For those of us wishing to prevent pregnancy during sexual activity *raises hand swiftly*, there’s birth control. While many people might be familiar with the handy-dandy and ever-popular condom, the world of birth control is far more vast than you might imagine and not all forms of birth control are created equal. Getting to know each method is an important step to determining which ones are best for you and your partner(s).
So we're here to give you the lowdown before you get down.
Below is a breakdown of some of the most popular forms of birth control. Let us know if there are any we missed and if you want to learn more!
*Disclaimer: Not all forms of birth control are mentioned. It is important to speak with your medical provider to determine which method is right for you.
Birth Control Pills
What is it?
First we have birth control pills, aka ‘The Pill.’ This type of birth control comes in the form of a pill that is taken at a specific time everyday. Each pill contains a combination of estrogen and progesterone (depending on the type you are prescribed). The hormones in each pill act to stop the ovulation process, meaning that there is no egg for sperm to fertilize. The pill also creates a thick, viscous mucus that coats the lining of the cervix blocking sperm from entering.
With perfect use, the pill is 99% effective. However, for the average person, the pill is approximately 91% effective.
Due to the way different hormones react to different bodies, a large range of side effects have been reported. The most common include, changing in period pattern, spotting between periods, mood swings, sore breasts, low libido, weight fluctuations, anxiety, depression, among others.
People can go on the pill for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. Taking the pill can also decrease the risk for certain cancers, improve menstrual cramps other PMS symptoms, lighten cycle, shorten cycle, relieve symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis, and even control acne.
What is it?
The IUD is a small ‘T’ shaped device that’s medically inserted into the uterus. Once the IUD has been put into place, there are no other actions that have to be taken, making them a very low-maintenance option. However, IUDs need to be replaced every 5-7 years. There are two types: hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs.
*Hormonal IUDs release certain hormones that stop ovulation and thicken the mucus surrounding the cervix, making it impossible for sperm to enter.
*Copper IUDs work by repelling the sperm away from the cervix (sperm does not like copper)
IUDs are one of the most effective birth control methods. They are >99% effective no matter which type of IUD you receive.
The side effects differ depending on if you get the copper or hormonal IUD. However, the most common symptoms include: cramping, spotting between periods, and heavier periods.
*Note: IUD insertion can be very painful. Speak with your doctor before your appointment to go over what can be done to decrease pain.
Birth Control Implant
What is it?
The birth control implant is a small rod (roughly one inch long) that is medically inserted into the upper arm. The implant lasts up-to five years and requires no daily upkeep after insertion, making it another great low-maintenance option. The implant releases the hormone progestin, which thickens cervical mucus and stops ovulation.
Because there is no room for user error, the implant is another very effective option. Just like the IUD, the implant is >99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
The most reported side effects include: pain or bruising around implant area, spotting between periods, heavier periods, and fatigue
*However, most of these side effects subside after about six months.
Birth Control Ring
What is it?
The birth control ring (aka ‘vaginal ring’) is a small, pliable ring that is worn inside the vagina. Unlike the IUD and implant, the ring can be inserted at home by the user. The ring releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone into the body to stop ovulation and thicken cervical mucus. The ring is a relatively low-maintenance form of birth control, but they have strict replacement schedules, so there is room for some user error. The two types, Annovera and NuvaRing, work in the same way but have two different replacement schedules.
*Annovera stays in your vagina for 21 days (3 weeks) and is taken out for 7 days (one week), and this cycle continues for 13 cycles.
*NuvaRings need to be replaced once a month or once every five weeks (depending on the cycle you choose). NuvaRing users have the option to skip periods.
If used without error, the ring is ~99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, the average user can expect about a 91% efficiency rate.
One of the main complaints reported is difficulties inserting the ring. We suggest meeting with a medical professional to ensure you are inserting the ring safely and comfortably.
Some users also report changes in period patterns (beginning cycle late or early, spotting between periods, heavier periods)
What are they?
Condoms are small pouches made out of thin and stretchy materials. They are fitted around and mold to the penis. They work to catch sperm as it exits the penis, stopping it from entering the vagina. They are more easily accessible than most other forms of birth control and can be purchased over the counter in most drug stores.
Condoms work to both prevent pregnancy and protect against certain STIs.
The efficiency of condoms varies greatly depending on the practices of the user and on the type of condom used. There is an estimated ~85% efficiency rate for condoms.
You can increase effectiveness by:
-Wearing condoms during all sexual interactions
-Not removing condom during sex
-Wearing the correct size of condom
-Checking expiration dates before use
-Ensuring you are wearing the condom correctly (covering the penis from base to tip)
Some individuals (both people with penises and vaginas) have reported being allergic to or have skin sensitivities towards certain types of condoms. If this happens, speak to a medical professional to figure out which type of condoms will be best for you and your partner(s).
There’s your birth control breakdown. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, and the topic of birth control expands by the day. Let us know if there are any other birth control methods you’d like to learn more about or if there are any other sexual health topics you want us to cover next!
Happy romping *virtual wink*
A New Era of Parenthood by Yael Borensztein
How to Reclaim Your Body Throughout Pregnancy & Postpartum by Sevonna Brown
Taboo Questions About Puberty, Pregnancy & Perimenopause You Weren’t Allowed to Talk About (But Definitely Should) by Talk Tabu
Protect Your Birth: A Guide For Black Birthers Navigating the American Healthcare System by Dr. Mare
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.