Birth Control 101
What is birth control?
Birth control is anything that assists in preventing pregnancy. While some women use birth control primarily to prevent pregnancy, it can also have other benefits associated with it. Hormones, including estrogen, progestin, a combination of the two, or progesterone are found in hormonal methods of birth control. The effects of these hormones on the body’s endocrine system can help alleviate other health ailments that may affect certain women, especially during their periods. Hormonal birth control can:
- Alleviate painful period cramps
- Reduce menstrual migraines
- Regulate your period
- Help to treat illnesses like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which are both hormonal imbalances that cause pain in the uterine area
Birth control comes in either hormonal or non-hormonal options. The non-hormonal options are:
- Condoms – The only birth control to help prevent sexually transmitted infections as well as prevent pregnancy
- Spermicide – A chemical that kills sperm before they can reach an egg
- Diaphragms / Cervical caps – A flexible cup that is put in the vagina, covering the cervix. Diaphragms work best when used with spermicide. Cervical caps are smaller than diaphragms and can be left in your vagina longer, up to 2 days.
- Copper IUD’s – This IUD has copper wrapped around it. Copper changes the way sperm cells move and prevent them from reaching an egg.
- To better compare options head to this link: https://www.bedsider.org/methods
These non-hormonal options help prevent pregnancy, but they do not help with the other hormonal symptoms associated with menstruation. The hormonal options of birth control include:
- For women who prefer the birth control pill, there’s now an easier way to get your prescription without leaving your home! Shout out to the Pill Club, an online company that delivers birth control pills, patches, and rings to your doorstep. If you have problems going to a pharmacy to pick up your prescription, this may be an alternate solution for you. Visit https://thepillclub.com/main to learn more!
- Patch – This is a thin piece of plastic that you put on your skin and change weekly. It works similarly to the pill, with an effectiveness rate of 91%
- Ring – A flexible piece of plastic that is inserted in the vagina to prevent pregnancy, which is replaced monthly
- Shot – Women who choose to receive the birth control shot need it every three months. It works by preventing ovulation (when eggs are released from ovaries), which needs to happen in order to get pregnant.
Long-Acting Reversible Contraception
There are certain forms of birth control that require a person to remember the correct times to take them. The pill needs to be taken at the correct time every day, the patch needs to be changed every 3 weeks, and the shot needs to be administered every 3 months. Due to this barrier these forms of birth control may not be right for everybody. It can be easy to forget to take the birth control pill at the same time every day, or young women can simply be too busy to make a doctor’s appointment, leaving them at a higher risk for unplanned pregnancy.
Fortunately, there is a type of birth control called long-acting reversible contraception. These types of contraceptive devices include intra-uterine devices (IUD’s) and the hormonal implant. IUD’s can either be hormonal or a non-hormonal copper option, while the implant is only offered in a hormonal option. These forms of birth control can last anywhere from 3-12 years, depending on the form chosen.
- Hormonal & Copper IUD (intra-uterine device) – A t-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted into the uterus. This is one of the most effective forms of birth control (99% effective).
- Implant – This is a very small rod that is inserted in a woman’s arm, and it releases small amounts of hormones into the body every day. It lasts up to four years.
All these forms of birth control will help prevent pregnancy and may help with additional hormonal symptoms. It is important to note that no birth control method is 100% effective or 100% safe. The only way to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy is by practicing abstinence.
Birth Control Barriers
Access to birth control can present a lot of barriers to the common day woman which include:
- Unable to make an appointment with the OB/GYN or the appointment is many weeks to months out
- Pharmacy may be out of the way
- Lack of access to transportation
- Living in a rural area and unable to access birth control on a regular basis
- Remembering to fill the prescription at the correct time
These barriers can be even worse for women who live in rural areas. A bill that just recently passed in Nevada in 2017 allows women who were written a year prescription for birth control to pick up all 12 packs at one time. This is especially important for women in rural areas, women who rely on public transportation, or for women who may not be able to regularly get to a pharmacy because of their job or other barriers that have not been discussed. A study was done through the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology on low-income women who received 12 months of birth control pills. It was found that there were 30% fewer unintended pregnancies and 46% fewer abortions.
This new law in Nevada is great for women who may not have easy access to birth control. Another option is using a birth control method that is long-lasting, such as the IUD or the implant. There are so many options when it comes to preventing pregnancy, and many resources out there that can help women decide what is best for them and their bodies.
This blog was written for Healthy Young NV by Courtney, an Immunize Nevada intern.