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Birth Control - Birth Control Methods

There are many methods of birth control. Learn about the different kinds of birth control to help you choose the best one for you. When making your choice, also consider that only a condom will help protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To protect yourself and your partner against STIs, use a condom (along with your chosen birth control method) every time you have sex.

Hormonal methods

Hormonal methods are very reliable means of birth control. Hormonal methods use two basic formulas:

Combination and progestin-only methods are prescribed for women for different reasons. Each type of method has its pros and cons.

  • Combination pills may reduce acne, pain during ovulation, and premenstrual symptoms. Both types of pill reduce heavy bleeding and cramping. Unlike the combination pill, the progestin-only pill can be taken by almost all women, including those who are breast-feeding, although it must be taken at the same time each day to be effective. (Combination pills are also taken daily but without as much attention to the time of day.) When you first start taking either type of birth control pill, it is necessary to use a backup birth control method for the first week.
  • Patches or vaginal rings are similar to combination pills, but they don't require taking a daily pill. The patch is changed weekly, and the ring is changed monthly (with 1 week off after 3 weeks of use).
  • Some birth control pills reduce severe mood and physical symptoms that some women get before they start their monthly periods. These symptoms are called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). There are birth control pills that are helpful for women who have migraines with their periods. There are also birth control pills for women who want fewer periods or who want to stop having periods.
  • The birth control shot does not require taking a daily pill. Instead, you see your health professional once every 3 months for the injection.
  • The hormone implant releases hormones that prevent pregnancy for about 3 years. It must be inserted and removed by a trained health professional. The actual implant is about the size of a matchstick and is inserted under the skin on the inside of the upper arm.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that is placed in the uterus camera.gif to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types of IUDs: copper IUDs (such as ParaGard) and hormonal IUDs (such as Mirena or Skyla). When an IUD is in place, it can provide birth control for 3 to 10 years, depending on the type. Unlike IUDs that were used in the 1970s, present-day IUDs are small, safe, and highly effective.

The hormonal IUD typically reduces menstrual flow and cramping over time. On the other hand, the copper IUD can cause longer and heavier periods. But the hormonal IUD can have other side effects, including spotting, mood swings, and breast tenderness. These side effects occur less frequently than with other progestin-only methods.

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