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Pill, patch, ring, IUD — breaking down birth control

When it comes to birth control, women of the 21st century are faced with a convenient dilemma — there are just too many options. We have the access to a pill, a patch, a ring, a cap, the IUD, and more.

Picking the birth control that’s right for you is a big decision, and typically requires consultation and prescription by a doctor. However, it’s difficult to go into a conversation with a doctor when you don’t know what your options are, or which options are best for you.

We’ve gathered information about some of the most popular types of birth control so that you can be well-informed when it comes time to make a decision. You may also work with your medical provider to determine which birth control is right for you. Learn about what kinds are available, what their associated benefits and risks are, and go into that conversation with your doctor armed with knowledge to discuss on equal terms.

The Birth Control Pill

  • Theoretical Efficacy: 99%
  • Practical Efficacy: 91%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Daily
  • Length of Efficacy: As long as daily consumption is continued

The birth control pill is likely the most well-known of birth control options. It’s a hormonal pill containing estrogen and progestins, or sometimes just progestin, and it creates within the body a hormonal environment that stops ovulation and prevents pregnancy.

Birth control pills come in many different formulations. These formulations differ based on the amount of different hormones, the variations in hormones over the course of the month, and even the specific molecules used for each type of hormone.

The pill that contains both estrogen and progestin is known as the combo pill whereas the just progestin pill is the mini pill. Depending on the formulation, these hormones can also have effects other than the prevention of pregnancy. The pill is frequently used in cases of hormonal acne and period related issues.

The pill is theoretically 99% effective, but in practice it’s about and about 91% effective in practice. The pill needs to be taken daily to maintain effectiveness. Missing a dose can diminish the effectiveness of a pill, so it’s best suited to someone who can keep a daily routine.

The Birth Control Ring

  • Theoretical Efficacy: 99%
  • Practical Efficacy: 91%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Replaced Monthly
  • Length of Efficacy: As long as ring is in use

When talking about birth control, “ring” refers to the vaginal ring. This method of birth control is also hormonal and works by releasing small amounts of the same hormones as the pill into your body. Just like the birth control pill, the ring works by hormonally stopping ovulation.

The birth control ring needs to be replaced every month and replacement needs to consistently happen exactly a month apart. Inconsistencies in replacement of the ring diminish the effectiveness of the ring, so it’s best for someone who can remember to replace it every month.

Further, the ring is applied without the help of an outside professional, so it’s best for people who are comfortable with learning how to apply it. It’s as effective as the birth control pill, so it’s a good option for those who don’t like to keep up with taking pills daily.

The Birth Control Patch

  • Theoretical Efficacy: 99%
  • Practical Efficacy: 91%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Every 3 Weeks with 1 Week Break
  • Length of Efficacy: As long as daily consumption is continued

The contraceptive patch, also known just as “the patch” is another form of birth control that works by transdermal transmission of birth control hormones into the body. It’s mechanism of preventing pregnancy is the same as the pill and the ring, but its application is different.

The birth control patch is applied for three weeks with one week off, and then reapplication for three weeks. This type of application cycle is best for those who can keep to a reapplication schedule.

Efficacy-wise, the patch is just as effective as the birth control pill and the ring.

Intrauterine Device, or IUD

  • Theoretical Efficacy: 99%
  • Practical Efficacy: 99%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Semi-Permanent, reversible
  • Length of Efficacy: Multiple years

The IUD is a slightly different type of birth control. It is a T-shaped device that is inserted into your cervical openng by a doctor. There is a physical IUD that relies on a copper implant, and there is a hormonal IUD that releases small amounts of estrogen and progestin into your body.

The IUD works by creating a physical environment that is unsuitable to pregnancy. Sperm does not do well in the presence of copper and therefore cannot meet an egg and create a pregnancy. The hormonal IUD’s work similarly to the pill, patch, and ring and prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation.

IUD’s are long-term solutions that do not have to be replaced for years, so they suit someone who may have issues remembering to keep up with daily or weekly forms of birth control. IUD’s are also the most effective of the different birth control methods, with a 99% efficacy rate in practice.

Cervical Cap

  • Practical Efficacy: 71–86%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Every time you have intercourse

The cervical cap is another form of physical birth control. It’s a silicone cap that you apply to your cervical opening to act as a barrier between the sperm and the cervix. It’s used in conjunction with a spermicidal cream such that sperm is both prevented entry to the cervix and destroyed by the spermicide. This ensures the best efficacy rate for this method.

The cervical cap has an efficacy rate of about 86% for people who have not given birth and 71% for those who have. It’s needs to be applied before intercourse and needs to be applied every time a user participates in sexual activity that may carry a risk of pregnancy.

Since the cervical cap is a purely physical option, it’s great for people who don’t want to use anything hormonal.

Depo Provera Birth Control Shot

  • Theoretical Efficacy: 99%
  • Practical Efficacy: 94%
  • Frequency of Consumption/Application: Every 3 Months
  • Length of Efficacy: 3 Months

The birth control shot is another hormonal option for birth control. It’s a shot that contains progestin and prevents pregnancy for three months after the injection. Injections must be consistently taken every three months to maintain efficacy.

The Depo Provera shot has a theoretical efficacy of 99% but has been found to be 94% effective in life settings. It’s a great option for those who do not want to frequently reapply or consume their birth control and is a shorter-term option than the IUD.

Talk to a Doctor

Picking birth control is a big health decision. You have to consider your lifestyle, medical history, and a variety of other methods before you can commit to a method. Now that you have information about the various kinds of birth control, you can speak to a doctor to make an informed decision.

Our doctors at Alpha are available to conduct consultations and prescribe birth control. Starting the process is as easy as signing up and filling out the medical history form here. Our doctors are able to provide quick, personalized consultations so that you get the birth control choice that is best for you.

If you’d like to keep up with our health and wellness updates, make sure to subscribe to our site here.



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