Birth control: the facts
When someone says “birth control,” there’s normally one option that comes to mind – the pill. Yes, the pill is an option, but there are also many others to consider. Most methods do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so condoms or dental dams should be used with other methods if you want protection from those.
Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)
These tiny “T” shaped devices are an option for both hormonal and non-hormonal birth control. They’re about the size of a quarter, and are inserted through the vagina into the cervix by a doctor. The non-hormonal option is usually made out of copper. IUDs can last from three to 10 years depending on the type.
“I started using birth control to start having safer sex, and to not get pregnant,” said Tsering Asha, who has tried both the pill and an IUD method of contraception.
IUDs boast a 99.8% success rate for preventing pregnancy. There is a no cost after purchasing an IUD, and they cannot be tampered with. IUDs are also very discreet, and can have a low dose of hormones, depending on the type. It can also be very painful to insert, but the pain doesn’t usually last very long.
Birth Control Shot (DEPO/DMPA)
Frequently referred to as DEPO, the shot is 96% effective in preventing pregnancies. Light periods, and its inconspicuousness are some of the benefits. It can also decrease endometriosis symptoms, and can possibly decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer for users. The shot is also helpful for people who are unable to take estrogen.
Weight gain, headaches, mood swings and breast tenderness are some of the downsides of the shot. If you decide to go off the shot, there can be a delay of fertility returning. The shot is required every three months, and if missed by more than seven days, there is a chance you could get pregnant. You need a prescription and need to return to the doctor’s office to have the shot administered.
Birth Control Ring (NUVARING)
Basically, the NUVARING is inserted into the vagina every 21 to 28 days, and delivers a low dose of estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy by stopping the egg from being released. The ring is 93% effective in preventing pregnancies.
It can give lighter periods and less cramping. It protects against some non-cancerous breast tumors, ovarian cysts, and fibroids in the uterus.
NUVARING can also be difficult to replace every 21 to 28 days, and there is a risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. You also need a prescription and a new ring approximately every month.
The patch is a pregnancy preventing body sticker with hormones. It stops ovulation, and is 93% effective in preventing pregnancy. Fertility returns fast after stopping it, and it may protect against osteopetrosis, and endometriosis. Since it’s a patch, you need to change it every week. The patch may be visible to others and will not match with every skin tone. You also need a prescription to obtain it, and it can be expensive to refill.
Hormonal Pills (the pill)
The pill is the most common form of birth control used amongst women. It delivers estrogen and progestin to stop ovulation and is 93% effective in stopping pregnancies. Periods will become more predictable, and may even stop while on the pill. There are many varieties, with varying hormone levels, which makes it easier to switch if one type isn’t working for you. It needs to be taken every day at around the same time to ensure its effectiveness.
“It’s a good place to start. The dose is so low that there are no side effects,” said Erin Delfs, who has been on the pill since 2016. “I feel safe on the pill, but still have to be cautious in case I miss taking it.”
Getting your tubes tied is a surgical procedure where the fallopian tubes are tied, cut or blocked to prevent pregnancy. This procedure is permanent but can potentially be reversed with surgery. It is very effective in preventing pregnancies, and can also help with pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis. Your fallopian tubes can grow back after the procedure, making this method ineffective. With a tubal ligation, less than one person per year gets pregnant, so the risk of the fallopian tubes growing back is low.
Regardless of which method of birth control you pick, there are many options out there for every person.
More information for options available in Canada can be found at the Options for Sexual Health Organization.