Condoms and other physical barriers should be your first line of defense for sexual health when you aren’t in a committed relationship but you are sexually active. Not only do condoms have a 98% rate of success at preventing pregnancy, they are one of the only ways to also protect against STIs. Once you’ve settled down, though, you and your partner may still want to delay having children. When your monogamous relationship means STIs are no longer a risk but you need birth control, look at one of these three options to provide stable and easy contraception.
Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, have been around for over a hundred years. A small device placed in the uterus by your gynecologist, it has about a 99% effectiveness rate. In fact, used in conjunction with a condom, an IUD can pretty much guarantee you’ll never need to use Plan B emergency contraception. Depending on how your body reacts to artificial hormones, you can also choose an IUD with an added hormone release. IUDs have to be removed by your doctor but can be left in for five or ten years depending on the brand. Any time you choose to remove it you will immediately regain fertility with no waiting.
Nexplanon, or more commonly just referred to as the implant, is a tube about the size of a matchstick your doctor places under the skin on your arm. This tiny implant prevents pregnancy by releasing progesterone, tricking your body into thinking you may be pregnant and preventing the release of eggs. Like IUDs, an implant takes planning with your doctor, but once it is in place it can be effective for up to five years. You don’t even necessarily have to have it taken out at the end of the time unless you’re already seeing your doctor to have a new implant. Your physician can also remove the implant any time you decide you’re ready to start a family. There’s very little delay between implant removal and restoration of fertility.
One concern many women have about an implant is how they will react to the hormones. If you’re concerned about possible headaches, weight gain or mood swings, something more temporary may be a better choice. Patches are a balance between semi-permanent contraception and having to remember to take a birth control pill every day at the same time. Like implants and other hormonal birth control, patches prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation. The transdermal patches contain the same ingredients as oral contraceptives but they are delivered by applying a new patch to your skin each week. One of the benefits of shorter-term birth control is that if your system doesn’t respond well to the hormones in one brand, your doctor can easily switch you to alternatives until you find the one that works for you.
Setting your plans for the future and knowing yourself: whether you will remember to change the patch each week and how your body responds to hormones, can help you and your partner make a birth control decision that’s right for you. Talk to your gynecologist about potential side effects before you make any decisions.