Birth control is a vital part of reproductive health for sexually active women. Unprotected sex increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy among all women between the ages of puberty through menopause. Visiting an OB/GYN before becoming sexually active equips women to practice safe sex and allows them to discuss, prepare for and prevent certain gynecological issues caused by sexual intercourse. These issues include, but are not limited to,
pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, infections and gynecological cancers.
Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only method that prevents unwanted pregnancies 100 percent of the time. Although no method of birth control is perfect for every woman, numerous highly-effective and safe contraception methods are available. Note that although birth control methods help prevent pregnancy, they do not guard against sexually transmitted diseases.
Common birth control methods
When used correctly, the methods below are highly successful in preventing pregnancy – less than 1 in 100 women who use one of the methods below will become pregnant in a year.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device that provides long-acting reversible conception. Both hormonal (levonorgestrel) and non-hormonal options (copper) are available. Hormonal IUDs are good for up to six years while the non-hormonal IUDS are approved for use up to 12 years. Devices are placed in the uterus by an OB/GYN.
In this hormonal birth control method, a plastic rod is placed under the skin of the arm that releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. This method provides pregnancy protection for three years.
A contraceptive patch releases estrogen and progestin via a small patch placed on the skin. Worn for three consecutive weeks then one week off, the patch may be moved to a new location at the start of each week. A new patch is used at the beginning of each week.
Birth control pills (also called oral contraception) are hormones which prevent ovulation. Many brands of pills have a few “placebo pills” in each pack. These pills do not contain hormones, and women may experience bleeding (similar to a period) while taking them. It is important to take the pill at the same time every day.
Inserted into the vagina, the vaginal ring provides pregnancy protection by slowly releasing estrogen and progestin into the body. The ring stays inside the vagina for three consecutive weeks and on the fourth week the ring is removed and an “artificial” period (because the woman never ovulates) occurs. A new ring is used each month.
Birth control eases heavy periods
Although hormonal birth control works by reducing pregnancy risk, the hormones within these methods also cause a woman’s period to become lighter and more regular. For this reason, many birth control medicines are prescribed with the primary intention of improving painful, heavy or irregular periods. Hormonal birth control regulates the menstrual cycle by providing a regularly occurring period. This can help the many young women who experience heavy or painful periods.
If a menstrual period begins to interfere with a woman’s sports, school or social life, a birth control prescription may be a good option. Talk with an OB/GYN today to decide what options are best for preventing pregnancy or controlling painful, irregular periods.
Long-term contraceptives are effective, non-permanent methods for preventing pregnancy that you don’t have to think about daily, weekly, or monthly. They can be removed at any time you wish.