Despite the recent changes around both the world as a whole and our community here in the Billings area, the need for family planning remains the same. Raising a child requires time, nurturing, money, and most important, love. It’s important that you and your partner have the necessary family planning resources available to you, both now and when you are ready to grow your family.
While the only 100% guaranteed method to prevent pregnancy is abstinence, there are a number of other methods available that are highly effective if you are sexually active but not ready to become pregnant, including both barrier and hormonal methods of contraception. Both methods have a variety of advantages and disadvantages, and understanding the differences between the two can help you decide what’s right for you and your body.
- Barrier Methods
Condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and spermicide are all barrier methods of contraception. These methods are designed to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, and many can be bought in most drugstores. On average, for every 100 sexually active women, between 18 and 28 per year will become pregnant while using barrier methods. It’s important to use a barrier method every time you are sexually active, as even one act of sex without one can result in a pregnancy.
While barrier methods have many advantages, including the inability to affect your natural menstrual cycle, being safe to use while breastfeeding, and protecting you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as herpes and HIV/AIDS (condoms only), they are not as effective at preventing pregnancy as hormonal methods of contraception.
- Hormonal Methods
Other forms of contraception, such as birth control pills, the intrauterine device, implants, vaginal rings, and patches are all hormonal methods of contraception. While barrier methods are designed to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, hormonal methods use hormones to regulate or stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy. They are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, and do not rely on spontaneity. In other words, they can be used prior to sexual activity, whereas barrier methods are only used during sexual activity.
Despite being the most effective at preventing pregnancy, hormonal methods can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects for some women, including weight gain, acne, decreased libido, and mood changes. Hormonal methods do not protect against STDs, and must be taken regularly or used exactly as prescribed by your provider in order to be effective.
Emergency contraception, including Plan B One-Step®, ella®, and others, should only be used on rare occasions, and only if you’ve had unprotected sex or your chosen form of contraception didn’t work. While commonly referred to as “the morning-after pill,” you do not need to wait until the morning after unprotected sex to take it. In fact, the sooner you take it, the more effective emergency contraception is at preventing pregnancy. Emergency contraception is not intended to replace your regular form of birth control, as the higher levels of hormones may result in longer bouts of short-term side effects including nausea, fatigue, lower abdominal cramps, and/or menstrual disturbances.
To determine which form of contraception is right for you, consult with your gynecologist. Our providers can offer you counseling on birth control methods and help you determine the best choice for you. At Billings OB-GYN Associates, we are committed to providing you with the care and compassion that you deserve. Contact us today or call (406) 248-3607 to schedule your appointment.