Maybe you don’t want to get pregnant. Maybe you’re just not ready yet to start a family. No matter your reason, you’re going to have to use some form of birth control to prevent conception. But there are a lot of options out there — which one should you choose?
When you’ve got questions, it’s time to turn to the expert advice of Donna Lamson, CRNP, WHNP-BC, at Apple Hill Gynecology in York, Pennsylvania. A Board-certified Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, Donna can walk you through your options and recommend the one that best meets your medical and lifestyle needs.
What are the types of female birth control?
Here are some of the major types of female birth control:
Oral contraceptives take the form of a series of pills you ingest once per day for a month. The pills contain hormones similar to those your body makes to control the menstrual cycle, and they either keep the ovaries from releasing eggs, or they change the uterine lining or the mucus in the cervix so the sperm can’t penetrate.
The Depo-Provera contraceptive is an injection that provides protection for up to 12 weeks. It doesn’t contain estrogen, which means you don’t get any side effects from that hormone. It also either keeps the ovaries from releasing eggs or changes the uterine lining or the mucus in the cervix.
This thin, smooth patch can be placed anywhere on the body except for the breasts. You change it once a week, and during the fourth week you don’t wear it at all, though you’re still protected.
This category includes items such as a diaphragm and a cervical cap, which provide a barrier to prevent sperm from reaching the uterus. Both are made of soft rubber, and they’re inserted into the woman’s vagina before intercourse, along with a contraceptive cream or jelly. The barrier blocks the uterus, while the cream/jelly stops the sperm from moving. They can be inserted up to six hours before intercourse and left in for about 24 hours.
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
This category includes implantable devices such as the intrauterine device (IUD) and Implanon®/Nexplanon®. They are meant to act for long periods of time without the need for dose changes or maintenance, but if you decide you do want to become pregnant, they can be removed and the effects reversed quickly.
The IUD is small and made of plastic. It may contain copper or a hormone, which, when inserted into the uterus, prevents a woman’s egg becoming fertilized by changing the uterine lining. Copper IUDs can remain in place for up to ten years.
Implanon was a small, thin, hormonal contraceptive that looked like a matchstick and was implanted by a healthcare professional under the skin, often in the arm (hence its nickname, “arm bars”). It could provide effective protection for up to three years, at which time it would have to be replaced.
In 2014, Implanon was discontinued by the manufacturer and replaced with Nexplanon, which is radio-opaque. That means the implant will now show up on an X-ray, which is important if you need to check on the implant’s location. And it will last up to five years before it needs to be replaced.
What do you recommend?
At Apple Hill Gynecology, we can provide you with information about these and many other forms of contraception, but we favor the implantable Nexplanon. It releases the hormone progestin, which thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. It’s effective and long-acting, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling pills or inserting barriers. At the end of the five years, we replace it with another implant if you wish to continue using it, or we can simply remove it.
Hormonal implants are effective, working more than 99% of the time. IUDs are also 99% effective, but injections are only 94%, and pills just 91%. That makes implants the most effective choice to prevent pregnancy.
So, is a birth control implant right for you? To determine the answer, you’ll need to have a consultation with Donna Lamson, CRNP, who will take a complete medical history and perform an examination. From these and any blood tests she performs, she can determine your unique needs and devise a treatment plan to meet them.
To schedule your consultation, give our office a call at 717-741-0857, or book an appointment online today.