Students now have the option of making an appointment to discuss birth control options with a peer counselor prior to seeing a healthcare provider. Please contact any of the following counselors for more information:
Autumn Rose Burnes
More options for birth control are available than in all prior history. The following methods protect against unplanned pregnancies to varying degrees.
Note: not usually recommended for women with migraines or those who smoke; women who are overweight may have an increased risk of blood clots when using these methods. You must ALSO use a condom to protect yourself against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Advantages: very effective, convenient, lowest estrogen levels. Disadvantages: may be expensive without insurance, no STI protection.
Caution: FDA warning due to high blood estrogen levels. Vaden does not recommend this method except under special circumstances. Advantages: very effective, convenient. Disadvantages: may have increased risk of blood clots, no STI protection.
Note: safer options for women who smoke or who have migraines.
Mirena Intrauterine Contraception (IUC)
Small t-shaped device containing progestin that is inserted by a clinician, can be removed at any time if pregnancy is desired. Advantages: the most effective reversible form of contraception that there is (along with the Paragard, see below),provides at least 5 years of birth control, convenient; decreased vaginal bleeding. Disadvantages: chance of spontaneous expulsion, upfront cost may be high unless covered by insurance, no STI protection.
Recently approved method that consists of a single rod inserted into the arm. Advantages: highly effective, insertion takes less than 5 minutes, lasts 3 years. Disadvantages: requires a clinician for insertion and removal, may result in irregular bleeding, no STI protection.
Injection of medroxyprogesterone given once every 12 weeks. FDA black box warning regarding bone density. Some authorities suggest that Depo-Provera should only be used for 2 years because of possible bone loss, but it is currently thought that bone density returns to normal after the method is discontinued. Vaden does not recommend except under special circumstances. Advantages: very effective, convenient, most women stop having periods after 6 months of use. Disadvantages: irregular bleeding the first year, weight gain, depression, acne, vaginal dryness, bone thinning, no STI protection.
POPs alter the uterine lining to prevent implantation of fertilized egg; must be taken at the same time every day. Vaden does not really recommend except under special circumstances due to high failure rate. Advantages: no estrogen. Disadvantages: may cause vaginal bleeding, must be taken at the same time every day to avoid pregnancy, no STI protection.
Copper 7 Intrauterine Contraceptive (IUC)
Small device inserted into the uterus by a clinician. Advantages: highly effective method of birth control, good for at least 10 years. Disadvantages: may increase vaginal bleeding, risk of spontaneous expulsion, no STI protection.
Male and Female Condoms
Male and female condoms prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Recommended to protect against HIV and some STIs. Offer no protection against STI’s spread by touching. Advantages: readily available over the counter, very effective if used with a spermicide. Disadvantages: irritation to both men and women, male condoms can break or come off during sex, should be used with spermicide.
Gels, creams and foam can be put into the vagina to enhance the efficacy of the male condom, or they can be used alone for birth control. The sponge, cervical cap and diaphragm keep the spermicide near the cervical opening. Advantages: very effective if used with a condom, readily available, no systemic side effects. Disadvantages: not very effective if used alone, irritation of the male and female genitals; increased incidence of vaginal and bladder infections, may increase the risk of HIV transmission.
Diaphragms, Cervical Caps, Lea’s Shield, FemCap
A diaphragm is a rubber, dome-shaped device placed into the vagina to hold spermicide around the cervix. The cervical cap fits directly on the cervix. Both are used with spermicide, require female involvement only, and can be inserted ahead of time. Lea’s Shield and FemCap are not commonly used in the US. Advantages: very effective. Disadvantages: must be used accurately and consistently, require fitting by a clinician, bladder infections, irritation from spermicide.
Plan B – the “morning after” pill – can be taken up to 72 hours after an unprotected encounter. Advantages: very effective when taken immediately, well-tolerated, all women can use it safely, now available without a prescription for women over the age of 18. Disadvantages: efficacy declines as time elapses since the unprotected encounter, causes irregular bleeding, not as effective as some other long term methods.
Under certain circumstances combined oral contraceptives or insertion of a copper releasing intrauterine device are used for emergency contraception.
Requires that couples calculate woman’s fertility cycle and abstain from intercourse during ovulation. Advantages: fairly effective. Disadvantages: requires training and strict adherence to the program, not very useful for women with irregular cycles.
Abstinence means that you choose to not be sexually active. Advantages: fullproof method, no costs, no systemic side effects. Disadvantages: requires strict adherence to avoid pregnancy.
Additional Useful Information:
- Combined hormonal pills and Nuvaring can often be started using a “Quick Start” approach (i.e. you can start anytime in your cycle as long as you are reasonably sure you are not pregnant and you use a backup method or abstinence for 7 days). A pap smear is not required in order to start birth control. Talk to your clinician for more information.
- Combined hormonal pills and Nuvaring can often be used continuously to decrease the number of periods. Talk to your clinician for more information.
- If you have a seizure disorder, TB, skin or nail fungal infections, HIV infection, or depression, your medications may interfere with your birth control method. Talk to your clinician for more information.
- WARNING: St John’s Wort, an over-the-counter medication used for depression reduces the effectiveness of birth control pills.
- It is no longer accepted that an interaction between birth control pills and antibiotics exist.