Different types of contraceptives
Our bodies our choice.
Here are some options to choose from
Depending on your goals - birth control, acne management, periods regulation, unplanned pregnancy prevention - there are several types of contraceptives available that work in different ways.
Before we get into the different types of contraceptives, it is vital that we address the current threat against reproductive freedom in the United States right now. Recently, documents were leaked that stated the Supreme Court was set to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that made abortions legal across the U.S. This news means that women’s reproductive and human rights are being threatened, and the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy is even more overwhelming.
Since the news came out, there’s been an increase in searches for over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills such as Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill. The pill reduces the chance of pregnancy when taken after unprotected sex. As women across the country plan for potentially having their reproductive rights stripped away and a decrease in access to birth control, there’s also been a spike in searches for longer-term contraceptives.
Let’s take a look at the different contraceptive options available.
An implant is a small plastic rod that’s implanted under the skin. An option that doesn’t contain estrogen, implants release the hormone progestin, preventing ovulation and pregnancy. This option is one of the most low-maintenance but high efficacy options. Lasting up to 3 years, the implant can be removed at any time. Side effects may include period disruption, acne, breast tenderness, and weight gain.
An IUD is a small, T-shaped instrument that is placed in your uterus by a doctor. There are two types: copper and hormonal.
- Copper IUDs repel sperm, keeping them away from the egg so to prevent pregnancy. Once it’s placed, you can keep it in for up to 12 years. If you decide that you want to get pregnant later, you can start trying immediately after taking it out. Side effects may include either some sporadic spotting or heavier flows. Also, some people experience short-lived discomfort such as more intense cramps during or after the insertion process.
- Hormonal IUDs release a small amount of progestin, which stops ovulation. Each IUD lasts for 3 to 7 years. The progestin level in hormonal IUDs is much lower than the amount found in birth control pills. The hormonal IUD can halt periods or make them much lighter or irregular. Side effects may include spotting or cramping but the side effects should subside after a few months as your body gets used to the IUD.
There are two types of pills - both work by suppressing ovulation which effectively prevents pregnancy.
- The combination pill: A prescription-only option that contains both estrogen and progestin. It’s ingested rather than inserted or implanted and can also reduce the severity of period symptoms. However, for it to work, you have to take it every single day, at the same time. If you forget to take it, the effectiveness goes down.
- The mini pill: A prescription-only pill that only contains progestin. This option is great for those who want to avoid estrogen. Like with the combo pill, it needs to be taken every day at the exact same time for it to be effective. Some side effects that people report are breast tenderness and breakouts.
Slap it on and forget it (for 3 weeks). The patch works pretty much how it sounds. You stick a patch on your body, usually upper arm, butt, or back, and it releases estrogen and progestin via the patch. These hormones stop pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. You apply a new patch every week for 3 weeks, then take a week off to have your period. While most people report no side effects, side effects can include nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, and skin irritation.
The shot is an injection of the hormone progestin every 3 months to prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. It’s super effective as long as you remember to go to the doctor for your shot every 3 months. The shot has been known to help lessen period flow and pain or may even stop menstrual cycles altogether. Side effects may include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weight gain, and depression.
A 2-inch wide plastic ring prescribed by a doctor, the ring contains estrogen and progesterone to suppress ovulation. With a similar cadence as the patch, you swap out new rings every 4 weeks: 3 weeks on and 1 week off to have a period. The ring can help with period flow and regularity, as well as acne. Common side effects include breast tenderness and headaches.
Ad hoc contraceptives
A condom is an external cover for the penis during sex, catching any fluids. Condoms help protect from STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Plus, good news for those with allergies as condoms come in latex-free options as well. But it’s not an entirely foolproof solution as the condom can break, slip off, etc.
A form of reusable prescription birth control, a diaphragm is a soft, silicone disk that you saturate with spermicide and insert into the vagina to keep away sperm.
In addition to being latex-free, it also doesn’t contain hormones. It can also be left in for up to 24 hours as long as you add more spermicide every 6 hours. However, one thing to keep in mind is that diaphragms can get knocked out of place with some…ahem…aggressive thrusting.
When it comes to contraceptives, the good news is that you’ve got many options. Which one is best for you comes down to your individual needs. Consult your doctor for more information and to discuss options.
How to take action and provide support
- Support organizations fighting for women’s reproductive rights such as:
- Donate to abortion funds. These are on-the-ground organizations that help arrange and pay for care for those who need abortions. The Cut compiled a list of abortion funds.
- Speak up. Much like many other feminine health topics, abortion has been stigmatized and seen as taboo for much too long. Abortion is healthcare, and we need more open dialogue about it.