Birth Control Pills
FAQs About Birth Control Options
Getting the answers to frequently asked questions about birth control methods is a great first step toward finding the best option for you.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Today, women have more birth control options to choose from than ever before — but that means you’ll need to do some research in order to find which one best fits your lifestyle.
Not sure whether you want to take a pill every day, or worried about certain side effects? We’ve answered some of the most common questions about birth control to help you make the best contraception choice for you.
Q: What types of birth control options are there to choose from?
A.Each birth control method works differently to prevent pregnancy and each has a different rate of effectiveness, risks, benefits, and side effects. Most commonly used birth control methods fall into a few main categories. Hormonal methods use hormones to keep you from ovulating and are available in different formats, from birth control pills to a patch to a shot. Barrier methods prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg; condoms are one of these birth control methods, and so is the diaphragm. There are also permanent birth control methods like tubal ligation for woman and vasectomy for men, which involve a surgical procedure.
Q: Will I get pregnant if I have sex and don't use birth control?
A.The short answer is quite possibly. If you are ovulating (releasing an egg), about to ovulate, or have just ovulated and have unprotected sex, you could get pregnant. Ovulation generally occurs about two weeks after your last menstrual period, but women ovulate at different times, and it's difficult to know exactly when you are ovulating. Also, sperm can remain alive inside the reproductive tract for as long as three days and fertilize an egg once it is released, resulting in a pregnancy. If you do not want to get pregnant, you should always use some form of birth control.
Q: Which birth control option is the most effective?
A.While abstinence is the only 100 percent effective birth control method, there’s no doubt that birth control effects on avoiding pregnancy are significant: Most methods rarely result in pregnancy. Sterilization — permanent birth control like tubal ligation and vasectomy — has a better than 99 percent effective rate, meaning that less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant with this option; hormone shots and the intrauterine device (IUD), which is implanted in the uterus, have the same effectiveness. The Pill, the patch, and the contraceptive ring are next, with about 95 percent effectiveness. Of course, any birth control method must be used correctly in order to be effective.
Q: What type of birth control should I use?
A.You should use the birth control method that best meetsyourneeds. Consider factors like cost, effectiveness, any birth control side effects, and how easy it is to get — do you need a prescription or have to visit your doctor? You want to make sure that it's easy to use. For instance, if you think you will have trouble remembering to take a birth control pill every day, it may not be the best option for you.
Q: What type of birth control protects against sexually transmitted diseases?
A.Only a latex condom worn by the male partner can effectively protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. If you are at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease, you should always use a latex condom during sexual activity.
Q: How do I obtain birth control?
A.You can get some types of birth control, like condoms, the sponge, and spermicides, at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Any hormonal type of birth control method, including oral contraceptives, the IUD, the ring, and the patch, will need to be prescribed by a doctor. One advantage of a doctor visit is the ability to discuss the pros and cons of each birth control option.
Weigh your options carefully regarding birth control methods to decide which one will be the best, safest, and most effective form of birth control for you.
Video: Female Birth Control Options | Family Planning
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