Sex is a normal, healthy part of life, but you don’t always want to become pregnant as a result. Fortunately, you have a number of contraception options available to help avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
Board-certified OB/GYN specialist Dr. Hany H Ahmed understands the importance of contraception in a healthy relationship, which is why he offers a variety of options for his patients in Houston, Texas.
While no birth control method works 100% of the time, Dr. Ahmed can recommend the type — or combination — that provides the best protection for you. Here, he discusses five popular types of contraception, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Two types of hormonal contraception
To become pregnant, you need specific levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone in your body. Hormonal contraception methods disrupt the normal levels, thereby preventing pregnancy.
Two popular hormonal contraceptives are:
Collectively known as "the pill," oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progestin. They prevent ovulation (release of eggs), thicken the cervical mucus so it’s impenetrable to sperm, and thin the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation.
The pill is highly effective when used as directed, which is to take one every day. However, it’s easy to forget to take them if you’re busy or restart them after your period. About 9 of 100 women using oral contraceptives have an unintended pregnancy over the course of a year.
Some women can’t take estrogen, so certain newer medications (called the “mini-pill”) contain only progestin. Be aware, though, that the timing is more restrictive than with the combination pills, so you have to be even more vigilant about taking them.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
IUDs are T-shaped devices made of molded plastic. Dr. Ahmed inserts one through your vagina and cervix into the uterus during a routine office visit. Because an IUD stays in place, it’s a good choice for long-term contraception. And, if you decide you want children, simply remove it.
Some IUDs contain copper, and some contain progestin. Copper IUDs can stay in place for 10 or more years, and they block sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes. During the first year of use, pregnancy rates fall below 1%.
Progestin IUDs last about 3-6 years, and they work a bit like the pill: They thicken the cervical mucus and thin the uterine lining. As an added benefit, they help decrease menstrual pain and bleeding. Pregnancy rates are similar to those of copper IUDs.
Three types of barrier contraception
Barrier contraceptives work just like they sound — they use physical separation instead of hormones to prevent fertilization. The use of spermicides, chemicals that kill sperm, helps increase a barrier’s effectiveness.
Barrier options generally don’t come with the side effects hormonal contraceptives are known for. In addition, many types don’t need a prescription, and you can find them at any pharmacy.
Barrier contraceptives have one major downside: Except for the male condom, they don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Three popular barrier contraceptives include:
A male condom can be latex or polyurethane, and it’s worn over the penis during sex. Since sperm collect inside the condom, they can’t penetrate the vagina. Condoms can tear, but they’re still about 87%-90% effective against pregnancy.
Female condoms aren’t used widely in the US.
The sponge is a doughnut-shaped, polyurethane ring containing the spermicide Nonoxynol-9. You insert the sponge just like a tampon, and it prevents sperm from reaching the cervix.
This surgical form of contraception, commonly referred to as “getting your tubes tied,” prevents pregnancy by sealing off your fallopian tubes. Tubal ligation prevents pregnancy 99% of the time.
With tubal ligation, you need to be sure you’re not planning to have more children, as it’s a permanent form of birth control.
All forms of contraception have advantages and disadvantages. To learn what works best for you, schedule a consultation with Dr. Ahmed to discuss your options. Give the office a call at 713-489-3348 or schedule your consultation online.