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Choosing the Right Birth Control Method for You

From pills to shots, to IUDs and condoms, there are so many different options to choose from when deciding the right form of birth control for you. But how do you decide which is best? There is no universal right answer to the question of which birth control is best. Everyone has different needs, goals, and reactions to birth control, but learning more about the different birth control options available can help you choose the right birth control method that fits your lifestyle.

First, you should know why you want birth control. Do you require strictly contraception or do you also want protection from STDs? Do you have irregular periods, endometriosis, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that require regulation? Do you want something that will help with acne or limit other symptoms like weight gain? What is your lifestyle like? Will you be able to stick to a routine or remember to reschedule an appointment for additional shots? Answering questions like these will help you and your doctor narrow down which birth control is right for you. Take time before your doctor’s appointment to really think about what it is that you want.

After you consider what you hope to get out of your birth control, you need to understand all of your options and the pros and cons for each.

Condoms
The condom serves as a barrier during sexual intercourse to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease (STD). There are both male and female condoms; however, male condoms are most prevalent.

Pros:
• This is the only birth control method that can protect you against STDs.
• No prescription is required.
• Condoms can be used in addition to another form of birth control as an added layer of protection.

Cons:
• Male condoms are only 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, but only if used correctly for every single time you have sex.
• Condoms are easy to forget or misuse.

Birth Control Pills
There are multiple birth control pill options from which to choose. These pills are taken once a day, every day, and usually contain two types of synthetic hormones (progestin and estrogen) that work to prevent pregnancy by blocking the release of eggs from the ovaries.

Pros:
• You are able to track and regulate your periods. Oftentimes oral contraceptives allow you to skip your period altogether, although you should consult your doctor to determine whether or not you can skip your placebo pills. Some brands are even specifically designed to only give you your period three to four times a year.
• You have control over when you want to start or stop preventing pregnancy. While most forms of birth control aren’t permanent, oral contraceptives provide a greater level of autonomy over your preventative care.
• Pills can lighten your periods or reduce painful symptoms like cramping.
• Pills can sometimes even reduce acne

Cons:
• If used perfectly, pills are 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, however, pills can oftentimes be used incorrectly and rendered ineffective.
• Pills must be taken at the same time every day to remain effective. Beyond simply taking the pill, vomiting or diarrhea can also render the pill less effective.
• There is a slightly increased risk for blood clots, stroke, and other health conditions. Let your doctor know if you suffer from migraines, high blood pressure, history of blood clots, or if you have a history of smoking.

Depo-Provera Shot
The Depo shot is a contraceptive injection that contains progestin and is typically administered every three months.

Pros:
• A good option for those who have just given birth to prevent contraception that could endanger the mother

Cons:
• Weight gain
• Long term use can lead to decreased bone density
• For those who decide to conceive, it can take a long time to exit your system
• Periods can be very irregular or stop altogether

Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The IUD is a device inserted into the Uterus through a quick in-office procedure that contains hormones that block sperm from reaching eggs.

Pros:
• Very effective at preventing pregnancy (more than 99 percent effective)
• There are fewer side effects because it acts locally in your body instead of working through your entire system.
• IUDs can last 3 to 10 years, depending on the type you have. Reduced trips to the doctor’s office mean a reduced risk of forgetting an appointment.

Cons:
• Requires in-office visit for insertion.
• Although the procedure to insert the IUD is quick, it can be a somewhat uncomfortable procedure.
• Potential loss of control over your periods. Oftentimes periods stop altogether; however, there is no guarantee you will stop or maintain your periods.

Hormonal Implant
This is a small device inserted under the skin of your upper arm that introduces a steady dose of pregnancy-preventing hormones to your system.

Pros:
• The implant lasts for three years.
• It’s a safe option for all age groups and multiple comorbidities (conflicting health conditions) for which other forms of birth control are not suited.
• Highly effective.

Cons:
• Like IUDs, the implant must be inserted through an in-office procedure.
• Can cause irregular bleeding and could lead to a lack of control over your menstrual cycle.

“The most important thing to consider is what is going to be the best for your lifestyle and what is the safest option, depending on past medical history,” said Natalie Lipscomb, DO of TPMG Yorktown Family Medicine. When you start birth control don’t be surprised if you notice mood changes, increased acne, or irregular bleeding. For some, there is an adjustment period that could last two to three months as your body adjusts to the introduction of hormones like estrogen and progestin. If you are experiencing these symptoms for longer than this adjustment period or more significant reactions like an increase in blood pressure, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about other birth control options.

Although it can be tempting to rely on your own research when it comes to choosing the right birth control, don’t forget to discuss your options with your doctor so you can both come to a safe and satisfactory consensus. Talk with a TPMG physician today about the right birth control for you.

Natalie Lipscomb, DO

About Natalie Lipscomb, DO

Natalie Lipscomb, DO is a family physician in Yorktown, VA who treats patients of all ages and offers an array of services including general medicine examinations, physicals, birth control management, and joint injections. She also treats a wide variety of conditions from acne, allergies, and diabetes to obesity, chronic heart failure, and other chronic illnesses. Dr. Lipscomb has a particular medical interest in cosmetic dermatology and aesthetic medicine.

Dr. Lipscomb warmly welcomes new patients to reserve an appointment with her at TPMG Yorktown Family Medicine.

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