Is birth control the best option contraception? Given the current climate both politically and economically, it may not be so. At the very least, it is not the only option. Women have a lot of perfectly responsible and very effective methods at their disposal. As the “war against women” devolves politically, women are interestingly faced with the largest array of contraceptive options ever available. Despite all this, the plain old truth is that birth control is not great for every woman. Some just do not respond well to it and others want more natural, more affordable, or more accessible options. Insurance coverage for birth control has varied and is under attack, but the strategies women have to live a healthy lifestyle and take control of their bodies have never been more varied.
Alternatives to the pill are listed below. They are listed in order of how easy and approachable they are at a medical level. Always speak with a local physician for a personalized approach to contraception. Remember that everyone responds differently, and no one approach is better because a friend has had success with it. This is an individualized effort, and every woman has the right to decide what they want to do and how.
- The Condom
Condoms have some obvious benefited and some obvious problems. They will only be briefly covered here. Condoms are the only (yes, only) relatively foolproof way to prevent STD’s. There is no other method available now, and even condoms are not perfect. This is an obvious advantage here. No matter what method of contraception a woman opts for, they can complement it with steady condom use.
The problem is something many people may be embarrassed to admit- condoms are annoying. They generally do not feel great and they can be a nuisance. They break (they aren’t perfect, as stated) and they may detract from a sexual experience. These are truths that many people do not want to openly admit, but they have an impact. Yet, more importantly, they prevent pregnancy and disease at alarmingly effective rates, and that should account for most of the displeasure- most.
2. The Patch
The patch is placed on the skin in a nice flat location. Common areas include the butt, the inner arm, stomach, or torso. The patch is replaced weekly. What does the patch do? It is a hormonal approach that supplies hormones to the body that suppresses the ovaries from releasing eggs. The patch uses the same procedures as the birth control pill. For the most part, the only difference is the form. Birth control is a pill that is absorbed through the stomach while the patch is absorbed and disbursed through the skin.
3. The Ring
The ring is very similar to the patch, and many of the above attributes fit right into the use of the ring. It is also a hormonal-based contraceptive. The ring is different in that it prevents skin reactions, which are common for women who use the patch. Ultimately, it comes down to preference on where one wants the contraceptive to be physically placed. Both strategies boast minor side effects, which are reportedly common. The ring can cause vaginal irritation. In all, the side effects are rarely long-lasting. Even with the side effects, the ring and the patch are both cost-effective and accessible means of contraception. Another key difference is that the ring can be replaced once a month, while the patch is replaced more common, roughly once a week.
4. The Shot
A hormone shot works very similarly to a patch or a ring. A patient receives a shot about four times a year (typically in the beginning of each season). The shot uses hormones to block the release of eggs. The hormone shots pack a “bigger punch>” Medically, this means that women may have to stop the shots for upwards of a year before they begin to regularly ovulate again. Further, the shots have a 99% effectiveness rating, which is superior to the reports from the patch and the ring, both boasting in the area of 90% effectiveness.
5. The Implant
Hormone implants have the very positive advantage of being effective for a three-year period with nearly no intervention. The implant is the size of a matchstick or pin. It has become quite a common alternative to the IUD (another extremely viable method not explored here). Yet, it has an obvious problem. Some women just do not want a matchstick-sized object implanted under their skin. It is a fair concern, but one that should be assessed given the long effectiveness rate, cost, and other variables.
The above has gone from minor over-the-counter items to borderline surgical approaches to contraception. But, they all have one thing in common. They are all safe. They all allow women more options than ever before to take control of their own body, despite political claims and arguments to the contrary.
For more information, schedule an appointment with Dr. Mary Parker, Ob/Gyn for birth control and/or hormone therapy.