Birth Control Options: How to Choose the Best Method for You

birth control

There are roughly 61 million women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 44, or considered reproductive age. An estimated 70% of them are at risk for unintended pregnancy–meaning they are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partner fail to correctly or consistently use a contraceptive method. A large contributor to this is an unawareness or irresponsibility regarding the types of contraceptive birth control methods that are available and how to use them effectively.

Types of Birth Control

The type of birth control that is best for you depends on a variety of factors including your personal medical history, age, lifestyle and future family planning goals. Your personal preference even plays a role.

You should always consult a licensed healthcare professional to help determine which birth control option is best for you. The categories of birth control options include:

  • Hormonal Birth Control: Hormonal birth control options use synthetic forms of hormones to mimic the naturally-occurring hormones produced in a woman’s body. These hormones work to stop ovulation and prevent sperm from fertilization an egg. This can either be a combination hormonal birth control which contains both estrogen and progestin, or a progestin-only method. These methods are widely popular because with the exception of Depo Provera, they are reversible. Hormonal birth control methods are also convenient, effective and have low failure rates when used as directed. There are intrauterine devices, injections, implants and more. It’s important to note that this type of birth control does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Barrier Birth Control: Barrier birth control methods block sperm from entering the uterus entirely. These include condoms for men and women, diaphragms, contraceptive sponges and cervical caps. Male condoms are the most effective at both preventing pregnancy and STIs. Another form of barrier birth control is spermicide–a chemical method that is available as a cream, gel, foam or suppository. Inserted in the vagina before sexual intercourse, spermicide blocks sperm from entering the cervix and slows its ability to swim. Spermicide is often used in combination with condoms and is a mandatory component of diaphragms and cervical caps.
  • Natural/ Behavioral Birth Control: Natural methods of preventing pregnancy are another option. This option, which has no side effects, refers to any action that can naturally prevent a pregnancy from happening in the first place such as abstinence, withdrawal, fertility awareness methods, outercourse, and continuous breastfeeding for up to 6 months to postpone ovulation after giving birth. With the exception of abstinence and outercourse, these methods are generally less effective as other types of birth control and require a high level of discipline and self-control. They work best when in a stable relationship when both partners are equally committed to preventing pregnancy.
  • Emergency Contraception: Emergency contraception may be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or in situations when a primary method of birth control has failed. Commonly referred to as the morning-after pill or Plan B, emergency contraceptive pills can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sex. Unlike hormonal birth control pills, morning-after pills are available at most drug stores without a prescription. Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections and should not be used as a regular form of birth control.
  • Intrauterine Devices (IUD): Considered a long-term birth control option, an intrauterine device is a t-shaped device made up of flexible plastic and inserted through the vagina and into the uterus. It prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing eggs. As mentioned, there are hormonal IUDs, but there is also a hormone-free device called ParaGard which uses copper. Depending on which type of device you choose, IUDs may last anywhere from 3 to 10 years before needing to be replaced.
  • Permanent Birth Control: For those who know they do not want to have children or are confident they are finished having children, there are two types of permanent birth control. For women, the procedure is called tubal ligation or “having your tubes tied.” For men, this sterilization procedure is called a vasectomy. Both are nearly 100 percent effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy, however, there is a waiting period before it becomes effective that you’ll want to use a secondary method of birth control. Neither method protects against STIs and while in some cases these procedures can be reversed, there are no guarantees and should be considered irreversible.

Deciding which birth control option is best for you is a personal decision and may involve discussion with your partner if you are married or in a committed relationship. Keep in mind that you may try several different options or subtypes within one of these categories before finding which option is right for you. And thankfully this abundance of available birth control options means that women have the ability to change methods throughout their reproductive life depending on their needs during each season of life. To learn more about the pros and cons of each method, call Triangle Physicians for Women at (919) 678-6900 to schedule an appointment at one of our two convenient locations in Cary and Holly Springs, North Carolina.

We were honored to receive a hand written note..

Dr. Grana, Angie, Jessica, Heather, April, Sarah and the rest of the staff –

Thank you all so much for taking such good care of me through both of my pregnancies and births, especially my latest one on 10/29! most of yall know how nervous I was from having gone through a lot (to say the least) with my first in 2016. You all made me feel so comfortable and at ease before, during and after. And going through a touch year with my dad, you guys always asked how he was doing at every appointment, which was so thoughtful and beyond your job description. I know that you all see many women go through what i did each and every day and deliver many babies and perform many c-sections. But I hope you know how special Ruby’s delivery was to me. You all have amazing jobs! I cannot thank you all enough. Merry Christmas!

Love, Lucy

I have been going to TP4W since 2010/11 and could not be happier.

The staff, nurses, midwives, and doctors are all amazing. I have 2 sons, both delivered via cesarean by Dr. V. Every visit and every provider did everything in their power to give me the birth experience I wanted, and also ensure that myself and my babies were safe and healthy. Dr. V even did everything in his power to help me avoid my first c-section and VBAC with the second, but that turned out to be out of his hands and he was the absolute best surgeon. With my two pregnancies, I experienced a few scares and some unusual circumstances that would be too long and too private to write in a review, but every single hurdle was handled with grace, honesty, and professionalism. I am so thankful for the recommendation from a friend to come to this office. I can’t imagine ever going to another practice.

TP4W is amazing and I am so very thankful I found them 9 years ago!! Amazing partnership between midwives and doctors, sweet nurses and front end staff, and relaxing environment. I literally recommend them to all my friends! I look forward to my appointments and feel like I’m going to catch up with old friends.

I’ve always had wonderful experiences at TP4W. Everyone is friendly, knowledgeable, and thorough in their care. April delivered my son and I can’t say enough wonderful things about her. She is patient and compassionate. I had the best labor and delivery experience thanks to her. I do and will continue to recommend them to my friends and family!

TP4W is amazing and I am so very thankful I found them 9 years ago!! Amazing partnership between midwives and doctors, sweet nurses and front end staff, and relaxing environment. I literally recommend them to all my friends! I look forward to my appointments and feel like I’m going to catch up with old friends.

I have been seeing Dr. Grana for just about 4 years now and I must admit that she has been the very best OB I have ever had! She is so personable, friendly, and all around caring about her patients. I’ve never had any issues with the staff, the office is very clean, and if Dr. Grana is running behind, they let me know ahead of time. I highly recommend Dr. Grana and this office to anyone!

I was referred here by my family doctor. I had found out I was pregnant with my first child later last year and had the most difficult time scheduling an appointment at my last OB/GYN Doctor. I was on the verge of tears because I didn’t know what my next steps were and thank goodness I was referred to Triangle Physicians for Women. The service is amazing every appointment I’ve had and they are so organized and have made me feel so comfortable. I have to thank them for making this pregnancy so much smoother and less stressful than it would have been had I stayed with my previous doctor. I highly recommend this place!