There are so many different forms of contraception nowadays that it can be a bit overwhelming. How is a woman to know what form of birth control is right for her? Some have hormones in them while others do not. Some are more effective than others. Some help prevent sexually transmitted infections. Unfortunately, some have undesired side effects. So which form of birth control is the best? The answer depends on each individual woman.
Combined hormonal contraception comes in a variety of forms. Each type has both estrogen and progesterone and works primarily by preventing ovulation, thereby eliminating the chance that an egg will be released and ultimately fertilized. The most common form of this type of birth control is a pill, though there is also a vaginal ring and a patch. The formulations of these are countless. There are many different variations of estrogen and progesterone and therefore, finding one that a woman likes usually is inevitable. None of the combined hormones are proven to cause weight gain, though each person may react differently. Because of the variety of hormones available, it may take a while to find the perfect formulation for each woman. When used perfectly, these are about 96% protective against pregnancy.
Depo-Provera is the only form of birth control available in a shot. It consists of progesterone only. The injection is intra-muscular and is given once every three months. This is convenient for the woman because she only has to remember her birth control 4 times a year. One of the major benefits to this form of contraception is that most women do not get a menstrual cycle while using the shot, which is medically fine while on this birth control. However, this is the only form of birth control that has actually been proven to cause weight gain. Prolonged use of Depo-Provera can lead to reversible bone loss and many times it take several months for menstrual cycles to return to normal after stopping the shot.
While intrauterine devices, or IUDs, have been incredibly popular in other countries for decades, our culture is finally realizing the wonderful aspects of these devices. There are two types available. One has a small amount of progesterone and the other consists of copper. According to the Mayo Clinic, the hormonal IUD works by thickening the cervical mucus to block sperm from entering the uterus. It also thins the uterine lining and slows egg transport in the fallopian tubes. One of the most attractive features of this IUD is the benefit of shorter or non-existent menstrual cycles. The copper IUD works by creating a hostile environment in the uterus to prevent sperm from entering the fallopian tubes. Though many women report longer periods with the copper IUD, they enjoy its hormone-free characteristics. Both IUDs are over 99% protective.
Condoms are the only form of contraception that assists in preventing sexually transmitted infections. When used properly 100% of the time, condoms are 97% effective at preventing pregnancy. Typical use results in about 85% efficacy. Most are latex and are tolerable for men and women. For people that have a latex allergy, latex-free condoms are available as well.
In order to allow for the most optimal protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, condom use in conjunction with another contraceptive is ideal. This allows for pregnancy protection above 96%. It also is the only way to prevent sexually transmitted disease.