Pills, Patches, And IUDs, Oh My

From the first period in girlhood to the beginning stages of menopause in middle age, women experience many shifts in reproductive health throughout a lifetime. Reproductive care and birth control are a crucial part of women’s healthcare, providing peace of mind to individuals and the surrounding family alike. According to recent data, over 65% of women in the United States are on some type of birth control. However, understanding reproductive care options can be complicated and confusing. Furthermore, the only type of birth control which prevents sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is the male condom, which must be used correctly every time to be effective. Determining the best type of birth control for the individual depends on pregnancy goals, health history, and correct usage. The right birth control fits into a routine, minimizing the risk of improper usage, sexual infections, and unplanned pregnancy.

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Preventing STDs and STIs

Limiting the risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) hinges on properly using male condoms. Across the board, latex condoms provide the widest levels of protection against the majority of STIs and STDs, including HIV or human papillomavirus (HPV). Plastic condoms work as effectively as latex, but condoms made from animal skin can put people at risk of contracting a sexual infection. An estimated 18% of women become pregnant using condoms each year, but the number lowers with proper usage. Like any form of birth control, condoms must be used as intended to effectively prevent pregnancy,

Long-term contraception

For patients in mutually monogamous relationships, long-acting reversible contraception options can be best for family planning. Inserted in a doctor’s office, an intrauterine device (IUD) lasts for up to 10 years, depending on the type. While neither IUDs nor implants protect against STDs such as HIV or HPV, both options are nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. A contraceptive implant or intrauterine device offers flexibility. Once removed, fertility returns almost immediately.

The importance of health history

Although some birth control options lower the risk of specific medical problems, patient history is the key to correct reproductive care. If a patient shows a proclivity to health concerns that increase the overall risk, the pill may not be a good fit. Doctors do not recommend the birth control pill if a patient has a family medical history including certain types of cancer and blood clots. However, the pill provides many health benefits as well, such as reduced acne, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstrual headaches, as well as a lower risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. Ultimately, doctors must assess the family history and decide if the benefits of the pill outweigh any of the potential risks.

The right birth control for you

The best type of contraceptive is one that fits seamlessly into a patient’s everyday life. For many, a contraceptive implant or IUD provides nearly 100% effectiveness at pregnancy prevention with no daily effort needed. However, any hormonal birth control, including the pill or an IUD, must be used with a male condom to avoid contracting HIV or HPV. No matter the type of birth control, preventing pregnancy largely depends on the individual patient’s lifestyle and health history.

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