Understanding Your Birth Control Options

Apr 04, 2024

Understanding Your Birth Control Options

Most women have used contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy at various times in life — and many women rely on birth control throughout their prime reproductive years to help manage their family planning preferences.  

If you’re sexually active but not planning to become a parent soon (or you never want to have biological children), birth control is an integral pillar of support for everything from your sexual well-being and reproductive health needs to your long-term life goals. 

Not sure which form of contraception is right for you? We’re here to help. 

As women’s health specialists who provide contraceptive counseling services at Refine Medical in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Heather Kennedy, PA-C, and our team can help you make sense of your birth control choices so you can find the method that best fits your needs. 

Various birth control categories and forms

Understanding your options is the first step in making an informed and self-assured choice about contraception. Outside of abstinence and a partner’s vasectomy, there are five basic categories of contraception — and within them, nearly 20 distinct birth control methods. 

Let’s take a closer look at the five contraceptive categories:  

1. Hormonal birth control

This form of birth control uses female reproductive hormones (estrogen and/or progestin) to halt monthly ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, there’s no egg available for sperm to fertilize.

Combined oral contraception (the pill), the transdermal contraceptive patch, and the vaginal ring contain estrogen and progestin; progestin-only methods include the mini-pill, injectable birth control (the shot), birth control implants, and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Except for progestin-releasing implants and IUDs, hormonal birth control is a short-acting contraceptive method that requires proper use to be fully effective (i.e., taking a pill every day at the same time, or changing your vaginal ring on the right day every month).

2. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

LARC methods — including the IUD and the birth control implant — are made to stay in place and remain effective for years at a time. You can have them removed any time you want to stop using them, or have them replaced at the recommended time for continued long-term use.  

An IUD is a tiny T-shaped device that’s placed in your uterus to block sperm from reaching an egg. Progestin-releasing IUDs (which also prevent ovulation) can stay in place for up to eight years, while copper-emitting IUDs (which also repel sperm) work for up to 10 years

A birth control implant is a matchstick-sized rod that releases progestin. Once it’s inserted just beneath your skin in your upper arm, it remains effective for up to five years

3. Barrier contraceptives

Designed for one-time use, barrier contraception — including male and female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges, and spermicidal foams — prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of your uterus. It’s the only form of birth control that also helps protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

4. Permanent birth control

Permanent birth control (also called sterilization) prevents pregnancy indefinitely by blocking, cutting, tying, or sealing off your fallopian tubes so an egg can’t travel from your ovaries to your uterus for fertilization.

5. Emergency contraception

Emergency birth control prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or failed contraception, such as condom breakage. Contraceptive options that stop sperm and egg union after the fact include the morning-after pill or the prompt insertion of a copper IUD by a doctor.

Matching your needs to the best contraceptive

All contraceptives fall on a “needs-based spectrum,” meaning some (hormonal, LARC, and barrier methods) are designed to meet typical, everyday pregnancy prevention needs, while others (emergency and permanent methods) exist to meet highly specific, “situational” birth control needs.

Finding the best form of birth control for you requires you to assess how each option meets — or doesn’t meet — your personal needs. It’s important to consider your:

  • Health history; some women shouldn’t take estrogen-containing contraceptives 
  • Comfort level; some methods are “set it and forget it,” others require daily action
  • STI protection; if STIs are a concern, consider doubling up with a barrier method

Your future family planning desires may also figure into your considerations. A LARC method may be the right option if you’re not ready to start a family soon, but you don’t want to think about birth control in the meantime. Permanent contraception may be the way to go if you’re older, sexually active, and still fertile — but you know you’re done having children. 

Which birth control method is right for you?

Are you ready to find the contraceptive method that best matches your needs? We’re here to help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment with our women’s health experts at Refine Medical in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, today.