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What your need to know about birth control

Published: January 9, 2014

If you are sexually active or thinking about becoming sexually active the smartest thing you can do is to talk honestly with your parents or other trusted adult about your decision. The consequences of sex can be very serious and your parents (or trusted adult) might be able to help you make a healthier decision for your body and your future. However, one day you may need to choose a birth control method that works for your lifestyle.

The truth is there are many options for birth control, it’s not a one size fits all. Every person is different so learning and knowing what works for your lifestyle is one of the key successes to finding a successful birth control method.  If it’s not a method you like or it is one you are forced into using, the reality is you  may not take or use it properly or consistently and eventually you may give up on it all together.  So let’s look at the pros and cons of some different methods and then you can choose for yourself the one that is right for you!

Abstinence: You can’t get pregnant if you are not having sex, the only 100% way to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).  You always have the right to say no to sex.  Be careful about using drugs or alcohol that could cloud your judgment if you are practicing abstinence.  Be honest with yourself and your partner, if you are not going to stick with your decision, then it is time to make a different plan. Please remember it is always a good idea to talk to your parents or a trusted adult if you make the decision to become sexually active. Honestly is always the right choice.

Condoms: If used correctly, a condom is a very good choice for protecting you against pregnancy with the added benefit of also preventing most STIs. Condoms are inexpensive and easy to get. BUT there are incorrect ways to use one. For example if the condom has expired or is left out in very hot or cold weather, if no room is left at the top if used with Vaseline and oil or it is put on inside out, Then watch out! A condom can break, especially if used improperly, and well then you are put at risk for getting pregnant and an STI.  Be sure to use a latex condom or one made of polyisoprene (suitable for individuals that are allergic to latex). Also, your partner could poke holes in the condom or even say they put one on and never do, so you definitely want to bring your own and make sure you are watching.

Pills: Ok, so there are many different types of pill choices, and let’s face it, the pill is probably the birth control option that most of us know about and the one that your parents are more comfortable with.  Pills are 99% effective if used correctly. However, to be truly effective, it MUST be taken at the same time every day.  Even adult women can have a hard time remembering but like any habit it takes time to form them.  Most women take them first thing in the morning because they keep them by their toothbrush or makeup.  So bottom line, you should withdraw from sexual activity until you are responsible or use another form of birth control until you know that you will not forget to take the pill.  Remember to always talk with your doctor about safely taking any prescribed medications.

The Patch: You can wear the patch on your buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (except for the breasts), or the outer part of the upper arm. The patch is worn for a week at a time.  A new one should be replaced on the same day of every week for three consecutive weeks.  If you start wearing the patch on a Monday, then you will replace that one with a new one on the following Monday and so on.  The fourth week is a patch-free week; this is when you should have your period.  The drawbacks to this method is that if put in a place you can’t see it may come off without you noticing, if exposed to direct sunlight it can make it less effective by delivering a higher dose of hormone from the patch, which leaves less for the patch to release later in the week. Common side effects, like breast tenderness, bleeding between periods and nausea usually go away in a month or two.  As with the pill, serious side effects are rare but may be a concern for those with other health conditions  The pros to this method is it is weekly verses daily, reduces the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), acne,  and it may even reduce your risk of developing an ovarian cyst, and ovarian and endometrial cancer

The Ring: This is a good option if you are very comfortable with your body. The ring should be stored in the refrigerator to maintain shelf life. It can be stored for up to 4 months at room temperature, 77°F. Avoid direct sunlight or storing above 86°F. The ring is inserted inside your vagina, much like a tampon, just without any string and its round like a ring.  For this method you change out the ring monthly; the ring should be removed 3 weeks after insertion, on the same day of the week as it was inserted. After a 1 week break, you insert a new ring.  It’s very important that you insert a new ring on the same day of the week as it was removed in the last cycle, even if your menstrual period has not stopped.  So as you can see, this method requires you to mark your calendars and keep up with your dates and can be a little messy when you have to put the ring in if you are still on your period.  This method is 99% effective just like the patch and pills when used properly. And before you ask, no you do not remove it during intercourse, doing that will cause you to be unprotected.  It does not interfere with intercourse. But if it falls out during intercourse, finish, wash the ring off and reinsert right away.

Depo-Provera aka The Shot:  This is one is convenient.  You get a shot every three months, and that’s it.  No hassle about what day you started something, or remembering if you took it that day, and if it was at the same time.  Nope, you just have to remember to show up to your appointment every 3 months.  Another reason teenagers like this method is because you will not have a period.  As always though, where there is good, there is bad.  Even though you will not have a “period” per say, you most likely will have break through bleeding (spotting) and this can happen pretty much anytime.  But if you are cool with just a little unexpected bleeding and aren’t good with remembering dates and times, then this is a great option for you.  I am sure you have heard that this will cause you to gain weight.  Well, let me just say that is not 100% true.  As I mentioned earlier, we are not all the same, so the way any birth control method may affect us will be different.   If you are prone to gaining weight then, yes, this method may cause you to gain weight, however, if you are as skinny as a rail, then more than likely this will not cause you to gain weight.  It is a higher level of hormone, which does cause you to feel hungry more than usual which can be the main cause of the weight gain. If you have a needle phobia then this method may not be your best option. This method is also 99% effective when used correctly. Remember to always talk with your doctor about safely taking any prescribed medications.

The  Nexplanon (Implanon): This method of birth control is a small thin rod that is placed under the skin in your arm and it lasts for up to 3 years!  Seriously, how much more convenient can you get? And it is 99% effective!  This method can also cause spotting, but doesn’t have the associated weight gain with it.  Remember to always talk with your doctor about safely taking any prescribed medications.

The IUD: This method is a small device that is inserted inside the womb that lasts for 5-10 years. It is very effective and once inserted, takes little effort. There are two choices; Paragard can increase bleeding and the Mirena can lighten or stop your periods. However, there are some reports of constant bleeding for about the first month-3months after insertion.  Again, you can’t tell how it will affect your body based off of someone else’s experience.  Some IUDs release hormones, and work a lot like Nexplanon, the shot or the ring.  One type of IUD does not release hormones, so it is a good choice for women who cannot use hormonal methods. Remember to always talk with your doctor about safely taking any prescribed medications.

In closing, as you can see there are multiple options for birth control and they all have advantages and disadvantages.  The most important thing to remember is that the only method mentioned that will ensure 100% protection against and unplanned pregnancy is abstinence.  In addition none of the above methods other than condoms and abstinence can protect you against MOST STIs.  Talk to your doctor about which option you feel may be right for you and your lifestyle. 


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