People of all genders and sexualities should be thinking about sexual health. There are many types of contraceptives — and finding the right fit for your lifestyle is important to stay healthy and prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Types of birth control
The two most common types of birth control are barrier methods or hormone-related. There are pros and cons to each and it’s important to discuss with your partner what the right method is for both of you.
Birth control is not only about preventing pregnancy, but preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While all birth control methods are reliable, nothing is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy or STIs.
The most common barrier methods include the use of condoms — both male and female — as well as cervical caps and diaphragms.
Condoms are effective at preventing both pregnancy and STIs however, cervical caps and diaphragms do not provide as much protection when it comes to STIs.
The pros of barrier methods include that there are very little side effects related to their use, but most condoms are latex-based. If you or your partner have a latex allergy, you may have to look for a non-latex version.
The cons of barrier methods come into play because you have to consistently use them and always have them on-hand. That’s not always convenient.
Condoms are also known to break or slip out of place. Diaphragms and caps often have to be fitted by your healthcare provider. Some also believe that having to stop intimate relations to use a barrier method makes the experience feel less spontaneous.
Hormone pills, patches and rings
Probably the best-known contraceptive for women is “the pill.”
Used correctly, it has a very high success rate at preventing pregnancy. The same goes for contraceptive rings and patches.
None of these protect against the transmission of STIs. If you’re having sexual relations with multiple partners or your partner has other partners, using a condom is still recommended to help prevent STIs.
There are also some risks when using any hormone-based contraceptives. Talk with your healthcare provider on the best option as certain medical conditions may preclude you from using a hormone-based contraceptive or make it less effective.
Blood clots can also occur in women using hormone-based contraceptives especially with smoking. It’s also important to remember to take the pill every day and some pills must be taken at the same time each day in order to maintain effectiveness.
Reversible long-lasting contraceptives
Injections, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are great options for women who want to prevent pregnancy without having to think about taking a pill every day.
They’re long-lasting and provide pregnancy protection anywhere from two months to 10 years. The downside to these types is that they do not provide any protection against STIs. There are also other considerations since some IUDs can cause heavy periods and there’s a small chance of complications that could lead to infertility.
With implants and injections, periods may become lighter but it can take longer than the pill for fertility to return once the implant is removed or the injections are stopped.
Sterilization is a permanent form of birth control for both men and women. Both procedures require surgery.
For men, a vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure. When the procedure is performed correctly, a man can no longer father children.
It’s a safe procedure that stops sperm from leaving the body by closing off the ends of the vas deferens —the tubes that carry sperm. The procedure prevents the sperm from mixing with semen and releasing during ejaculation.
While this is an effective form of birth control, it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. To prevent the spread of STIs, a male partner would still need to use a condom during sexual activity.
The failure rate of the procedure is low, but in rare cases, some men have still fathered children after the procedure. The procedure is also potentially reversible if a man wants to father children later — but a reversible procedure is not always successful. Sterilization for men is generally an easier, safer and more affordable procedure than it is for women.
For women, the sterilization procedure most often performed is a tubal ligation or salpingectomy.
Generally performed under general anesthesia, or at the time of cesarean delivery, the tubes are removed in their entirety.
After any sterilization procedure, sexually active individuals are still at risk for STIs and any surgical procedure comes with its own risks and complications.
Talk with your healthcare provider about which method is best for you. Sexual health education is a vital part of your overall health. Your provider is there for you and ready to help discuss your options.
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