Birth Control Options: What to Know Today

Birth control options and alternatives to birth control: Couple kissing on street

For most people, birth control is really about the numbers. High prevention percentages are the most important thing when it comes to birth control alternatives, since the active term we’re after here is “control,” not “minimization” or “mitigation.” To get clear on the facts, Nichole Mahnert, MD, and Candice Wood, MD both OB/GYNs with the Women’s Institute at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix break down some of the trends in making sure you have your bundle of joy when you are ready for it, not before.

Beyond the pill

One birth control device pretty much removes any serious math from the equation. According to Dr. Wood, intrauterine devices, (more commonly known as IUD’s) inserted by an OB/GYN into the uterus provides birth control with 99% effectiveness that can last for several years.

There’s also no risk of user error, or the human component that makes the pill statistically riskier, with its 91% effectiveness. What’s the heightened risk of the pill? Forgetting to actually take it.

“We’re seeing more and more women ask for IUDs,“ Dr. Wood said. “In this area the U.S. is finally starting to catch up with Europe. They’re super effective, and often make for lighter periods. And while some do contain the hormone progestin, complications from using IUDs are very rare.”

There are also some financial benefits. “IUDs are almost always going to be cheaper than the monthly birth control pill, especially over the long run,” Dr. Wood said. “Insurance should cover both, but you won’t have a monthly copay with an IUD like you do with the pill.”

Birth control for men (or the lack thereof)

While the use of condoms or a vasectomy is currently the only active ways men can prevent pregnancy, there also appear to be new ways they may be able to participate in birth control. And while they might not be snagging headlines yet, male birth control is at least a small dot on the horizon.

“The only thing new in birth control is trying to find a male form,” Dr. Mahnert said. “And that is pretty limited partly due to difficulty in finding something effective with no funding.”

But why would there be difficulty funding birth control for the other half of the population? It’s not so simple, Dr. Mahnert says.

“The drive to make male birth control is not as high because effective birth control is already available for women. And men are not as interested, for obvious reasons.”

Dr. Mahnert also said that initial investigations into hormonal male birth control options, which take the form of injections and gels have not been successful, in part because of side effects in the development stages that were similar to female birth control pill side effects—mood swings being one of them.

For now, your doctor or OB/GYN is your best source to explain all of the benefits and risks based on a multitude of factors—not just those easily found online—when it comes to finding the right birth control for you.

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