Birth Control Options
Sex & Relationships

Birth control: Weighing the options

There are tons of varieties of birth control available, but choosing one that works for you is a very personal experience.

With so many options, there is likely one out there that will suit you. Of course, when choosing a form of birth control, you should always weigh the options while taking your health and safety into consideration.

Birth control will empower you and promote your well-being by giving you more control over your sexual health and the ability to plan if, or when, you want to have children.

Some of the main birth control options are:

  • Abstinence
  • Birth Control Implant
  • Birth Control Pill
  • Birth Control Vaginal Ring
  • Condoms
  • Copper IUD (Intrauterine Device)
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Fertility Awareness
  • Hormonal IUD (Intrauterine Device)
  • Withdrawal

Each of the above forms of birth control have their own pros and cons in promoting your health and range in effectiveness, while some of them may even be new to some of us.

Here is a simplified guide to the most common birth control options, so you can get an idea of what you would prefer.

Abstinence

In this case, this one will be defined as not engaging in any sexual activity whatsoever including vaginal, oral, anal sex etc.

Pros:

  • Convenient because you don’t need anything or anyone besides yourself
  • 100% effective
  • No health risks

Cons:

  • No sexy time

Birth Control Implant

It is a tiny thin rod (about the size of a matchstick) that’s inserted into your arm and releases hormones that prevent pregnancy.

Pros:

  • Very low maintenance (once inserted, it can remain there for up to 5 years)
  • Takes 5 minutes to implant (can be done by a nurse or at a Sexual Health Clinic)
  • More than 99% effective

Cons:

  • Can be expensive, ranging from $0-1,300 depending on health insurance options
  • Does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections STIs
  • Can have very rare but serious side effects (ask your doctor for more information)
  • Effectiveness decreases overtime
  • Need a nurse to remove it

Birth Control Pill

Birth control pills are tiny pills prescribed by a doctor that come in a pack so you can take one everyday of the month at the same time (except when you are on your period). The pill releases hormones that prevent the egg from attaching to the walls of the uterus, preventing pregnancy.

Pros:

  • Convenient (if you can remember to take a pill everyday, at the same time)
  • Can help with acne by regulating your hormones
  • About 99% effective, if used correctly

Cons:

  • Some foods and medicines have been known to interfere with the pill’s effectiveness (ask your doctor for details)
  • May cause some rare but serious side effects (due to changes in your hormones)
  • Does not prevent STIs
  • Have to remember to take it everyday at the same time

Birth Control Vaginal Ring

Also known as a ‘NuvaRing’, it prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from meeting the egg. It also thickens the mucus that lives on the cervix so that it makes it harder for the sperm to swim to an egg. You have to insert the ring into your vagina once a month, at the right time every month.

Pros:

  • About 91% effective
  • Can help treat hormonal acne, PMS and make your period more regular
  • You can leave it in all the time (ie. during sex, sports, etc.)

Cons:

  • Certain medicines can make it less effective
  • Prices vary, ranging between $0-200 (on top of the cost of the visit to the doctor to get a prescription)
  • Risk of some rare health complications (ask your doctor during your appointment)
  • Does not prevent against STIs

Condoms

To use condoms effectively, be sure to read the instructions on the box and make sure to always put it on before engaging in intercourse.

Pros:

  • 98% effective when used perfectly, but nobody’s perfect so it’s more like 85% effective.
  • Prevents STIs (when used properly)
  • Easy to travel with
  • Affordable option

Cons:

  • Risk of the condom breaking or not being used correctly (which may lead to an unwanted pregnancy or contracting an STI

Copper IUD (Intrauterine Device)

Sometimes referred to as a non hormonal IUD, it’s a tiny T-shaped plastic device wrapped in copper wire and implanted into your uterus through your cervix. The copper causes an inflammatory reaction toxic to sperm and eggs, preventing pregnancy.

Pros:

  • One of the most effective birth controls at 99% effective
  • Once implanted by a doctor or nurse, it works for up to 10 years
  • Simple and safe procedure (takes about 5 minutes)

Cons:

  • Does not prevent against STIs
  • There can be some mild short-term side effects (bleeding between periods, cramps, severe bleeding or menstrual pain)
  • Slight risk of expelling the IUD from your uterus (eliminating its effectiveness)
  • May cause an allergic reaction

Emergency Contraception

Known as the “Morning After Pill’, emergency contraception is for when accidents happen and shouldn’t be used as a preventative birth control. The most common brands are Plan B and ellaOne, and can be taken for up to a 5 days after unprotected sex.

Pros:

  • If taken properly and within 24 hours after unprotected sex, it is around 95% effective
  • It’s a safe and effective back-up plan
  • Available at most pharmacies

Cons:

  • Ranges in price depending on the brand, but generally somewhere between $40-50
  • After 72 hours, the effectiveness goes down to about 89%
  • Some mild side effects (anything painful should be reported to your doctor)

Fertility Awareness

Fertility awarness is tracking the days that you are fertile so that you can avoid having sex during this time of the month. Can be done through an app or calendar, it has a lot of other benefits that include, an understanding of your menstrual cycle, PMS symptoms and can help you get pregnant later on.

Pros:

  • About 76-88% effective.
  • An all natural option

Cons:

  • Not effective for STI prevention
  • Less effective than other methods

Hormonal IUD (Intrauterine Device)

A tiny T-shaped plastic device implanted into your uterus through your cervix releasing the hormone progestin. Progestin thickens the mucus in the cervix and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent sperm from getting to the egg and attaching to the walls of the uterus (pregnancy).

Pros:

  • One of the most effective birth controls at 99% effective
  • Convenient. Once implanted by a nurse, it works for up to 5 years
  • Simple and safe procedure (takes about 5 minutes)

Cons:

  • Does not prevent against STIs
  • There can be some mild short-term side effects including headaches, acne, breast tenderness, mood changes, cramping and irregular bleeding
  • Slight risk of expelling the IUD from your uterus (eliminating its effectiveness)

Withdrawal

Also known as ‘pulling out’, withdrawal is a way to prevent pregnancy by keeping semen away from the vagina, requiring your partner to remove the penis from the vagina before ejaculation.

Pros:

  • No equipment necessary
  • No cost required

Cons:

  • Even when done completely correctly, this method is only about 78% effective
  • Requires a certain level of maturity and skill from both partners
  • Does not prevent against STIs

Have an open conversation with your healthcare provider about what you want from your birth control so they can suggest one that would best suit you.

Also, always be sure to pay attention to your body when trying a new birth control. It’s important to track any adverse symptoms and tell your doctor as soon as you can, as you’ll be the only one able to understand how it physically and emotionally affects you.