a barrier method. This method is not appropriate for women who do not have regular menstrual cycles.
  • Sterilization – Permanent birth control methods are appropriate for couples who have completed their families. Options for women include tubal ligation and Essure. Men can undergo a procedure called vasectomy.

When choosing your birth control method, it is important to consider your lifestyle and desire for future childbearing. At HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN, our physicians are happy to discuss these issues and help you find the birth control method that is best for you.