First and foremost, one of the most common reasons contraceptives are used is to prevent any unplanned pregnancies. But what some people may not realize is that birth control can serve a variety of other purposes that extend beyond their contraceptive benefits.
To illustrate this, here is a list of some of the other benefits that contraceptives can provide:
    • Improved acne
    • Improved bone health
    • Treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
    • Reduces PMS symptoms
    • Decreased dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
    • Decreased menstrual blood loss (women may experience a lighter period)
    • Lower risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer
With so many different types of birth control out there, it can be overwhelming for women to select one. Here is a brief summary of the main types of birth control options available that may help guide you in deciding what is the best choice for you.
Combined Hormonal Oral Pill:
E.g., Alesse, Marvelon, Yasmin As indicated by the name, this type of pill is a combination of two hormones—a synthetic estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and a synthetic progesterone (progestin). They all work similarly in that the pill is taken consecutively for 21 days (starting any day of the week) with one “off” week—referred to as the hormonal-free interval—where women do not take any pills. With this pill, it takes 7 days for the contraceptive benefit to kick in, and thus, women are advised to use backup contraception (e.g., a condom) if sexually active during this time period.
      • Pros:
        • Non-contraceptive benefits: improved acne, improved PMS symptoms
      • Cons:
        • Must be taken at the same time each day
        • Requires initial 7 day backup contraception if sexually active
Progestin-only Pill:
E.g., Movisse Like the name suggests, this pill only contains progestin and no estrogen. Unlike the combined hormonal pill, it is taken every day with no pill breaks (comes in a pack of 28 pills). Additionally, it takes a much shorter time for contraception to start working—48 hours instead of 7 days.
        • Pros:
          • May be suitable for women that are breastfeeding, over 35 years of age and smoking, postpartum for 6 months or less, breastfeeding, or unable to tolerate estrogen
        • Cons:
          • Must be taken at the same time each day
Intrauterine Contraception
This form of birth control is a T-shaped device inserted through a woman’s cervix into the uterus and it works for about five years. These may be a good option for women not planning on getting pregnant within the next few years. There are two main types:
          • Hormonal intrauterine system (IUS) – releases levonorgestrel (a progestin) e.g., Kyleena, Mirena
            • Pros:
              • No routine administration required
              • Can treat abnormal uterine bleeding, painful periods, and endometriosis
            • Cons:
              • Requires initial 7 day backup contraception if sexually active
          • Copper intrauterine device (IUD), e.g., Mona Lisa
            • Pros:
                  • No routine administration required
                  • Works immediately after insertion (no backup contraception required)
                  • For women that may want a non-hormonal contraceptive
              • Cons:
                  • Irregular bleeding more common in the first 3-6 months
Transdermal Patch (Evra):
The patch works similar to the combined oral pill where it is used for 3 weeks, with a new patch applied weekly with a 1 week hormonal-free period. The patch can be placed on the upper torso, upper outer arms, abdomen, or the buttocks.
            • Pros:
              • No daily administration (patch change each week)
            • Cons:
              • Requires initial 7 day backup contraception if sexually active
              • May not be effective in women over 90 kg
Vaginal Contraceptive Ring (Nuvaring):
This ring is inserted into the vagina and worn for 3 weeks with a 1 week hormonal-free period, similar to the transdermal patch.
              • Pros:
                • No daily administration (new ring insertion each month)
              • Cons:
                • Requires initial 7 days backup contraception if sexually active
Injectable Contraceptive (Depo-Provera):
Similar to the progestin-only pill, this contraceptive does not contain any estrogen. It is injected every 3 months or 12 weeks with backup contraception required for 7 days if sexually active.
                • Pros:
                  • No daily administration (one injection every 3 months)
                • Cons:
                  • Delayed return to fertility
                  • May decrease bone mineral density
Bonus: Continuous use of combined hormonal contraceptives can also alter a woman’s typical menstrual cycle where they will get a period every 3 months, instead of every month. This may be a plus for women that dread getting their period every month.
How effective are all of these birth control options in terms of contraception?
For both the combined hormonal and progestin-only pill, transdermal patch, and contraceptive ring, with perfect use, the percentage of women that experience an unplanned pregnancy is 0.3%. With typical use of all these products listed, that percentage goes up to 9%. For typical use and proper use, an injectable contraceptive is 6% and 0.2%, respectively. Women that use a copper IUD experience an unplanned pregnancy with a rate of 0.8% and 0.6% for typical and proper use, respectively. The percentage for a hormonal IUD is 0.2% for both typical and proper use. As illustrated, all forms of birth control that were discussed are very effective in preventing an unplanned pregnancy, with women getting the maximal benefit from them, if used correctly. There are many forms of birth control out there and it is important to know what is available on the market as well as knowing what option may be the best for you. Lastly, it is also valuable to know that birth control can be used for their non-contraceptive benefits as well.
Sign up today with Pharmacy At Your Door to get all of your medications delivered and packaged for free!