Which Birth Control Method is Best For You?
There are many misconceptions when it comes to birth control: you only take it if you’re having sex, you have to be a straight cis girl, it’s a permanent decisions that can affect your chances of having a family later on. Let’s be clear—NONE of those are true. People of all walks of life and identities take birth control for multiple reasons.
If you’ve been thinking of birth control or want to start, here are some facts on the most popular types of birth control. Just remember that—no matter what your gender identification—if you have a vagina, you should talk to your doctor before starting birth control. The majority of these contraceptives require a prescription. And depending on your state, country, health insurance, its price may range—or even be free.
Oral Contraceptives — Otherwise known as “The Pill”
There are many different types of “the pill,” but the main concept still prevails: you take a pill a day, each giving you different hormones to stop your ovulation and create a hostile environment for sperm. It is 91 percent effective when used alone.
Progesterone and estrogen (or only one of the two) are used to stop your existing ovulation hormones and put in new ones to craft a scheduled menstrual cycle. Packs can be 21 or 28 days, depending on the brand and how long your existing cycle usually is. It will set you back $20-$50 if you don’t have insurance. It can cause soreness and spotting occasionally, but is known to help users with acne, excessive cramping, and stop your period altogether, depending on the type you use.
Pro: Noninvasive. Have multiple types to try to fit your needs, with no long-term commitment.
Con: Have to remember to take one every day, or your menstrual cycle and pregnancy risk will swing out of whack.
Most people already know the spiel about condoms, but I’m going to do it again. As the number of people getting birth control has increased in millenials, so have STI rates. USE A CONDOM! It’s not 100 percent effective in preventing the spread, but it definitely helps. The HPV shot is also available for those in need.
In terms of pregnancy, this method is 85 percent effective when used alone, so you should probably pair it with another form of birth control. It needs to be used every time you have sex.
If you are not in an exclusive relationship, you should use a condom to prevent STI transmission. Just be careful with what types of lube you use because depending on the material. Oil-based lube with latex condoms can break down the barrier and lead to breakage, lowering its effectiveness for both pregnancy and STI transmission.
Pro: They cost less than $1 each—or you can get them for free at the Emerson Center for Health and Wellness or your local Planned Parenthood.
Con: Have to use on every time you have sex, one for every ejaculation.
The implant is a tiny rod, the size of a matchstick, that gets injected into the inner fat of your bicep. It works for three years at a time and is 99 percent effective. Its method works similar to other methods, in that it stops ovulation and creates a hostile environment for sperm.
It does require a short procedure to take out the implant. It’s a small incision and done under local anesthesia. Without insurance, it can cost up to $1,300 to get inserted and $300 to get taken out.
Pro: 1 in 3 people stop getting their periods altogether after the first year.
Con: Irregular bleeding can happen in the first 6-12 months.
There are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal. They both have their distinctive pros and cons, but they’re really not that different. It’s a non-surgical implant that takes less than five minutes to push in place, going inside your uterus. It is 99 percent effective for 3 to 12 years, depending on the brand.
Copper IUD — If you don’t want or can’t have additional hormones in your body for any reason, this method actually uses the copper coil that runs around the plastic device to repel sperm (they hate it). It can also act as emergency contraceptive if used within five days of unprotected sex, with a 99.9 percent success rate. Side effects include cramps and heavier periods.
Hormonal IUD — Contains estrogen and progesterone, like many other types of contraceptives. One can experience cramping and spotting for the first 3 to 6 months, but it should subside after that.
Pro: It’s practical, long-term, and extremely effective.
Con: Without insurance, it can set you back $500-$1,000. Many people experience a painful insertion. This should go away within the week.
It’s less frequent than “the pill,” but requires more upkeep than the IUD or implant. You change it three weeks in a row, on the same day of the week, and don’t wear one on the fourth week so that you can get your period. Because of that, this is not the best option for those with severe body dysmorphia.
The product is 91 percent effective. You can stick it on your arm, butt, stomach, or legs. Just don’t put it too close to your chest. It also proves less effective if those using it are more than 198 pounds, so take that into consideration if that’s you.
Pro: Less often than the pill. You still get your period.
Con: Have to be careful where you stick it. It’s like a very sticky Band-Aid. Fatty areas can be uncomfy when they move certain ways with one.