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Birth Control: Your Quick and Easy Guide to Making the Right Choice
Birth control is a prevention method used to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It works by keeping the sperm from fertilizing an egg and is used by both men and women. From hormonal pills to patches, condoms, and intrauterine devices, there are many types of birth control for men and women.
So how do you know which birth control option is right for you? In this article, we’ll discuss all the different types of birth control methods, their effectiveness, the possible side effects, and some natural birth control options.
Different types of birth control
Whether you prefer a hormonal approach or a barrier method, there’s something for everyone.
Birth control for men
- Condom: It’s a barrier device that catches sperm during intercourse, preventing it from reaching the egg. It’s also the only method that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Vasectomy: This is a surgical procedure for permanent male sterilization. It involves sealing, tying, or cutting the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, effectively preventing sperm from being part of the ejaculate.
Birth control options for women
There are two types of birth control for women: hormonal and non-hormonal. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Hormonal birth control methods
- Birth Control Implant: This tiny rod releases progestin, a hormone that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens the cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg.
- Intrauterine Device (IUD): An IUD is a small T-shaped device that a doctor inserts into the uterus. It changes how sperm cells move so they can’t reach an egg. IUDs can be hormonal (release progestin) or copper, which is non-hormonal.
- Birth control shot: This is an injection of the hormone progestin prescribed by a doctor every three months. It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg and increases the mucus buildup around the cervix to stop sperm from entering.
- Birth control vaginal ring: The vaginal ring is a small, flexible plastic inserted into the vagina. It releases estrogen and progestin, preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus to stop sperm.
- Birth control patch: The patch is a small, sticky square worn on your skin. It releases hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs and thicken your cervical mucus.
- Birth control pill: The pill releases hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs.
Non-Hormonal birth control for women
- Copper IUD: A small, T-shaped device inserted into the uterus, the copper IUD is non-hormonal. It works by releasing copper ions, which are toxic to sperm.
- Internal condom: Also known as a female condom, this pouch is inserted into your vagina. It acts as a physical barrier to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.
- Diaphragm, Birth Control Sponge, and Cervical Cap: These are barrier methods that physically prevent sperm from reaching an egg. They are typically used with spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm, to increase effectiveness.
- Sterilization (Tubal Ligation): This surgical procedure permanently closes or blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing an egg from reaching the uterus and meeting the sperm.
Birth control effectiveness, benefits, and side effects
The effectiveness of birth control depends on the method you choose. It’s important to remember that this serves as a broad guide to help you make informed decisions about your reproductive health.
However, it doesn’t substitute for professional medical advice. Your healthcare provider can offer tailored guidance, taking into account your individual health history, lifestyle, and specific needs.
Here’s a quick overview:
|Birth control options||Type||Effectiveness||Benefits||Side Effects|
|Condoms||Male||98%||Protects against STIs, inexpensive, widely available||Possible latex allergies, can break or slip|
|Vasectomy||Male||<99%||Permanent, one-time procedure||Surgical risks, usually irreversible|
|Birth control implant||Female-Hormonal||<99%||Lasts up to 3 years, highly effective||Irregular bleeding, may cause weight gain|
|Hormonal IUD||Female-Hormonal||99%||Lasts 3-5 years, may reduce menstrual pain||Can cause hormonal side effects, insertion pain|
|Copper IUD||Female-Non-hormonal||99%||Lasts up to 10 years, hormone-free||Can cause heavier periods, insertion pain|
|Birth Control Shot||Female-Hormonal||<99%||Convenient, lasts for 3 months||May cause weight gain, bone loss with long-term use|
|Birth control vaginal ring||Female-Hormonal||<99%||Doesn't require daily attention, may improve acne||Possible vaginal irritation, doesn't protect against STIs|
|Birth control patch||Female-Hormonal||<99%||Last for a week, regulates menstrual cycle||Skin irritation, doesn't protect against STIs|
|Birth control pill||Female-Hormonal||91%||Helps regulate periods||Must be taken daily, can cause mild side effects like nausea|
|Internal condom||Female-Non-hormonal||95%||Protects against STIs, can be inserted hours before sex||Can be difficult to insert, may slip|
|Diaphragm||Female-Non-hormonal||92% to 96%||Can be inserted hours before sex, hormone-free||Must be used with spermicide, risk of urinary tract infections|
|Birth control sponge||Female-Non-hormonal||91% for those who never gave birth & 80% for those who have||Easy to use, available over-the-counter||Must be left in place for 6 hours after sex, risk of toxic shock syndrome|
|Cervical cap||Female-Non-hormonal||80.4%||Can be inserted hours before sex, reusable||May cause irritation or allergies, lower effectiveness for women who've given birth|
|Sterilization (Tubal Ligation)||Female-Non-hormonal||<99%||Permanent, one-time procedure||Surgical risks, usually irreversible|
How much do they cost?
The cost of birth control methods can vary widely, depending on the method, brand, doctor visitation charges, and your health insurance coverage.
- Condoms: Male condoms usually, on average, cost $1 or less, depending on the brand. Internal condoms for women are more expensive, ranging between $2.5 to $5 each.
- Birth control pills: According to a survey, birth control pills from known brands range between $22 to $303 a month.
- Patches and Rings: These cost nearly $30 per month, while Rings can cost up to $200 with insurance.
- Birth control shot: Typically costs around $30 to $75 per shot, plus any associated doctor’s visit fees.
- Birth control implant and IUDs: Cost of birth control implants can range between $0 to $1300, while FDA-approved IUDs cost anywhere between $833 to $1000.
- Female sterilization (tubal ligation) and vasectomy: Female sterilization is more expensive and can cost from $0 to $6000, and vasectomy typically, on average, costs $1000, plus follow-ups and aftercare charges.
Choosing the right birth control method is a personal decision. Consider factors like effectiveness, side effects, cost, and lifestyle — no ‘one size fits all’ solution exists. Be open to honest discussions with your healthcare provider about your contraceptive needs and concerns.
Many health clinics and community health centers offer lower-cost options, and some health insurance plans may cover the cost of birth control entirely. Consult your healthcare provider for the most accurate information.