Because Open Arms Consultants works with so many Egg Donors and Gestational Carriers we often talk about birth control. Sometimes this conversation takes a turn from what they are using to what else is really available! Read below for some of the most current birth control options!
Are you confused by all the birth control options out there? In the last 10 years, there have been so many advances in pregnancy prevention that it’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding which one is right for you. To help you determine if any of these newer methods are worth asking your doctor about, we spoke to experts and got the facts. Read on to learn more about what’s new on the market—and if you are interested in trying one out, make an appointment with your gynecologist to discuss the pros, cons and risks involved with making the switch.
Hormonal Birth Control: No Longer One-Method-Fits-All
If you’re still taking the same birth control pill pack you started using in college, it may be time for a refresher course on the Pill. In fact, there’s a whole new generation of pills that deliver customized results. Women have all different kinds of needs and preferences, says Shari Brasner, MD, an obstetrician, gynecologist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and these days, there’s something for everyone.
1. Pills That Reduce or Get Rid of Your Period
Definitely one of the more surprising options is the class of hormonal contraception that allows women to reduce or even end their monthly periods. You may recognize some of the brand names—Yaz, Loestrin 24, Seasonique—all of which promise longer intervals between periods with the goal of getting shorter, lighter periods and fewer of them each year. But is eradicating your period safe? “Yes,” says Dr. Brasner, who points out that the common fear associated with this type of birth control is that menstrual blood could somehow get backed up and become toxic. “That is absolutely false,” she adds. “It’s a myth, but people still think that if you don’t get a period it must be unhealthy. But there is no medical reason for this.”
2. Pills That Help Reduce PMS or Menstrual Migraines
Next are a group of pills known for their “extended estrogen” properties. “The hormone level in these pills is extended a few days into the week of inactive pills,” explains Delores Kent, MD, a gynecologist and cosmetic surgeon who practices in Los Angeles. In other words, it reduces the “cold turkey” approach many birth control pills have traditionally used. The newly formulated pills, she adds, “can help decrease symptoms of PMS and help prevent menstrual migraines by being gentler on the body.” If you’re interested in this class of birth control pills, ask your doctor about specific types and brands available.
3. Vaginal Rings
Known as the NuvaRing, this form of birth control is becoming increasingly popular, says Dr. Brasner. The one-size-fits-all pliable ring made from a silicone-like material is inserted into the vagina with zero pain and emits hormones that prevent pregnancy. “It’s designed to be used for three weeks in, one week out. When you remove it, it brings on a period. Partners don’t feel it, and it’s great for women who don’t tolerate oral contraceptives or can’t remember to take them.”
4. Patches and Shots
Hormonal patches and the Depo-Provera shot are still available—and while they may have a place in certain contraceptive regimens, the experts we spoke to had serious concerns about the safety and side effects of both. “Evidence shows that there’s an increased risk for blood clots with the patch,” notes Dr. Brasner. “And the shot seems to be associated with irregular bleeding patterns and a longer return to fertility. Not many people are willing to sign up for that.” The risks associated with both, adds Dr. Kent, “may outweigh the benefits.”
Barrier Methods: Thinking Beyond the Condom
Condoms are still an excellent method for birth control, says Dr. Brasner, especially for women who aren’t comfortable with hormonal contraceptives. If you’re worried about the effectiveness of barrier methods, don’t be. “It’s true that in textbook statistics, barrier methods rank lower than hormonal contraception,” says Dr. Brasner. But don’t be fooled by the stats, which often include all sorts of factors that may not be relevant to your usage, she adds. “Out in the real world and in my practice, I see no higher unintended pregnancy rate in real users.” When it comes to barrier methods, condoms aren’t the only effective option.
1. Vaginal Films
“One of my favorite, lesser-known barrier methods,” says Dr. Brasner, “is a spermicidal vaginal film. It’s a 3-inch by 3-inch film that folds in half and wraps around the finger and gets inserted 15 minutes before sex.”
2. Vaginal Suppositories
There are also vaginal suppositories. In the same way a vaginal film is used, the suppository is inserted 15 minutes before sex, “it looks like a little bullet, has a bar soap-like consistency, and melts at body temperature to form a spermicidal barrier. After sex, there’s nothing to remove,” says Dr. Brasner. But, she adds, because some women can be sensitive to the active ingredient in spermicide, nonoxynol-9, she suggests testing any spermicide-based product out on a night when you don’t plan to have sex.
The New Generation of Long-Term, IUD Birth Control (Not good if you want to be an egg donor or surrogate)
Set aside everything you thought you knew about intrauterine devices, or IUDs. “They’re still suffering from their 1970s reputation,” says Dr. Brasner, “but IUDs today have changed, and their benefits are extremely exciting.” The beauty of IUDs, which are small devices that are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, is that they’re a hands-off birth control method. “They’re easily inserted in the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Brasner. “Once it’s in, you don’t have to think about it, and for a lot of couples, this brings on a whole new level of spontaneity.” Another bonus: IUDs are generally associated with an immediate return to fertility, adds Dr. Kent.
1. Copper IUD
The copper IUD, known as ParaGard, is a plastic device that is wrapped in a copper wire and safely protects against pregnancy for short or long periods of time. “They are approved for up to 10 years of use, or less—the amount of time is specified by the woman,” says Dr. Brasner.
2. Mirena IUD
Providing the same long-term protection, Mirena, an IUD that emits the hormone progesterone, “can also give a woman the added bonus of a change in her periods, making them lighter, shorter or maybe even nonexistent,” says Dr. Brasner. This can be an attractive option for women who suffer from extreme PMS, menstrual pain and other period-related ailments.