By Sarah Hamill, CEO
Some contraceptives are highly effective at preventing pregnancy- the IUD and arm implant are over 99% effective and require no upkeep once put in place by a medical professional! Oral contraceptives, the Depo shot, and the patch are also effective when taken on their respective suggested schedules.
We always recommend using condoms to prevent STDs when having sex with a non-monogomous or short-term monomogous partner, and every time you have sex if you’re not on alternative contraceptives.
What's out there?
Hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptive options can be highly effective
The Arm Implant: Set it and forget it, lasts up to 3 years and is the most effective contraceptive method. Can make periods heavier or lighter.
Hormonal IUD: Set it and forget it, these can last for up to 7 years and and highly effective. It's common for periods to lighten to spotting, or go away completely.
The Pill: Oral contraceptives are on a 28 day cycle and highly effective when taken at the same time every day. Taking placebo pills will trigger your period, but you can skip it by starting your new pack back-to-back. One of the more cost effective options.
The Shot: The shot is administered every 3 months and is highly effective when done on a consistent schedule.
Copper IUD: This method uses copper to deter sperm and is non-hormonal, but larger than its hormonal counterpart. Because of this it's often recommended only to menstruators who have given birth, with wider cervical openings. The copper IUD can make periods heavier and cause cramping, but is the most effective method that doesn't use hormones.
Barrier Methods: Condoms and dental dams, these are the only contraceptive methods that prevent STI's and can be used to prevent pregnancy alone, or in addition to any of the above mentioned methods for added protection.
Sterilization: Or, getting your tubes tied. This is the absolute most effective way to prevent preganncy, but unlike the above options, is non-reversable.
How to choose
Lifestyle: Some contraceptive methods are higher maintenance than others. The pill is most effective when taken consistently at the same time every day. Condoms have to be worn every time you have sex. The shot has to be taken on a strict three-month schedule. Implants like the IUD and Nexplanon (arm implant) require the least maintenance, with nearly 100% effectiveness for up to 7 years.
Cost: Condoms are oftentimes given out for free at local clinics and Planned Parenthood. If you're a Texas resident, TX Wears Condoms is a great non-profit that sends them to your doorstep free of charge (they even pay for shipping!). The pill is the next most cost-effective out-of-pocket and with insurance. If you have insurance (lucky you!) the pill, IUD, and arm implant can be free, but out-of-pocket it can cost up to $1,500.
Future Plans: Steralization is the most effective method of pregnancy precention, but is non-reversable. If you're sure you don't want kids this is a great option! The pill and condoms can be stopped, along with their protective qualities, at any time. IUD's and the arm implant are removed by your physician. But all are reversible once removed or stopped.
Emergency contraceptives explained:
Emergency Contraceptives include Levonorgestrel, Ulipristal, and Mifepristone.
Levonorgestrel: Also referred to as the 'Morning After Pill' or 'Plan B.' It is increasingly more effective the sooner it's taken, within 72 hours of unprotected sex, and is available over the counter at most drugstores. It works by preventing ovulation from occuring, but notably, not once it has already occurred. Becuase of this, Levonorgestrel is not effective when you have already ovulated, and cannot stop an already fertalised egg. It is also dosed for people with uteruses under 150 pounds, and is less effective for those over that weight. It is not an abortion pill.
Ulipristal: Also referred to as 'Ella,' this has been shown to be slightly more effective than the morning after pill, and its efficacy lasts for up to 120 hours (compared to 72). Ella is also more inclusive of all body sizes, and works for all body weights. Although, it is harder to find and requires a prescription.
Mifepristone: This is the abortion pill, and can terminiate a pregnancy within 10 weeks of conception. It stops the supply of hormones to ones uterus, which maintain its lining. You can receive the abortion pill at a local clinic, or in states with restrictions, through the mail via telehealth organization Plan C.
Debunking the myths:
Plan B is not the abortion pill. It cannot stop an existing or viable pregnancy, it only prevents ovulation from occurring.
Birth Control does not impact fertility. Numerous studies have disprovded the myth that birth control lowers fertility rates. While it may disrupt hormones, and does change the natural rhythm of your body's cycle, other fertility limitations notwithstanding, you are unlikely to have significant fertility issues after taking them.