We Skimm'd other women's reproductive health topics for you...
You know what birth control is and does. But you might not know how many options are out there to help you stay unpregnant.
Tell me about 'the cycle.'
A period cycle lasts anywhere between 21 to 35 days. Halfway through a cycle, women ovulate. That’s when an egg packs up, leaves an ovary, and gets ready for a potential meet and greet with little swimmers to kick off the baby-making process. Women can only get pregnant when they’re ovulating. Periods are the body’s way of saying ‘hey! You’re not pregnant’ by shedding the lining of the uterus.
Great. Can we talk about birth control now?
Yup. Here are some options you should know about…
The pill..the popular kid. About a quarter of women who use birth control take the pill. The exact ingredients are different in each brand. But most stimulate hormone production to stop the reproductive system from ovulating. It’s about 99% effective...if used perfectly. Meaning never missing a pill and taking it at the same time every single day. But since that’s not usually the case, it’s more like 91% effective.
Barrier methods...male and female condoms, sponges, diaphragms, oh my. About 15% of people who use birth control use the most common barrier method – male condoms. They literally are barriers to the uterus and block sperm from getting up to the eggs. Depending on the type, barrier methods can be about 76-88% effective.
Sterilization...getting your (fallopian) tubes tied. About a quarter of women who use birth control pick this method. The fallopian tubes are where your eggs meet up with sperm to start the baby-making process. So this procedure cuts off the eggs’ access to sperm. It’s more than 99% effective – making it one of the most successful options. But since it’s a procedure, it can also be one of the most expensive types of birth control. And once you snip, you can’t really go back.
IUD...a device that hangs in the uterus for years. About a tenth of the women who use birth control get an IUD, but it’s gotten more popular recently. You need a doctor or nurse to insert an IUD, which changes the way sperm move so they can’t get to your eggs. Like sterilization, it’s more than 99% effective and one of the most effective types of birth control.
Breastfeeding...yes. Women usually stop ovulating when they exclusively breastfeed – nursing multiple times throughout the day and night within six months of giving birth and not feeding babies formula. If it’s done perfectly, breastfeeding is almost as effective as the pill. But women have to have just had a baby for this to work. And sometimes women aren’t able or choose not to breastfeed. So it’s not the best or most popular option.
Withdrawal...the pull out method. About 5% of women using birth control use this method. It’s usually less than 80% effective. Meaning couples will want a backup. Like a condom.
Spermicide...remember “Superbad”? It comes in gels, foams, creams. It’s a double threat – it moves sperm away from your eggs and blocks them from getting into the uterus. It’s only about 70% effective on its own. Meaning couples may want a backup. Again.
Emergency contraception…Plan B. Literally and figuratively. There’s a couple of pill options and an IUD option. While the pills (like Plan B) are more common, the IUD is the most effective. As in 99.9% effective. Less than 1% of women who use birth control use this option.
Fertility awareness methods...going au naturel. Women use different methods to track their cycle to figure out when they’re ovulating. They’ll either use another form of birth control or avoid having sex when they ovulate. Women track it by taking their temperature or following a calendar, but it works best if women use more than one method. It can be anywhere between 76-88% effective. But not many women use this option – about 1% who use birth control.
Abstinence...when you don’t have sex. It’s the only way you can 100% be sure you’re not pregnant.
Can we talk side effects?
Which ones? Depending on your birth control, you might run into different things – like bloating, and soreness, or blood clots and high blood pressure. Some types of birth control might work better for you than others. So talk to your lady doc about it.