If you’re like me, you’ve toyed with the idea of switching up your birth control over the past few years, but have never pulled the trigger. You’ve asked your friends questions, heard horror stories about weight gain, chaotic hormones, and volatile bleeding, and have stayed loyal to the pill.
The truth is, the implant, the IUD, and the injectable are significantly more effective than the pill, and yet the pill is the most commonly used form of birth control for women ages 15-44 in the United States.
But, why? Why would we use a method that we know is less effective? And more importantly, why does North America have 7% of women citing an unmet need for family planning?
While telling people you have the implant may sound like you’ve been probed by aliens and/or microchipped like a dog, the implant is hands-down one of the most effective methods of non-permanent birth control for women. The implant is a small, thin rod that is inserted into the upper arm. Your arm is numbed by your physician, and implanted within a matter of minutes. It releases the hormone progestin, which keeps the eggs from exiting the ovaries, keeping it from possibly getting fertilized. The implant lasts four years and can be removed at any time by your physician.
The benefits of the implant:
- With perfect AND typical use, 0.05% of women will become pregnant
- Once inserted, there is no upkeep
- Can be used by women who cannot take estrogen
- Gives continuous, long-lasting birth control without sterilization
The disadvantages of the implant:
- Irregular bleeding (most common)
What about weight gain?
In clinical studies, the mean weight gain in US IMPLANON (one of the two most common forms of the implant) users was 2.8 pounds after 1 year, and 3.7 pounds after 2 years. Approximately 2.3% of users reported weight gain as the reason for having IMPLANON removed.
The hormone-releasing Intrauterine Device (IUD) is the second most effective non-permanent form of birth control for women, clocking in at a 0.2% of women becoming pregnant from both perfect and typical use. The IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a physician. There are two separate types of IUDs that work in slightly different ways.
The Copper IUD
- Does not release hormones
- Lasts up to 12 years and is easily reversible/removed
- Can be used as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex (99.9% effective)
The Hormonal IUD
- Thickens the mucus that lives on the cervix to trap the sperm, and sometimes will stop the egg from leaving the ovaries
- Mirena works for up to 6 years
- Skyla and Liletta work for up to 3 years
If you don’t like getting your flu shot, then this method might not be for you. The Injectable, also known as the Birth Control Shot, is an injection that prevents pregnancy for three months. Like the hormonal IUD and the implant, the shot releases progestin into the body. With perfect use, the injectable is just as effective as the IUD, with a 0.2% rate of pregnancy. Here’s the deal, though: if you are someone who cannot stick to a specific schedule, the injectable is not for you. With typical use, 6% of women get pregnant.
What about my beloved pill?
I love the pill. The pill is my friend – but it might really be time to say goodbye. With typical use, 9 out of 100 women will get pregnant. With absolutely perfect use: talking taking the pill at exactly the same time every single day, your risk of pregnancy is 0.3%.
It’s also important to remember that these forms of birth control are to prevent pregnancy, not protect against STDs! Always use condoms to ensure safety.
Why do some people not have access to contraception?
Money and transportation. Those who are in poverty have unequal access to birth control. Birth control can cost anywhere from two to $200 per month for women. Having access to the birth control pill by age 20 significantly reduces the probability that a woman is in poverty; early legal access to the pill reduces female poverty by 0.5%.