Last Updated on May 11, 2023 by Lily Connel
Birth Control allows individuals to choose if and when they want to get pregnant, which can help prevent unwanted pregnancies. But, some forms of birth control have side effects, such as blood clots, weight gain, and mood changes.
Definition of Birth Control
Birth control refers to the use of various methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy. There are several types of birth control methods available, including barrier methods, hormonal methods, sterilization, natural family planning, and emergency contraception. Barrier methods include male condoms, female condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms, and contraceptive sponges. Hormonal methods involve the use of oral birth control pills, skin patches (Xulane), vaginal rings (NuvaRing), and contraceptive injections (Depo-Provera). Sterilization involves surgical procedures like tubal ligation or vasectomy. Natural family planning requires women to identify their fertile days, while emergency contraception is used after unprotected sex.
Types of Birth Control Methods
Making a decision about birth control can be overwhelming. It’s essential to know and understand the different birth control options and their pros and cons to make the right decision. Here is a list of the most common types of birth control methods:
- Hormonal Methods: Birth Control Pills, Patch, Ring, and Injection – These methods release hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, making it difficult for sperm to fertilize the egg. They are highly effective when used correctly but do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Some women may experience side effects like headaches or changes in mood.
- Barrier Methods: Condoms, Diaphragm, Cervical Cap, and Spermicides – Barrier methods physically prevent sperm from reaching the egg. They are easy to use and do not affect future fertility. However, they need to be used every time you have sex, and some people may be allergic to latex.
- Natural Family Planning: Fertility Awareness and Withdrawal – These methods involve tracking a woman’s menstrual cycle to determine when she is most fertile and avoiding sex or using barrier methods during that time. They are less effective than other methods and require discipline and regular tracking.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUD): Hormonal and Copper – These methods are long-acting and can last for several years. They are highly effective, do not require daily maintenance, and do not affect future fertility. However, they may cause side effects like cramping or irregular bleeding.
- Sterilization: Tubal Ligation and Vasectomy – These methods are permanent and involve surgery to prevent pregnancy. They are highly effective and do not require daily maintenance. However, they are not easily reversible and may cause complications like infection.
- Emergency Contraception: Morning-After Pill – This method is used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is not meant to be used as a regular form of birth control and may cause side effects like nausea or irregular bleeding.
Pros of Using Birth Control
Using birth control has numerous benefits. Knowing the pros of using birth control methods can help individuals make informed decisions for their reproductive health. Here are some of the advantages of using birth control:
- Preventing pregnancy: The most obvious benefit of using birth control is preventing unwanted pregnancy.
- Regulating menstrual cycles: Many birth control methods can help regulate menstrual cycles, making periods more predictable and less painful.
- Managing hormonal imbalances: Birth control can help manage hormonal imbalances such as PCOS and endometriosis.
- Decreasing acne: Some types of birth control can help decrease acne in individuals.
- Reducing the risk of certain cancers: Birth control can lower the risk of certain cancers, such as ovarian and endometrial cancer.
- Improving sexual health: Birth control can help prevent sexually transmitted infections and improve overall sexual health.
- Empowerment and control: Using birth control allows individuals to take control of their reproductive health and make informed decisions about their bodies.
Cons of Using Birth Control
Using birth control may be a responsible decision for many individuals, but it’s important to understand the potential disadvantages. Here are some cons of using birth control:
- Hormonal side effects: Hormonal birth control methods, such as pills, patches, and injections, can cause side effects such as headaches, mood changes, and weight gain. These side effects may vary depending on the person, so it’s important to discuss any concerns with a healthcare provider.
- Health risks: Some birth control methods have been linked to health risks such as blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer. However, it’s important to note that these risks are relatively rare and may be outweighed by the benefits of using birth control.
- Contraceptive failure: No birth control method is 100% effective, and the risk of pregnancy is always present. This risk increases if the method is not used correctly or consistently.
- Barrier methods: Some individuals may not prefer barrier methods, such as condoms, because they can interrupt sexual activity or reduce sensation. Additionally, some people may have allergies to latex.
- Natural methods: Natural methods such as tracking ovulation or withdrawal may not be as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods. These methods also require a significant amount of diligence and planning.
Factors to Consider for Choosing the Right Birth Control Method
Choosing the right birth control method can be overwhelming. Here are some factors to consider:
- Lifestyle: How often do you have sex? Do you have multiple sex partners? Are you okay with taking a pill every day or prefer something long-lasting like an IUD or implant?
- Health conditions: Do you have any health issues to consider, such as high blood pressure or a history of blood clots? Some birth control methods, like hormonal pills, may not be recommended for those with certain conditions.
- Effectiveness: How well does the method work? Some methods, like the IUD, are incredibly effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Side effects: Consider the potential side effects, such as mood changes, irregular bleeding, or weight gain.
- Protection from STDs: If you need protection from STDs, consider using condoms in addition to your primary birth control method.
- Future fertility: Do you want to have kids in the future? Some methods, like permanent sterilization, may not be reversible.
When making a decision about birth control, it is important to discuss options with a healthcare provider. They can provide more detailed information about the effectiveness, cost, and potential side effects of each method. Ultimately, the decision about which method to use should be based on individual needs and preferences. With so many options available, there is a birth control method out there that can meet the unique needs of each person.