Birth Control Side Effects:
Before taking any birth control, it is important to understand how birth control works and what it could mean to your health to practice various forms of birth control. Understanding the different types of contraceptive options that are available is critical in making the best decision for you. It’s also valuable to understand how your body works and to track your monthly cycles.
Types of Contraception Include:
IUD: Also known as an intrauterine device, which usually takes the form of a small T-shaped plastic device inserted into the uterine opening – they can use copper or levonorgestrel, with failure rates of 0.8% and 0.2% respectively and have no adverse effects on fertility when removed, even after extended use. Side effects can include cramping and increased menstrual blood flow with copper IUDs and reduced or totally ceased menstrual flow with levonorgestrel, discomfort, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Birth Control Pill: One of the more commonly thought of forms of contraception, birth control pills require daily intake of a pill and come in combined and progestin-only pills; while both are effective, the former is more closely associated with adverse side effects, while the latter is typically considered more stringent with dosage times (the pill must be taken within 3 hours of the time it was taken the previous day, as opposed to the more lenient 12 hours with combined pills.)
Condoms: Latex or otherwise, female and male condoms are effective forms of contraception and are not subject to the side effects of hormonal birth control or the use of an IUD – they are, however, not foolproof and can be defeated by improper use, breakage and slippage. Condoms are typically used in conjunction with another form of birth control, such as spermicidal lubricants or even hormonal birth control/IUD.
Contraceptive Patch: Effectively a combined pill in patch form, patches require a prescription and have a specific method to their usage that must be followed carefully for maximum efficacy to be retained; they are extremely effective, with failure rates of only 0.3% with perfect use, but are also subject to many of the same side effects that combined pill contraceptives have.
Contraceptive Injection DMPA: An injection akin to the use of progestin-only pill, it has the advantage of requiring application only once every three months and failure rate of just 0.2% with perfect use, but is disadvantaged by the possible loss of bone density in the user, which may or may not return following discontinuation of use of this form of contraception. It is also, must like pills, patches and IUDs, ineffective at preventing STDs.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) or Fertility awareness is a method of birth control that does not use any drugs or devices. It combines the calendar/rhythm method, the basal body temperature method, and the cervical mucus method. The fertility awareness method is used both as a means of preventing pregnancy and as a way to target the most fertile time for getting pregnant. When fertility awareness is used correctly and consistently, it may reach rates of effectiveness around 90%. The effectiveness depends on your diligence to track and record your fertility pattern and your commitment to abstain from sexual intercourse or use a barrier form of birth control during your fertility window. Average use shows a failure rate of approximately 25%. If you are committed to tracking and recording your fertility information, you can achieve much higher success rates. NFP is ineffective at preventing STDs.
Remember that STDs are still fully transmissible with most forms of contraception except for the use of condoms (and there is still a risk there given breakages/slippages) so be aware that your use of birth control, even perfect use, may prevent pregnancy but will not necessarily prevent the transmission of disease. It is worth noting that some couples “double up” on birth control, such as using the pill or other chemical form of contraception with condoms – this has the effect of improving net effectiveness of birth control but never completely mitigates the chance of pregnancy; rather it lowers it to a value that approaches zero. For additional education about birth control, call to speak with a Catherine Foundation staff member. Please note, however, that the Catherine Foundation does not prescribe birth control.
Emergency Contraception: It is recommended that before taking an emergency contraceptive you speak with a medical professional. At the Catherine Foundation, we are happy to speak with you about how this type of contraception works and what it could mean to your health. For additional information, contact a Catherine Foundation staff member.
Morning After Pill: The “morning after pill”, also known as Plan B (Levonorgestrel), is a large dose of oral contraceptive. The “pill” is actually 2 tablets, one taken within 72 hours after intercourse and the second 12 hours later. It is NOT the same as the Abortion Pill (RU-486). Plan B acts as an emergency contraceptive, by preventing ovulation or fertilization. It may also inhibit implantation. It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun. There is also a contraceptive called Plan B 1 Step, which is one pill instead of two. Emergency contraception such as Plan B does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections. It should be noted that emergency contraception is not a means to cure any form of STD. Plan B is a pill contraception that is intended to avoid potential pregnancy, so it is important to confirm you are not pregnant before taking this emergency contraception option. The Catherine Foundation does not provide emergency contraception but can provide you with contraception education and pregnancy testing. Contact the Catherine Foundation to schedule an appointment.