Understanding Your Birth Control Options

Apr 13, 2021
Understanding Your Birth Control Options
At Dekalb Women’s Specialists, we help women in Decatur, Lithonia, and Stone Mountain, Georgia, select the best birth control methods for their lifestyles, goals, and needs.

At Dekalb Women’s Specialists, we help women in Decatur, Lithonia, and Stone Mountain, Georgia, select the best birth control methods for their lifestyles, goals, and needs. We offer an array of options, along with education and guidance to help you make the right choice for you.

If you’re considering starting birth control or if you want to change the method you’re currently using, we can help. Here’s a quick review of some of the most popular options we offer at our practice.

Birth control basics

Medical contraceptives can be roughly divided into two categories, depending on how they work. Barrier methods work by preventing sperm from reaching the egg so fertilization can’t occur. Hormonal methods use small “doses” of estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy by:

  • Altering or inhibiting ovulation
  • Thickening the cervical mucus to block or “trap” sperm
  • Changing the uterine lining to prevent implantation

Within each category, there are several methods. Each method requires a different level of “participation” by the user, and they provide different levels of protection against pregnancy, as well.

Barrier methods

Many women use barrier methods to avoid taking hormones. Barrier methods include:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical cap
  • Sponge

Typically, these methods are used with a spermicide, an agent designed to kill sperm. Effectiveness ranges from about 70% for the cervical cap to about 88% for the diaphragm.

Most barrier methods require more involvement than hormonal methods. In order for these methods to be fully effective, they need to be used every time you have intercourse. Some methods, like the cervical cap or diaphragm, require “hands-on” insertion into the vagina.

Hormonal methods

Birth control pills are perhaps the most widely known hormonal contraceptive, but there are other options, too, including:

  • Vaginal ring
  • Birth control shots
  • Birth control patch
  • Implants
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

Women who use hormonal contraceptives tend to appreciate their “built-in” convenience: While birth control pills must be taken every day to remain effective, other methods require less involvement. For instance, some IUDs can remain in place for a decade before they need to be replaced. Implants can last up to three years. Patches and rings are replaced either weekly or monthly, while shots are repeated every three months.

Hormonal methods also tend to be more effective and reliable in preventing pregnancy, with effectiveness rates ranging from 91% for the pill, patch, and ring, to 99% for the implant and IUD. These contraceptives can also alter your periods. Many women find their periods are much lighter, and some may find they “spot” during their periods or between periods.

Natural methods

In addition to these medical options, some women prefer to practice “natural” birth control. These methods include abstinence, withdrawal (also called the pull-out method), and fertility awareness timing, or FAM. In FAM, women and their partners keep careful track of the ovulation cycle, avoiding intercourse when pregnancy is most likely to occur.

FAM is associated with up to 88% effectiveness, while withdrawal is about 78% effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy. Like barrier methods, natural birth control requires a lot more involvement and “remembering.” For instance, FAM requires constant awareness of your cycles, while withdrawal must be used each and every time you have intercourse.

Choose the method that’s best for you

Birth control is a very personal choice, and at Dekalb Women’s Specialists, we offer the education and information women need to select the best method for their unique needs and goals. To learn more about all your birth control options, call the office or use our online form and schedule an appointment today.