Birth Control Methods: IUDs, Implants, or The Pill?

Birth control pills? Condoms? IUDs?

These days there are so many options for birth control that it can make your head spin. Thankfully, you have us! In our birth control series, we’ll break down all the major methods available and help you decide on the right one for you.

First up: Intrauterine device (IUD), implant, or the pill.

Who should consider these: If you don’t want to get pregnant anytime soon, one of these three methods is best for you.

IUDs and implants are the highest recommended reversible contraception among the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They work almost as well as permanent birth control, but can be removed whenever you decide you are ready to have a baby, or want more children if you are already a parent.

Intrauterine Device
There are two types of IUDs: Mirena and Paragard. Mirena, the hormonal IUD releases progestin which thickens the cervical mucus (to prevent egg fertilization), thins the uterine lining and suppresses ovulation. It also makes your period significantly lighter after some initial spotting. Mirena can safely be worn for up to five years.

ParaGard, on the other hand, is hormone-free. Made of copper, this IUD continuously releases the mineral into the uterine lining. This produces an inflammatory reaction and makes for a toxic fertilization environment. If fertilization does occur, it keeps the egg from implanting.  This method can be used for up to 10 years but be ready for heavier periods for the first few months.

A word of caution: You might feel temporary pain, bleeding or ovarian cysts after getting either type of IUD, but that’s rare. Even rarer is the case of tearing in the uterine lining, but it is a possibility.  The price point for IUDs is between $500 and $1,000.

The nearly-identical Nexplanon and Implanon are the two types of implants. Both are inserted into your arm, where they’re visible as a small bump under your skin, and are good for three years. Like Mirena, these also work by releasing progestin to inhibit ovulation. Implant prices run from $400 to $800.

The Pill
The is another popular method for those who are done having kids, or don’t want any just yet. Women under 55 who are at a healthy weight, are non-smokers, free of diabetes, migraines or blood pressure can safely take the combination estrogen / progestin pill, says Andrew M. Kaunnitz, MD, professor and associate chairman of OB/GYN at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Although he says the Patch and the Ring can be used among the same group of women, the Pill has its own benefits: It helps ease PMS symptoms and adult acne, reduce hot flashes, lowers your chances of getting ovarian and endometrial cancer, and even protects against osteoporosis. One down side is that you have to take it every day, with the week of menstruation being optional. So if you are the forgetful type, you’ll need to set a daily reminder.

If health factors make the combination pill risky for you, the progestin-only mini pill might be the way to go. The cost of the Pill varies between $15 and $80 a month.

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