Most everyone has heard of the contraceptive pill, the patch, the shot and even tubal ligation. But what if those options don't appeal to you? There's no need to worry because there are many other options available that are just as effective, if not as widely advertised.
One such option is the birth control ring, commonly known as the NuvaRing. The NuvaRing is a comfortable, flexible ring that is about two inches in diameter and is used to prevent pregnancy. The user inserts a new birth control ring once a month and it is held in place by the vaginal walls for three weeks. During that time, the birth control ring releases a low dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy. After the three weeks are up, the user removes the birth control ring to allow the body to complete its menstrual cycle. After a seven day break, a new birth control ring is inserted.
Like the contraceptive pill, the birth control ring contains both estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. These hormones can sometimes cause side effects such as such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and breakthrough bleeding. Like the pill, not everyone is a candidate for the birth control ring including smokers, those over 35 and those with a history of heart disease. If you do choose the birth control ring, it is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, with perfect use.
Another birth control option growing in popularity is the IUD or Intrauterine Device. IUDs are small, T-shaped, devices made of flexible plastic. They are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are currently two types of IUDs available in the US - the ParaGard and the Mirena. The ParaGard contains copper, which helps to inhibit sperm motility and prevent pregnancy. The Mirena releases a low dose of the hormone progestin, which also inhibits sperm motility and prevents some women from even ovulating.
The ParaGard IUD lasts for up to 10 years and only requires that you check the strings monthly to ensure proper placement. Potential side effects include heavier and/or longer periods, possible increase in cramping during periods, expulsion of the IUD, perforation of the uterus (rare), increased risk of pelvic infection and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. It is over 99% effective against preventing pregnancy.
The Mirena IUD last for 5 years and, like the ParaGard, only requires that you check the strings monthly to ensure proper placement. In addition to the side effects of expulsion, perforation and increased risk of pelvic infection associated with the ParaGard, the Mirena can also cause decrease or stop menstruation, or cause breast tenderness, nausea, headaches, and mood changes. The Mirena is over 99% effective against preventing pregnancy.
One of the few options for men, aside from condoms, is a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a minimally invasive procedure where each vas deferens is cut to prevent sperm from entering the seminal fluid. The sperm is simply absorbed by the body instead of being ejaculated. A vasectomy is not immediately effective because some sperm remains in the vas deferens. Therefore, you will have to have a sperm analysis done before considering yourself protected. Full sterility is usually achieved within 3 months.
A vasectomy is considered a permanent method of birth control. It is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy after full sterility is achieved. However, if circumstances change and you do decide to have children, it is possible to have a reverse vasectomy. A reverse vasectomy is not guaranteed and success rates vary based on the original vasectomy procedure used, the length of time since the original procedure and the technique used to reverse the vasectomy. On average, the pregnancy rate for couples where the man has had a reverse vasectomy is 60%. Therefore, a vasectomy should not be taken lightly and should not be a choice if children are wanted later in life.
Whatever you choose for birth control, be sure to weigh the risk and benefits with your doctor. Only you and your health care provider can decide which method is best for you.