I know birth control can be a little bit of a touchy subject for some, but as a relationship blogger & columnist, I feel it’s almost irresponsible if I don’t at least mention it.
Let’s just get this out of the way: yes, I’m on birth control. I have been for about 8 years. I never thought anything of it, until I missed my period and found out I was pregnant. I had an abortion, and it was quite terrifying and emotionally draining—not something I would recommend on anyone. With that procedure came a prescription for birth control, and I’ve been on it ever since.
There’s several different TYPES of birth control and every person probably prefers something different. I use the NuvaRing, which I like because you insert it once a month, it stays there for three weeks, you take it out for a week, and then put a new one in. Voila, no babies.
The scary thing, though, is that of course it could come out without you realizing it. This hasn’t ever happened to me — it’s come out, but I knew it. If it does come out, you’ve got three hours to put it back in without any consequences (hormonally).
But have you ever wondered about what birth control is putting into your body? While I don’t lose sleep over it, I do think about it. Here’s some popular types:
- Combination Pill—Estrostep Fe, LoEstrin 1/20, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo, Yasmin, Yaz. The Good: This birth control mainstay is still 99% effective against pregnancy when taken around the same time every day. It’s also known for easing hot flashes and restoring regular periods. Avoid it if you smoke or have migraines.
- Progestin-only Pill—Micronor, Nora-BE, Nor-QD, Ovrette. The Good: Known as the mini pill, progestin-only meds don’t contain estrogen. They’re safer for smokers, diabetics, and heart disease patients, as well as those at risk for blood clots. They also won’t reduce the milk supply for women who are breast-feeding.
- Extended Cycle Pill—Lybrel, Seasonale, Seasonique. The Good: These pills prevent pregnancy and allow you to have a period only every three months. (Note: Lybrel stops your period for a year, but you must take a pill every day, year-round.) Fact: There’s no evidence proving it’s dangerous not to have periods, but there is still no long-term research to show that it is safe.
- Diaphragm—Milex Wide Seal, Ortho All-Flex, Semina, SILCS. The Good: Made of rubber and shaped like a dome, a diaphragm prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. It covers the cervix and must always be used with a spermicide. Women must be fitted for a diaphragm in their doctor’s office. Fact: If your weight tends to fluctuate by more than 10 pounds at a time, the diaphragm may not work. If you gain or lose weight, you’ll need to be refitted. Prone to bladder infections? You might want to consider another option.
- IUD—Mirena, ParaGard. The Good: ParaGard is a surgically implanted copper device that prevents sperm from reaching the egg. Mirena, also surgically implanted, works by releasing hormones. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are more than 99% effective and good for 10 years. Fact: Some doctors recommend the device only for women who have given birth. When the device is implanted, your uterus is expanded, and this might cause pain in women who have not had children. If you’re planning on having children in a year or two, look at other options. The IUD can be removed, but the high cost—up to $500—might not be worth it for short-term use.
- Patch—Ortho Evra. The Good: You can place the hormone-releasing patch on your arm, buttock, or abdomen, and rest easy for one week. Fact: If you’re particularly at risk for blood clots, you might want to find a different method. The patch delivers 60% more estrogen than a low-dose pill, so you’re at an increased risk for dangerous blood clots.
- Implant—Implanon, Norplant. The Good: About the size of a matchstick, the implant is placed under the skin on your upper arm. Implants last for three years and can cost up to $800. They are nearly 100% effective. Fact: Implanon may not work as well for women taking St. John’s wort, or women who are overweight.
Of course, there are condoms (male and female). I didn’t put these in the list, because depending on the situation, it’s a smart idea to use a condom AND another form of birth control. Call me paranoid, but here’s the fact: using a hormonal type of birth control does not do anything to protect you against an STD.
You may thing, oh that would never happen to me, but if you’ve ever had an STD scare (I have, read about it here) you’d know that it’s really, really scary. Using condoms will NOT protect you from every STD, but it will decrease your chances of getting most STDs. I wouldn’t suggest relying solely on condoms, because they can break and then… you’re screwed in more ways than one.
As for the hormones? Women may experience side effects from the hormones during the first three months of use. The side effects include moodiness (ha), nausea, lighter periods. As for that fear of weight gain? There’s no such proof, especially if you use low-dose.
Finally, I wanted to mention the Plan B pill, because yes, I’ve had to take this as well, and it’s something that has changed over its years on the market. The Plan B pill serves as emergency contraception is a backup for regular birth control. Plan B contains a higher dose of the same synthetic hormones found in the combination pill. It works best if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but may work up to five days later. Plan B, known as the morning-after pill, is available over-the-counter at most pharmacies, but only to women 18 years and older. Minors need a prescription.
What type(s) do you use? What works and what doesn’t? What experiences have you had?