With many different options available, it can be difficult to navigate which method of contraception is best for your needs. Knowing your options and understanding how each method of contraception works can help you make an informed decision.
In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of contraception available and discuss their effectiveness, benefits, and risks, so you can make the best choice for you.
Why is Contraception Important?
Contraception plays a crucial role in allowing individuals the freedom to decide if and when they want to become parents. It helps in preventing unplanned pregnancies, which can have negative effects on both the mental and physical health of young people. Additionally, some methods of contraception also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
STIs can have both immediate and long-lasting effects on an individual’s health. In the short-term, an STI may cause symptoms like discomfort, discharge, or visible sores, though some may have no noticeable symptoms at all. If left untreated, an STI can lead to more severe health complications, such as chronic pelvic pain or infertility, and certain STIs, such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV), can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Therefore, making educated decisions about contraception is essential for staying safe, healthy, and in control of your future.
Types of Contraception
Barrier methods physically prevent sperm from reaching the egg, thus avoiding pregnancy; some are also effective against contracting STIs. Common barrier methods include:
- Male Condoms (external condoms): These are worn over the penis during intercourse and are made from latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene. They come in different sizes, and it important to use the correct size to improve their effectiveness. Some condoms are also covered with a spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm). When used correctly, condoms also provide the best protection against STIs and HIV.
- Female Condoms (internal condoms): Made from nitrile, female condoms are inserted into the vagina before intercourse. They have two flexible rings at each end (one inside and the other around the opening) and can be inserted up to eight hours before sex. While less commonly used than male condoms, they also provide STI protection.
- Diaphragms & Cervical Caps: These dome-shaped devices, made from silicone or latex, are inserted into the vagina before intercourse to cover the cervix. They are typically used with spermicide to increase effectiveness. These contraception methods are not as effective in preventing pregnancy as most other types of contraception, but they do offer some protection against cervical cancer and some STIs, because the diaphragm or cap covers and protects the main body parts at risk of infection.
Hormonal methods of contraception involve regulating a woman’s hormones to prevent ovulation or thicken cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach the egg. Hormone methods do not protect against STIs, so it is important to use other forms of contraception if you are at risk of contracting an STI. Some popular hormonal methods include:
- Birth Control Pills: These are taken daily to prevent pregnancy and come in various types, such as combined oral contraceptives (COCs) and progestin-only pills (POPs), also known as the “mini-pill.” COCs work on a 28-day cycle, with the pill typically taken every day at the same time for 21 days, with a 7-day break, unlike POPs, where the pill is taken daily without a break.
- Birth Control Patches: A thin, square patch applied to the skin that gradually releases hormones. Patches work on a 28-day cycle in the same way as combined oral contraceptives. The patch is changed weekly for 21 days, followed by a 7-day patch-free break.
- Birth Control Vaginal Ring: A small, flexible ring inserted into the vagina that releases hormones and is replaced monthly. The device prevents pregnancy in the same way as the combined oral contraceptives.
Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC)
LARC methods are highly effective, reversible forms of contraception to protect against pregnancy and require little to no maintenance for extended periods. Unlike barrier contraception methods, LARC methods do not protect against STIs. Some popular LARC options include:
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): A small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus that prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. IUDs can last between 3-10 years and come in hormonal or copper options. A healthcare provider can check on the IUD during wellness visits to ensure it remains positioned correctly.
- Implants: A small rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm, releasing hormones and preventing pregnancy for up to 3 years.
Emergency contraception is a method used after unprotected intercourse or if another form of contraception fails. It should not be used as regular birth control but can prevent pregnancy when needed. Some emergency contraception options include:
- Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs): Commonly known as the “morning-after pill,” ECPs contain high doses of hormones to prevent ovulation or fertilization. It should be taken as soon as possible within 72 hours (three days) of having unprotected intercourse.
- Copper IUD: A non-hormonal option that can be inserted within 5 days of unprotected intercourse and prevents pregnancy by inhibiting sperm movement and fertilization.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Contraception
Choosing the right contraception involves considering personal preferences, medical history, and lifestyle factors. Other essential aspects to keep in mind include:
- Effectiveness: Each method of contraception has a different effectiveness rate, which is why it’s crucial to choose one that fits your needs and is used correctly.
- STI Protection: While some methods provide protection against STIs, others do not. If you’re at risk of contracting an STI, barrier methods, such as condoms, are recommended.
- Side Effects: Different forms of contraception can have varying side effects. For example, hormonal methods may cause changes in mood, abnormal menstruation, and weight gain in some individuals. Hormonal methods may also not be recommended for some individuals with specific medical conditions.
- Cost: Some forms of contraception require a one-time purchase, while others need to be refilled or replaced regularly. Cost can be a significant factor in choosing the right contraception.
- Ease of Use: Some methods require daily or weekly use, while others only need to be inserted every few years. It’s important to choose a method that fits your lifestyle and is easy for you to consistently use.
Talk to a Healthcare Professional
Before making any decisions about contraception, it’s crucial to talk to a healthcare professional. They can provide you with accurate information, answer any questions or concerns you may have, and help you find the right method for your needs. You can talk to your primary care physician, gynecologist, or visit a local family planning clinic.
Remember, contraception is not just about preventing pregnancy and STIs; it’s also about taking control of your reproductive health and staying safe. By educating yourself and making informed choices, you can ensure a healthy and happy future.
Contraception Near Me in Purchase, NY
If you would like to find out what type of contraception will work best for you, visit BridgeSpan Medicine, located in Purchase, New York. Our dedicated and nonjudgmental team of adolescent medicine specialists provides compassionate, high-quality, comprehensive healthcare for teens and young adults ages 15-21.
Our services include adolescent medical care, sexual wellness services (including contraception, STI testing, LGBTQIA+ support, and transgender medicine), mental health services, and much more.
To find out more about our sexual wellness services or to schedule a private consultation with one of our providers, call us today at (914) 698-5544 or use our convenient Request an Appointment form. We look forward to providing you with the care you need to stay as healthy as possible.