What is the right birth control for me
Zarine Kotian, MD, is an OB/GYN on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Ariz.
Question: As a woman, how can I begin to determine which birth control option is right for me?
Answer: The number and types of birth control options available to women can be daunting. It's important for women to have a clear idea of what's available and to consult their physician in determining which option is most appropriate and comfortable for their specific needs.
Proven methods of contraception for women range from condoms to surgical procedures. Contraceptives can be loosely categorized into several groups:
- Barrier (condoms, diaphragms, sponges, foams, creams, etc.).
- Oral (prescribed birth control pills).
- Injection (Depo-Provera shot).
- Patches and inserted (Ortho Evra and NuvaRing, respectively).
- Implantable devices (Implanon, Mirena, ParaGard, etc.).
- Surgical procedures (tubal ligation).
Each method varies in how and when it is used, as well as its means of preventing pregnancy. For instance, oral contraceptives require taking a pill at the same time each day for a cyclical period of time, while the Ortho Evra patch is simply placed and left on the arm or other part of the body for a specified period of time. Another difference is how long they are effective in preventing pregnancy. Barrier contraceptives, for example, are only temporarily effective, whereas some implantable devices can prevent pregnancy for as many as 10 years.
Aside from preventing pregnancy, some contraceptives can provide additional benefits, such as preventing transmission of STDs, controlling irregular or heavy cycles, cramping, acne, menstrual migraines or extreme mood swings often associated with the menstrual cycles.
Every woman has a unique menses, body type, hormonal sensitivity, sexual history and medical history, so it is important to thoroughly discuss each of these issues with a physician in determining the right method of birth control, as well as any potential side effects.
Reviewed June 2010