Essex County OB/GYN offers all methods of contraception but most commonly patients request oral contraceptives, Nexplanon implant, or an IUD. In this blog, we will explore the pros and cons of some of these common methods of contraception and how they work to prevent pregnancy.
Oral contraceptives, also called birth control pills, are a very common method of birth control. Combined oral contraceptives (COC) and other combination hormonal birth control methods release estrogen and progestin into the whole body. These hormones prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation, which is the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. They also cause other changes in the body to help prevent pregnancy. The mucus in the cervix thickens, making it hard for sperm to enter the uterus, and the lining of the uterus thins, leading to shorter and lighter periods
Pros of COC:
They may make your period more regular, lighter, and shorter. This method can also help reduce menstrual cramps, improve acne, and reduce unwanted hair growth. COC can be used to treat menstrual pain associated with endometriosis or control heavy bleeding associated with fibroids as well as decrease the risk of cancer of the uterus, ovary, and colon.
Cons of COC:
Combined hormonal methods are safe for most women, but they are associated with a slight increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart attack, and stroke.
A Nexplanon implant is a small rod inserted into a person’s upper arm. It can prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years and should be removed by the end of the third year. The implant continuously releases a low dose of progestin, which prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. The progestin in the implant also thickens the mucus of the cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and reach the egg. Progestin also thins the lining of the uterus.
Benefits of Nexplanon:
Nexplanon is easy to use and is effective for a long time. Once it is in place, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. No one can tell you are using birth control as the implant cannot be seen under the skin (it can be felt, though).
Almost all women can use the implant, with the exception of a few medical conditions that prevent its use. It can be inserted immediately after an abortion, a miscarriage, or childbirth and can be used while breastfeeding. When in place, Nexplanon can help reduce pain during your period and does not interfere with sex or daily activities. If you wish to get pregnant or if you want to stop using it, you can simply have the implant removed at any time.
Cons of Nexplanon:
The most common change associated with this method of birth control is unpredictable bleeding. Menstrual periods may be less frequent or may stop completely but in some cases, periods are more frequent and last longer. Other side effects may include digestive difficulties, headaches, breast pain, weight gain, and acne.
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small, t-shaped device inserted into the uterus that can provide birth control for 3 to 8 years for contraception and 5 years for heavy menstrual bleeding. The IUD works mainly by preventing fertilization of an egg by sperm. The progestin in the hormonal IUD (like Mirena or Kyleena) is released into the uterus and thickens mucus found in the cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and reach an egg. Progestin also thins the lining of the uterus. The copper in the copper IUD interferes with sperm’s ability to move. When sperm stop acting normally, it is harder for them to enter the uterus and reach an egg.
Benefits of IUDs:
IUDs are easy to use because once it is in place it is effective for years and you do not need to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. No one can tell that you are using birth control and it does not interfere with sex or daily activities. You can use a tampon with the device in place.
Most women can use an IUD but there are a few medical problems that prevent its use. It can be inserted immediately after an abortion, a miscarriage, or childbirth and can be used while breastfeeding. If you want to get pregnant or if you want to stop using it, you can have the IUD removed. Using an IUD does not affect your ability to get pregnant in the future. You can start trying to get pregnant right after removal.
Over time, the hormonal IUDs help decrease menstrual pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. The copper IUD is also the most effective form of emergency contraception (EC). When used for EC, it should be placed in the uterus within 5 days (120 hours) of having unprotected sex. Then, you can leave it in and use it as a regular form of birth control.
Cons of IUDs:
Changes in menstrual bleeding with an IUD are normal and not harmful. Some changes can be temporary and may go away as your body gets used to the IUD. If you have changes in bleeding that concern you, talk with your health care professional. Often, medications can help with some of the bleeding changes that happen with IUDs. Other possible side effects include headache, nausea, breast tenderness, or mood changes.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Contraception
MYTH: You can’t get an IUD if you have never had a baby.
FACT: IUDs are very effective in preventing pregnancy and safe choice for teenagers and adults of all ages.
MYTH: Birth control is 100% effective.
FACT: Unfortunately, no method is 100%, even methods of permanent sterilization like salpingectomy (removal of tubes) or vasectomy carry a 0.15-0.5% risk of pregnancy.
MYTH: I won’t get a period after a salpingectomy (having my tubes removed).
FACT: Yes, you will continue to get a period. Your ovaries control your periods, not your tubes.
MYTH: Your body needs to get a period every month – it’s bad not to get one.
FACT: Not true. Many women on continuous hormonal contraception such as continuous pills or a Mirena, will have no period. This can be beneficial in treating certain disorders and even protective against endometrial hyperplasia!
There are many options to choose from and many factors to consider when deciding what form of contraception is right for you. Discuss your history and concerns with your provider to decide the best course of action. Our team at Essex County OB/GYN is knowledgeable, dedicated, and ready to help you make the best decisions on your health journey. Contact us today to book an appointment.