Birth Control Specialist
Today there are more safe and effective birth control choices for women than ever. The experienced team of caring specialists at Embry Women’s Health in Mesa, Arizona, are knowledgeable about the complete array of options and help each woman decide which is best for her.
Birth Control Q&A
How can I decide which birth control method is best for me?
There are more than a dozen effective forms of female birth control available. At Embry Women’s Health, our specialists help each patient evaluate these options and choose the one that’s best for her and her partner. Some factors to consider are whether:
- You plan to become pregnant in the future
- You’ll remember to take a pill every day
- You’re sensitive to latex
- Are okay with taking hormones
What forms of birth control are most popular?
- The pill. It’s been a leading choice since the 1980s.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs). These are small t-shaped devices which are easily implanted by your healthcare provider, and easily removed by him or her at a later date, should you wish to become pregnant. There are two types of IUDs. Each works by preventing sperm from reaching an egg. The first does so by releasing the hormone progesterone, which thickens cervical mucus to sperm prevent movement. The second uses copper ions to prevent movement.
- Implant birth control. Implants are thin, flexible plastic devices, similar in size to a matchstick, which are implanted beneath the skin on the inside of the upper arm. Implants prevent pregnancy by continually releasing the hormone progestin, which inhibits sperm movement and ovulation. Their effectiveness lasts up to four years.
- Contraceptive shots. Progestin shots are administered at three-month intervals and work similarly to implant birth control devices.
- Barrier methods. These include a diverse group of products: male and female condoms, sponges, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicidal foam.
Are there permanent forms of birth control for women?
Women who know that they don’t ever want to become pregnant have two options for permanent birth control. These are:
- Fallopian tube occlusion. This is a non-surgical procedure in which a coil is implanted inside the fallopian tubes. The coil creates a mild irritation that causes scar tissue to develop, which over about three months creates a natural barrier. This barrier prevents eggs and sperm from reaching one another. Three months post procedure, an ultrasound or X-ray is performed to ensure that the tubes are completely blocked.
- Tubal ligation. This is a surgical procedure performed to block the fallopian tubes.
What is Oral Birth Control?
Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are used to prevent pregnancy for women. Progestin and estrogen are the two female hormones commonly used in oral contraceptives. These work by preventing ovulation. They also change the lining of the uterus to prevent a pregnancy form developing and change the mucus at the cervix which prevents sperm from entering. Birth control pills have also been used to help treat acne and premenstrual dysphoric disorder which causes physical and emotional problems just before each period.
Are There Other Uses for Birth Control?
Birth control pills have been used to treat irregular or heavy menstrual periods, endometriosis which is a condition where tissue which normally lines the uterus is found in other areas of the body and can cause pain, and has been known to help women with acne and especially severe menstrual period symptoms including heavy, painful bleeding and excessive mood changes.
What I Should I Know about Birth Control?
It is important to remember to take the pills each days and keep appointments with your doctor. Physical exams should be performed once a year and can check for any reproductive health concerns. If you want to become pregnant and want to stop taking the pill, the doctor may recommend that you use another form of birth control until your menstruation is normal again. Birth control pills can reduce the amount of folate in a person’s body and because of this if you want to become pregnant soon after taking birth control pills your doctor may prescribe a folate supplement to ensure proper fetal development. It can take a long period of time to get pregnant and it can happen quickly, it depends on your body. It is important to remember that some supplements or medications can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills so if you need to take them make sure to tell your doctor.
What things should I think about when choosing a birth control method?
To choose the right birth control method for you, consider the following:
- How well it prevents pregnancy
- How easy it is to use
- Whether you need a prescription to get it
- Whether it protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Whether you have any health problems
Do I need to have a pelvic exam to get birth control from my health care provider?
A pelvic exam is not needed to get most forms of birth control from a health care provider except for the intrauterine device (IUD), diaphragm, and cervical cap. If you have already had sex, you may need to have a pregnancy test and STD test before birth control can be prescribed.
Which birth control methods also protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
The male latex or polyurethane condom gives the best protection against STDs. The female condom provides some protection. With all other methods, you also should use a male or female condom to protect against STDs.
What is the skin patch?
The patch is a small (1.75 square inch) adhesive patch that is worn on the skin. It contains hormones that are slowly released into your body through the skin. A new patch is worn for a week at a time for 3 weeks in a row. During the fourth week, a patch is not worn, and you will have your menstrual period.
What is the vaginal ring?
The ring is a flexible plastic ring that you insert into the upper vagina. It releases hormones into your body. It is worn inside the vagina for 21 days and then removed for 7 days. During those 7 days, you will have your menstrual period. Then you insert a new ring.
What is the birth control shot?
This shot is given in the upper arm or buttock every 3 months. It contains hormones that prevent pregnancy.
The implant is a small plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that your health care provider inserts under the skin of the upper arm. It releases hormones. The implant protects against pregnancy for 3 years.
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped, plastic device that is inserted and left inside the uterus. The IUD must be inserted and removed by a health care provider. Three types are available in the United States. Two contain hormones and last for 3 years and 5 years. The third type is the copper IUD. It lasts for as long as 10 years.
What are spermicides?
These are chemicals that are put into the vagina to make sperm inactive. There are many types of spermicides: foam, gel, cream, film (thin sheets), or suppositories (solid inserts that melt after they are inserted into the vagina).
Frequent use of spermicides may increase the risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from an infected partner. Spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What are condoms?
Condoms come in male and female versions. The male condom (“rubber”) covers the penis and catches the sperm after a man ejaculates. The female condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina. It prevents sperm from reaching the uterus. Condoms work better to prevent pregnancy when used with a spermicide. Spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What is the diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a small dome-shaped device made of latex or silicone that fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. You need a prescription for it. A health care provider needs to do a pelvic exam to find the right size of diaphragm for you. It always is used with a spermicide. Birth control methods that need spermicides to work should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What is the cervical cap?
The cervical cap is a small, thin latex or plastic dome shaped like a thimble. It fits tightly over the cervix. You need a prescription for it. A health care provider needs to do a pelvic exam to find the right size for you. The cervical cap must be used with a spermicide. Birth control methods that need spermicides to work should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What is the sponge?
The sponge can be bought without a prescription at drugstores and other stores. It is a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam that is coated with spermicide. It is pushed up in the vagina to cover the cervix. Birth control methods that have spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.
What is emergency birth control?
If you have sex without using any birth control, if the birth control method did not work (for instance, the condom broke during sex), or if you are raped, you can use emergency birth control to prevent pregnancy. Emergency birth control is available in pill form or as a copper IUD. The pills must be taken or the IUD inserted within 5 days of having unprotected sex.
What are the types of emergency birth control pills?
There are three types of emergency birth control pills: 1) the progestin-only pill, 2) regular birth control pills taken in certain amounts, and 3) ulipristal.
Where can I get emergency birth control?
Ulipristal and combination birth control pills are available only by prescription. One type of progestin-only pill (Plan B One- Step) is available on pharmacy store shelves without a prescription to anyone of any age. Another type of progestin-only pill (Next Choice One Dose) is available behind the pharmacy counter without a prescription to anyone 17 years or older if you show proof of age and by prescription if you are younger than 17 years (see Emergency Contraception). If you need more information about emergency birth control or need to find a health care provider who can provide a prescription, go to www.not-2-late.com or call the emergency birth control hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE.
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