As research and technology advances, there are more and more birth control options available. Because there are more options available now than ever before, navigating each type and the associated pros and cons can be a little tricky. The best way to start is by recognizing that these birth control options can be sorted into two basic categories: hormonal and nonhormonal. Here, we explain the basic differences between these two options and how one might work better than the other for your specific goals, lifestyle, and health.
What Is Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control is a type of birth control that is categorized by its use of hormones to prevent intercourse from resulting in pregnancy. Hormonal birth control can be used for many other reasons besides just preventing pregnancy. For example, some women may go on hormonal birth control to relieve annoying period symptoms like intense cramps, PMS, or heavy, irregular bleeding. Sometimes a dermatologist will recommend birth control to women who struggle with acne as it can help maintain a clearer complexion. Hormonal Birth Control possesses some pretty amazing benefits, but it may not be the right choice for you depending on your goals.How Does Hormonal Birth Control Work?
Hormonal birth control works by changing the body’s chemistry. Depending on the specific type of hormones used, hormonal birth control may work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs, thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg, or thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation. Different types of hormonal birth control are more suitable for different patients and finding the right one for you can sometimes take a bit of trial-and-error. While each type may be more or less equally effective for everyone, some patients may experience unpleasant side effects with some types of hormonal birth control. However, a qualified OBGYN will be able to recommend a hormonal birth control option that is most likely to work well for you. It is important to note that hormonal birth control methods do not protect against STDs. When used in addition to barrier birth control methods, like condoms, Hormonal birth control can prevent pregnancy while the barrier prevents the spread of STDs.
What are Some Hormonal Birth Control Options?
There are several types of hormonal birth control options available. Birth control pills are usually the most well-known and require the patient to take a daily pill at the same time each day. If remembering a daily pill is a challenge for you, or if you have a particularly busy or less predictable schedule, you may be better suited to other hormonal options. These include stick-on patches, which should be applied each week, vaginal rings, which are replaced each month, shots, which are administered every three months, or an implant which is placed under the skin and can remain for years at a time. Another very popular and convenient option is a hormonal IUD that is placed in the uterus. Some hormonal IUDs can last up to eight years making them a very low-maintenance option for preventing pregnancy and alleviating period symptoms.
Emergency contraception pills are also a form of hormonal birth control. These pills can be taken if your primary birth control method has failed, whether that is a hormonal or nonhormonal method. Emergency contraception is called emergency contraception, because it should only be used in urgent situations. For this reason, it should not be considered your primary form of birth control. If you continue to use your chosen birth control method habitually and according to your doctor’s instructions, the need for emergency contraception will remain slim, but it is always there in case things don’t go according to plan.
What Is Nonhormonal Birth Control?
Nonhormonal birth control is a category of birth control methods, devices, and practices that do not rely on any hormones to prevent a pregnancy. In most cases, nonhormonal birth control is used for the sole purpose of preventing pregnancy as the estrogen and progesterone in hormonal birth control work to ease period-related symptoms including acne. Some people may find that hormonal birth control makes their skin worse, or their periods more intense which is why they switch to nonhormonal birth control to keep those symptoms from getting any worse.
How Does Nonhormonal Birth Control Work?
Nonhormonal birth control typically functions as a barrier method, simply meaning that a barrier is created between the sperm and egg to prevent pregnancy. However, behavioral birth control methods (such as the rhythm method) and permanent birth control are also nonhormonal options that do not rely on the use of a barrier.
What are Some Nonhormonal Birth Control Options?
Barrier methods of nonhormonal birth control include both male and female condoms. Each of these options is about 80% effective and convenient as they can be purchased without a prescription at a drugstore. In addition, barrier methods prevent STDs as well as pregnancy.
Less popular options include the sponge, which is soaked in spermicide before placing it high in the vagina. With a prescription, a cervical cap, cervical shield, or diaphragm is also available as a barrier method.
A copper IUD is a nonhormonal device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The copper that is wrapped around the IUD causes the sperm to move in a way that prevents them from swimming to the egg. If the sperm cannot reach the egg, pregnancy cannot happen. A copper IUD is 99% effective and can remain in place for up to 10 years.
Finally, if you are certain, you do not want to conceive in the future, permanent birth control options are available. These include a tubal ligation, commonly known as “having your tubes tied.”
How Should I Choose Birth Control?
Choosing between a hormonal and nonhormonal birth control option depends on your personal preferences, unique health considerations, and lifestyle. Some patients prefer nonhormonal birth control because they want to avoid side effects that can be associated with hormonal options. Perhaps you’ve tried hormonal birth control in the past and are now looking for something that will be equally effective without the side effects you experienced.
Your lifestyle may also influence your decision. For example, if you have multiple sexual partners, you should use a barrier method to prevent STDs. Or, if you are very busy, you may prefer a lower-maintenance option, such as an implant or birth control shot. Ultimately, choosing a birth control method is up to you and the recommendation of your OBGYN. It’s important to choose a qualified and knowledgeable gynecologist whom you can trust when determining your birth control plan.
Schedule an Appointment
To learn more about your birth control options, schedule an appointment at Carnegie Women’s Health in New York City. Call our office at (315) 628-7063 or request an appointment online by filling out our contact form.