Alternatives to The Pill: Birth Control for Women
Although hormonal birth control pills for women have been commercially available for nearly 60 years, new studies have come out recently highlighting the previously unknown effects these pills are having on women’s brains. A 2015 study compared the brains of women on two types of birth control pills to women who were not taking any form of hormonal contraceptive, and several areas of the brain were larger in women who were on the pill (click here to see the study). Even the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC News) recently wrote an article on this subject discussing the not-so-talked-about realization that scientists are just discovering – women on the pill have some regions of their brains that seem to be more “male” (click here to read the article). While the reason why is pointing towards the fact that some contraceptive pills can have up to nine different hormones in them, including male hormones, we’re here to look at some of the alternative birth control methods out there for women who want to avoid adding hormones to their bodies.
The age old male condom has been a staple of birth control for centuries and has the added bonus of providing some protection against STD’s as well. Traditional condoms are 85% effective as a form of birth control when used properly and are easily accessible at stores throughout the United States. Female condoms however are less talked about when it comes to birth control despite being a low cost option with a 79% effectiveness for birth control. The difference with female condoms is that they go inside your vagina for pregnancy and STD protection and they are made out of a soft plastic called nitrile instead of latex. Female condoms give women the power to choose their own form of protection that they control and know is being used.
Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)
An IUD is a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T, that is put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. The non-hormonal IUD called the ParaGard which has a tiny layer of copper wrapped around the T shape. The copper IUD is up to 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and can be even used as a form of emergency contraception if you have one inserted within 5 days of having unprotected sex. While IUD’s do not help reduce your risk of STD’s, the copper IUD can keep preventing pregnancy for as long as 12 years after being inserted. Better yet, IUD’s are reversible and don’t affect your fertility. So if you and your partner decide you want to get pregnant, all you have to do is have your IUD removed by your healthcare professional and it’s possible to get pregnant right away!
A cervical cap is a small cup made from silicone that is put deep inside your vagina that covers your cervix. Cervical caps on the other hand are reusable for up to a year when maintained properly and do not come prepackaged with spermicide. It is highly recommended that you add spermicide to the cervical cap before insertion to help prevent pregnancy and cervical caps are 71-86% effective when used properly. They do not however provide protection against STD’s so it is still recommended to use a condom to reduce this risk.
Practicing safe sex is essential for preventing unwanted pregnancy and while hormonal birth control is a readily available option, it is recommended you talk to your doctor should you wish to explore alternative options.
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