AWHC Blog: Information&Inspiration

Finding the Best Birth Control Options for You

March 23, 2019

Our doctors and staff at Austin Women’s Health Center believe that helping patients choose the right birth control is one of our most important jobs. Our doctors and providers are here to listen to your needs, answer any questions, and help you find the best match.

There are so many different contraception methods available today that choosing between them can be confusing. The truth is, regardless of the type of birth control you choose, it will only be effective if you use it properly. For that reason, you may want to choose an option that requires less effort from you—covered below.

When you visit our office to talk about birth control options, one of our providers will discuss how each method is administered, when it needs to be taken, the general effectiveness, and any possible side effects. Since nothing is ever perfect, our goal is to help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the methods available so you can make a confident choice.

Important questions to ask when deciding which birth control to use are: does this method work for my current lifestyle and will it align with my goals? Goals like, how soon will you try and get pregnant, how well have you tolerated hormonal birth control in the past? How good are you about remembering to take a pill every day?

If cost is a concern, well you can stress a little less. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans include prescription contraception coverage. This means that if you have insurance, your plan will cover either all or part of the cost of the options below.

If you don’t have insurance, our staff can help you sort through a number of payment assistance programs, pharmacy discount cards, and other available options so you can access the best birth control options for you. A couple of our best options for those who are uninsured are:

  1. Getting a prescription for generic birth control pills. Generics can be prescribed and run around $15/month.
  2. Alternatively, we can insert an IUD. We carry the five-year Liletta for $600 with insertion.

Without further ado, here are all the options we currently provide to our patients –

birth control options

Combined Hormonal Contraceptive Methods: The Birth Control Pill, NuvaRing® and the Patch

Obtained with a prescription, combined hormonal contraceptives (CHC) contain both estrogen and progesterone and are available in many different brands, doses, and forms. Examples of available CHC methods are birth control pills, the Patch and NuvaRing® or the vaginal ring. When used correctly, CHC methods are safe, reliable, and effective.

The Pill

Birth control pills are only effective if taken every day, ideally at approximately the same time each day.

They’re best for those who will be diligent in taking them every day or those who don’t want to insert anything into their body.

Side effects that can come with hormonal contraceptives are usually minor, but somewhat annoying for those who get them. They include breast tenderness, mood changes, nausea, and sometimes weight gain.

The Ring

NuvaRing® is a combination contraceptive that must be inserted into the vagina. Once it’s inserted, you leave it in place for three weeks. On the fourth week, you take it out—this is when you should have your period.

This is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to have to remember to take a daily pill.

A ring may cause vaginal irritation or other side effects similar to pills and the patch. If these side effects become unbearable for you, perhaps consider a hormone-free contraceptive method.

The Patch

The birth control patch is another hormonal birth control method. The patch is applied to the skin rather than inserted or consumed. The patch needs to be replaced every week (for three weeks). During week four, you keep the patch off. The patch is reported to have a less than 1% failure rate when used correctly and consistently.

This method is great for people who plan to halt their contraceptive use at some point, as your fertility quickly returns after you end use. It’s also convenient, easy to use, and can help with period pains and cramps.

Side effects of the patch can include skin irritation, headaches, breast tenderness, irregular vaginal bleeding, weight gain, nausea and vomiting, and bloating. Additional side effects can include yeast infections and depression.

Progestin-only Contraceptive Methods

There are also many different types of progestin-only birth control options, such as the three-month “shot” and mini-pills that are taken daily. Like CHCs, when used correctly, they are safe, reliable, and effective. Purchasing Progestin-only contraceptives also require a prescription from your provider.

According to Bedsider.org, progestin-only birth control offers less intense side effects than combined hormonal contraceptives.

The benefits of progestin-only birth control are similar to combined hormonal contraceptives and are great for people who can’t take estrogen. The downsides are having to get a shot from a doctor every three months or take a daily pill. They are also great options for new moms who are breastfeeding because it doesn’t cause any harm to your baby.

Nexplanon®

Nexplanon® is a small, thin, and flexible implant that prevents pregnancy by slowly releasing a small amount of the ovulation-suppressing hormone etonogestrel. A Nexplanon® implant (which is about the size of a matchstick) can be quickly and discreetly inserted under the skin of your inner, upper arm during an office visit. The device can also be removed quickly in our office. Since fertility cycles can begin as soon as one week following removal, Nexplanon® is a safe, effective, and flexible contraceptive option.

This option is great for people with a busy lifestyle who don’t want to be bothered with taking a pill every day or replacing their ring every month. It’s also a perfect option for those who aren’t planning a pregnancy within the next few years. Once Nexplanon® is inserted, it provides pregnancy protection for up to three years.

Side effects of Nexplanon® can include irregular or changes to menstrual periods, mood changes, breast tenderness, abdominal or back pain, nausea, acne, weakness, depression, vaginal discharge, and weight gain.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a long-acting contraceptive and one of the most effective birth control options available today. There are two classes of IUDs—hormonal and non-hormonal (copper IUDs). Both types are small, flexible, t-shaped devices that can be quickly implanted in the uterus during an office visit. We offer LILETTA®  during an in-office visit or after an abortion, it will only take a few minutes. It can be inserted whether you are currently using another form of birth control, like the pill.

There are many different types and brands of IUDs with pregnancy prevention effectiveness varying from 3-10 years. If you’ve decided that an IUD is the best birth control method for you, our staff can help you understand the different types and options that are available.

People love IUDs because they’re 99% effective, can last approximately three-five years before having to be replaced, fertility returns rapidly after removal, and you don’t have to think about it once inserted. That means no pill-taking, no trips to the pharmacy, no visits to your doctor for shots. IUDs are an excellent choice for people who live a busy lifestyle and who don’t plan to become pregnant for a few years but are considering it in the future. LILETTA®  is usually covered 100% by your insurance, which means you pay nothing.

Potential side effects of IUDs depend on the type you choose. But like other contraception methods, side effects can include irregular menstrual periods, abdominal or pelvic pain, back pain, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, bloating, weight gain, mood changes, depression, acne, ovarian cysts, headaches or migraines, or itching skin or a rash. Your doctor can provide a full and in-depth list of potential side effects of any birth control method you choose.

Copper IUDs are known to increase period bleeding and cramps but don’t add any extra hormones into your system. Whereas, hormonal IUDs are known to help with bleeding and period pain.

We hope this has helped you to decide what the best option is for you at this time in your life. If you are still unsure or have any questions, please give us a call at 512-443-2888 or schedule an appointment for an in-person consultation.