Know the Differences Between the 5 Most Common Types of Birth Control

From preventing pregnancy to making painful periods more bearable, there are numerous reasons why women use birth control. With more choices today than ever before, it can be overwhelming to know which method to pick.

Learning the pros and cons of each type is the first step toward making an informed decision. To help you better understand your options, we outline five different types of birth control below.

The Pill

Perhaps the most well-known form of birth control, the pill is a hormonal medication. Hormonal birth control pills come in a monthly pack and need to be taken every day to be effective.

This type of contraception contains artificial forms of hormones naturally created in the female body. Birth control pills may contain both estrogen and progestin or be progestin-only. By changing the level of hormones in your body, the pill prevents ovulation and thickens the mucus around the cervix. 

If used correctly, the birth control pill is 99% effective against pregnancy. It can also help improve the negative symptoms associated with menstruation, like acne and painful cramps. On the flip side, you get no pregnancy protection from pills you forget to take. Some women also report a decreased libido and increased symptoms of depression on the combination pill.

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The Patch

The birth control patch is a small hormonal patch you wear on your skin for three weeks of the month. The patch is removed on week four to allow menstruation to occur. At the end of the fourth week, you put a new patch on and repeat the process. Like the pill, the patch uses estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy.

The patch shares many of the same benefits as the birth control pill, such as reduced acne and PMS symptoms. The advantage of the patch is that patients don’t have to deal with it every day. Simply replace the patch at the end of your fourth week, and you’re protected from pregnancy.

In rare cases, the patch may fall off. If this happens, apply a new patch on and use a backup form of birth control for the next 24 hours.

The Shot

The birth control shot, also known as Depo-Provera, prevents pregnancy for up to three months. The shot slowly releases progestin, increasing mucus buildup around the cervix, blocking sperm. In 2005, a second version of the shot came out called Depo-SubQ Provera 104. This version contains less progestin than Depo-Provera and may produce fewer progestin-related side effects.

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Like other forms of hormonal birth control, the shot is extremely effective at preventing pregnancy and can help lighten periods. Since you only need to get the shot every three months, it’s a particularly good option for forgetful women. However, this form of hormonal birth control can decrease bone density. To reduce the risk of osteoporosis, women are advised to take it for no more than two years.

The Ring

The vaginal ring is a small flexible ring you can insert into your vagina to prevent pregnancy. This form of birth control uses both synthetic estrogen and progestin. Since the ring slowly releases low doses of hormones, patients experience fewer symptoms associated with other forms of hormonal contraceptives.

Like the patch, you remove the ring after three weeks each month to allow menstruation. At the end of the fourth week, you simply insert a new ring, and you’re again protected from pregnancy.

Since the ring uses a combination of hormones, it has many of the same benefits and disadvantages as the pill. Similar to the patch or shot, the ring provides month-long protection. This makes it a great option for women who don’t want to take birth control daily. However, since this form of birth control is inserted vaginally, some women experience vaginal irritation.

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An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped device that is placed in your uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs, hormonal and copper. The copper IUD releases copper ions into your uterus that make it impossible for sperm to live. The hormonal IUD works similarly to other forms of hormonal birth control, using progestin to inhibit ovulation and thicken cervical mucus, thereby preventing pregnancy.

Depending on the type you get, IUDs can last 3-12 years, making them the lowest-maintenance form of birth control. Since the IUD removes human error from the equation, they’re also one of the most effective contraceptives. Unlike the ring, an IUD needs to be inserted by a medical professional, and many women report this procedure as being painful. However, there are plenty of ways to help minimize the pain if you think an IUD is right for you. 

Whether you’re looking to prevent pregnancy or improve your periods, birth control may be a great choice for you. If you’re interested in learning more about your options, schedule an appointment to chat with your doctor. If you already know what form works best for you, you can order your birth control online to save time and money.

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