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Today, there are many options as it relates to birth control. To select the one that is best suited to your needs and those of your partner, you should consult with your healthcare provider.
Condoms are a barrier form of birth control that physically blocks the sperm from entering the vagina. They are the only form of protection that can help to stop the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV and prevent pregnancy. A condom is a latex or polyurethane sheath that is closed at one end and fits over a man’s penis. Condoms are also available for females. These have a flexible ring at either end. One end is closed and inserted into the vagina and the other end is open with the ring remaining outside the vagina. To help assure protection, users should read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
A diaphragm is a thin rubber dome shaped device with a springy and flexible rim. Inserted into the vagina by the patient, it fits over the cervix and is held in place by muscles in the vagina. The diaphragm is designed to hold a spermacide in place over the cervix to kill sperm. To maximize the effectiveness of the diaphragm it should be left in place for up to 6 to 8 hours. The effectiveness for birth control ranges from between 86-94%. If one chooses to use a diaphragm it must be fitted in a clinic. Additionally, weight changes, vaginal surgery and pregnancy can affect the way a diaphragm fits requiring that a medical provider check it to make sure it fits properly and to determine if a new size is needed.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills, commonly referred to as “the pill”, are a form of oral contraception that generally contains two hormones, estrogen and progestin and taken daily to prevent a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. They also help to prevent pregnancy by causing the cervical mucus to thicken. This blocks sperm from fertilizing an egg. Birth Control pills are safe, effective and convenient. For women who are very overweight, the pill may be less effective. Additionally, vomiting and/or diarrhea may keep the pill from working properly to prevent pregnancy. If a woman is concerned about this, a backup method of birth control should be used.
Ortho Evra® Patch
Used correctly, the Evra® patch is as effective as birth control pills in preventing pregnancy. The Evra® patch is a form of birth control that a patient wears on the skin and looks like a small bandaid. The hormones it contains (estrogen and progestin) are similar to those used in birth control pills but are absorbed transdermally through the skin. The patch works by suppressing the pituatary gland which in turn prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens cervical mjucus making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Since the patch contains a dosage which is 60% higher than that delivered by the pills, there is the risk of side effects such as blood clots. Because of this it is essential that patients using the patch not smoke. It can also be used to treat irregular periods, menstrual cramps, or endometriosis.
NuvaRing® is a soft and flexible ring that is worn in the vagina. The key benefit of the NuvaRing is that a patient does not need to take it daily to get a complete month’s protection. In a given 1-month period, NuvaRing® must be inserted into the vagina, removed after 3 weeks, and a new ring inserted no more than 7 days later. While the hormones it contains (estrogen and progestin) are similar to those used in birth control pills, unlike birth control pills, they are absorbed directly into the blood stream through the vaginal wall, delivering a consistent level of medication improving effectiveness and limiting side effects. Oral contraceptives on the other hand, differ in that they take time to be absorbed into the blood stream causing peaks and valleys in the hormone blood levels.
IMPLANON® is a type of birth control for women. It is a flexible plastic rod the size of a matchstick that is put under the skin of your arm. It contains a hormone called etonogestrel. You can use a single IMPLANON® rod for up to three years. Because IMPLANON® does not contain estrogen, your healthcare provider may recommend it even if you cannot use estrogen. IMPLANON® prevents pregnancy in several ways. The most important way is by stopping release of an egg from your ovary. It also changes the mucus in your cervix and this change may keep sperm from reaching the egg. Also, IMPLANON® changes the lining of your uterus. When a patient wants to become pregnant, a healthcare provider can remove the device and the patient can try to become pregnant immediately.
Mirena® IUD (Intrauterine Device) is a contraceptive device that delivers small amounts of hormone (levonorgestrel) directly to the uterus. It is a form of birth control that remains in the uterus and can last for up to 5 years. It is a small “T” shaped plastic device that is both soft and flexible and is put into place by a gynecologist or healthcare provider during an office visit. The Mirena® IUD works continuously and eliminates the need for pills and is over 99% effective. When a patient wants to become pregnant, a healthcare provider can remove the device and the patient can try to become pregnant immediately. It works through several different actions that include thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, inhibiting the sperm from reaching or fertilizing an egg and making the lining of the uterus thin.
Essure® Tubal Ligation
Essure® Tubal Ligation is a non-surgical procedure that seals off a woman’s fallopian tubes that carry an egg from the ovaries to the uterus. By blocking these tubes, where fertilization usually occurs, sperm is unable to reach the egg to fertilize it. The procedure uses two small metal springs (micro-inserts) that are inserted into the fallopian tubes. This causes scar tissue to form and permanently blocks off the tubes. The procedure is performed in an outpatient environment, takes about 30 minutes and does not require anesthesia. Patients should be aware that the procedure provides permanent birth control and is NOT reversible.